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OPINION

Can You Recognize a Rapist?

stranger danger or not

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Wendy L. Patrick By Saturday, 06 April 2024 08:06 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

That Dangerous Charmer May Be a Rapist - How Do You Know?

Safety Is in the Eye of the Beholder - How to Avoid Contact 

Those who regularly read my columns know by now, I'm a career sex crimes prosecutor.

That means I can share through experience working with survivors, that rapists are not usually encountered hiding in dark alleys.

They are usually someone the victim knows.

This is well corroborated by research.

Yet not even stranger rapists hide out waiting for their prey in dark alleys.

Most women won't take that way to get where they're going.

To the contrary, although their intentions are dark and malicious, those wishing to do harm to women usually hide in plan sight, that is, they make contact in the light — by making an approach.

Accordingly, public safety strategies involve more than merely avoiding dark alleys and dimly lit corners of public parking garages where it is hard to see.

In reality, you are likely to clearly see a dangerous person approaching, especially one who has already chosen you.

But viewer beware: studying strangers who make an unsolicited approach involves perceiving the motives beneath the moves.

Research explains:

Behavioral Perception

Hayley E. Ellis et al. (2017) studied perceptions of behavior in cases of stranger rape.

Focusing their examination on the way women commonly perceive warning behavior of male rapists, they used a new method for investigating the behavioral sequence between a female victim and her attacker.

Their sample reported perceptions of the interaction between a female and a male stranger at night, leading up to a rape.

They found that women did not perceive likely behavior to include the use of weapons or excessive force.

They also found that women believed that most attackers would initiate the encounter through conversation.

Ellis et al. (ibid.) note their research is significant because rape myths and scripts indicate that people typically consider rape as a crime that occurs in dark alleyways.

In contrast, the most common perception they found in their research was that a "female walks on a main road," because women are less likely to take side streets or short-cuts.

But the rape itself was unlikely to take place on the main road.

Participants suggested the rapist would move the victim to another location for to commit the offense, which would support current rape myth views. 

Ellis et al. (supra.) note that their findings highlight that while rape itself may occurs in a dark alleyway, the events preceding the assault occur elsewhere.

These beliefs are indeed supported by real experiences shared by survivors.

Consequently, one of the most important preventative strategies is proactively perceiving environmental and social cues when faced with unsolicited approach.

Stranger-Danger Safety Strategies: Don’t Mind Your Manners

There is nothing inappropriate about resisting an unsolicited offer of assistance from a stranger. Whether it involves an offer to carry your groceries or open your car door for you because your hands are full, you are not obligated to acquiesce.

Remember that "No!" is a complete sentence.

Prepare Your Device

Ensure help is literally at your fingertips. Pre-program local emergency numbers into your cell phone in case you need to call police, fire, or paramedics quickly.

And keep it charged; good idea to keep your charger with you.

Protect Your Senses

You cannot accurately judge an approaching stranger that you don’t see or hear. Avoid sunglasses that obstruct a full view of your surroundings, earphones that mute your ability to hear footsteps or a vehicle approaching. Always bring necessary eyeglasses and hearing aids.

Stand Your Ground

Don’t let a stranger entice you to move to a less populated area to show you something or ask for your assistance in finding lost property.

You're safest in public, where there is safety in numbers, and multiple avenues of escape.

In the grand scheme of things, most strangers are safe. Some become friends, professional contacts, and even romantic partners.

But uninvited approach can be unwelcome and unnerving, and possibly dangerous. Remaining visibly alert and attentive will make you a far less attractive target, and far better able to read red flags.

This article originally appeared in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

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WendyLPatrick
Most strangers are safe. Some become friends, professional contacts, and even romantic partners. But uninvited approach can be unwelcome, unnerving, and possibly dangerous. Remaining visibly alert and attentive will make you a far less attractive target.
stranger, danger, senses
744
2024-06-06
Saturday, 06 April 2024 08:06 AM
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