Self-Defense: Passive or Active

For years a certain amount of controversy has surrounded the issue of whether or not a woman should resist a sexual assault. Studies support points of view ranging from strong resistance to total submission. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to self-defense. Ultimately, the decision rests with the individual and should be based on considerations such as the location (isolated vs. populated), whether or not a weapon is involved, the victim's physical capabilities, and the perceived chance of success.

Passive Self-Defense


  • Talking your way out of a situation.
  • Telling the rapist you're pregnant, menstruating, or afflicted with a communicable disease can be an effective ploy.
  • Faking submission and waiting for an appropriate opportunity to make an escape.
  • Urinating, defecating, or vomiting.
  • Note: Initiating a passive defense may not work in all situations. If it fails, you can then escalate to an active defense.

Active Self-Defense


  • If you choose to fight, fight effectively. A half-hearted attempt at resistance could be worse than no resistance at all.
  • Before initiating a physical defense, you should be aware of your capabilities - both physical and mental. If you cannot imagine yourself exerting whatever force necessary to ward off an attacker, then perhaps a more passive approach is more viable for you.
  • Have some idea of what you intend to do should you be attacked. If you have given prior thought to the matter, you will be better prepared to avoid debilitating panic.
  • Self-defense classes aimed at teaching everyday defensive maneuvers can help build confidence.
  • Don't underestimate the power of your voice as an effective defensive tool. If you feel your voice may fail you when you need it most, practice screaming.

Self-Defense Devices


  • Whistle: A good attention-getting device. However, whistles can be difficult to blow when breathless or frightened. Should you carry a whistle, never wear it on a string around your neck or wrist.
  • Shrill Alarm: Another good-attention getting device. Shrill alarms are compressed air or gas and emit a shrill piercing sound.
Note: For these devices to be useful, they must be immediately accessible should you be attacked. If left in trunks, desk drawers, or buried at the bottom of a purse, they will not help you in an emergency.