Yet Another Thing Guns Can't Solve

The GOP is worried about women’s safety on campus. Or at least that’s what they’d have you believe of late, howling in protest at Colorado state Democratic representative Joe Salazar’s clumsy remarks about callboxes, and calling out the University of Colorado for teaching young women to vomit, pee, or tell an assailant they have their period in order to avoid rape

And they’re right: Neither call boxes nor vomit are particular effective rape-prevention strategies. Most rapists choose a victim they know, and get them alone in private before they attack—even a pathway fully lined with call boxes won’t prevent much rape, because most of them happen in rooms. And I’m not sure what vomit is supposed to accomplish; rape isn’t inspired by sexual desire, so attempting to douse it is a misdirected strategy. Rapists choose targets they think seem vulnerable, not hot. 

But there’s a bigger problem with Repubicans’ newfound passion for rape prevention. Their antidote to callboxes and puke is guns guns guns. And that’s even worse. The reality is that individual safety strategies do nothing to reduce the public-health crisis that is sexual violence on U.S. college campuses. If the GOP genuinely cared about preventing rape, they’d be taking the lead on expanding the Violence Against Women Act, not spending nearly two years trying to gut and block it. They’d be publicizing the Center for Public Integrity’s report on rape on campus, and calling for improved judicial processes, and an end to impunity for rapists. They’d be studying the success Vancouver has had recently with a campaign that puts the onus on men not to rape, and working to replicate it here in the states. And they certainly wouldn’t be mocking liberal women as not “hot” enough to be raped, because they’d understand the basics of how rapists operate. 

I appreciate the GOP's purported practical concern here. While we're working (often against them) to undo the systems that encourage gender-based violence, individual women face actual rapists every day. Should we just tell women to be patiently helpless while we work on the big picture? Of course not.

But guns don’t make women any safer from rape than peeing does. In fact, guns put all of us at greater risk when they’re introduced into any kind of conflict. A gun isn’t a talisman that will ward off rapists by simply existing. Anyone who respects guns knows that using one effectively in a moment of maximum adrenaline requires quite a lot of skill and training. You have to know not just how to aim and fire, but also, critically, how to keep possession of your weapon. And you have to be able to do it while your heart is pounding in your ears, while someone you probably know and may well love is trying to hurt you. It’s no wonder that for every woman who kills someone with a gun in self-defense, 101 women are murdered with guns. (That’s 1998 research, but there’s no reason to believe that things have improved.) That number only drops to 1:83 if we’re talking about people who know each other. The National Rifle Association has been marketing guns to women as self-defense for decades. If guns were going to make women safer, it would have happened by now. 

We know that most rapists choose a victim they know, so what the GOP is telling you is that your best option to prevent rape is to pull a gun on someone you're familiar with and likely care about. Guns don't come with a lot of options. You shoot, or you don't shoot. Yes, theoretically, you can aim for more or less lethal parts of the body, but that brings us back to expertise—even with constant training, police officers in New York City only hit their target 43 percent of the time when the target is between zero and 6 feet away. (Ironically, it can be harder to aim accurately when someone is at very close range, because there may be wrestling or grappling for the gun.) It's doubtful that most women who consider carrying for self-defense want to put in as much time and energy into the gun range as cops do, so our accuracy rate is going to be significantly more dismal. Add to that the fact that most rapists use alcohol or drugs to facilitate the assault, and you can do the math yourself. 

Women are perfectly capable of using our own bodies to defend ourselves when the chips are down. Talking about self-defense is delicate business—rape and abuse is never a victim's fault, whether or not he or she fights back. But we should all have access to more tools for defending ourselves if we're in danger, not fewer. And it's a lot easier to think about hitting or kicking someone you love who's hurting you than it is shooting them. It’s also a lot harder to hurt me with my own body than it is to turn a gun against me. If Republicans want to focus on individual defense solutions, why not fund effective, feminist self-defense classes for everyone who wants them? Holistic self-defense instruction not only teaches practical fighting skills , but also increases women’s ability to set boundaries and act with confidence in all areas of our lives. And even the DOJ has found that fighting back increases women’s odds of escaping a rapist. 

Every time politicians invoke the specter of rape to advance their agenda, it’s personal to me. I’m the most standard of statistics: I was sexually assaulted in college by a guy I knew. There were no bushes or call boxes, and I can tell you first-hand that there’s no way I would have pulled a gun on him even if I had one, though I sure wish I’d known then what I know now about how to throw him off me. Even more than that, I wish the GOP would stop selling their fear and danger agenda in my name. 


So are you saying that you would not shoot a friend or known associate if they attempted to rape you? In my view, once a friend has decided to seriously threaten my life and well-being with violence, they are no longer a friend and are now an enemy. You do of course have a right to your opinion and the right to live your life as you see fit, if you choose to allow yourself to be raped rather than defend yourself, what can I say?

whitewscott, I'm sorry, but your comment is absolutely disgusting. I, too, was raped under similar circumstances as the author of this article and NOBODY *allows* themselves to be raped. It's a simple matter of basic human psychology, which you have obviously never studied a day in your life. When somebody you know and love suddenly attacks you, the shock is usually so great that you simply freeze; this is a well-known, well-studied and VERY common human response to danger. I've seen people trying to cross the street freeze when they suddenly see a car coming at them -- do you also think that everybody who's been killed by a car WANTS it to happen, just as you say rape victims who don't fight back WANT to be raped?

Additionally, it IS harder to fight back against someone you know and love, as I unfortunately found out. Before being raped, I admit I kind of had a similar piece of shit opinion as you do, but once it happens, you fully understand that it IS hard to fight back against someone you love -- this is also a well studied area of psychology. It's something you hear all the time from people who are molested as children -- do you also believe that children ALLOW themselves to be molested? There really are no words for how deplorable and despicable your attitude toward rape survivors is -- as long as attitudes like yours persist, rape will also persist.

There's nothing disgusting about whitewscott's comment; he's accurately summarizing the author's position. She says that if she had the choice between being raped by a "friend" or shooting that "friend" to stop the rape, she would choose not to shoot. In other words, in that scenario, her choice is to allow the rapist to proceed. That's the whole point of her article: a gun is not a good solution for women because she thinks women would be disinclined to use it in most rape situations (since most rape situations, according to her, involve someone the victim knows).

Whitewscott's comment is not only fair, it poses the most obvious question - a question provoked by the essay itself. It is rather unclear, after all, how it is caring toward women to tell them that it would be better if they weren't armed in the case of rape. The author should answer whitewscott's question.

If you choose not to shoot an attacker simply because you 'know' them, then you choose to be raped. I'm sorry if you took my comments to suggest that rape victims choose to be raped in general. If, however, you have the option of armed self-defense and you 'choose' not to use it, then you are willfully allowing yourself to be raped. A woman disarmed by her government or economic status or what have you is not a willing victim of rape. Simple.

The Four oh sorry "Five" Rules of Gun Safety

1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded

2. Never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy

3. Know your target and what’s behind it

4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

5. Don’t shoot a rapist if he’s personally known to you

Got it, thanks. I’ll let my daughters and wife know AFTER they blow such an POS away!

If the author were serious about her statistics, she would compare statistics of women with guns who were attacked by rapists and women without guns who were attacked by rapists. (She would also include statistics about rapists who were deterred by women who merely showed their guns but did not shoot - which is the most common form of defensive gun use.)

She would also break down those statistics further so we could see how effective an armed woman might be against a stranger rapist versus a rapist the victim knows.

She might further break each of these two categories down to include different types of attackers - e.g., by an unarmed rapist, a knife-armed rapist, a gun-armed rapist, or more than one rapist - and different types of places - e.g., house, apartment/dormitory, parking lot, etc. - and different times of day - e.g., early evening, night, late night, daytime.

I had an expetience where a human predator attacked me and I froze in shock as well, very surreal, like I was watching a movie. The man was big, muscular and well trained in street fighting; he faked having a gun in his coat pocket, I at the time didn't carry a gun, not even a pocket knife; luckily I am also big, muscular and well trained martial,arts, 6'1" tall, 220 lbs., most of it muscle.

So we end up fighting, I win, but barely; as he runs away, he points back at me and yells, you're dead, motherf#$&er!.

I won, but I also lost something, the delusion that if you're big enough and well trained enough is all one needs to protect oneself from human predators. If the mugger had had a gun or there had been a group of them, I would have been severely injured or killed.

So I learned something Clint Eastwood said as Harry Callahan, "A man (or woman) needs to know thier limitations".

So I bought a gun, took a hand gun defense course and I've been carrying a weapon for the last thirteen years; in those years I've never been attacked again, but I have stopped one man from kidnapping and killing his ex-girlfriend, without needing actually pulling out the gun, my being present was enough to stop the attack.

Predators look for the helpless, the weak and defenseless, if you're none of those things, predators generally leave you alone, I now carry the weapon to defend others who have not yet made the leap to realize that without an effective means to defend yourself, you are simply prey a predator has not targeted yet.

Great story. Your comment should be part of a bestselling book - 1,001 Reasons Why Gun Owners Own Guns.

I too am a large, tall, strong man, yet I carry a gun because I understand that a 140 lb man with a gun is superior to my mass and height. Now most women start off at a huge disadvantage physically to men, a 140lb woman is not the physical equal of a 140lb man, let alone a large violent 250lb ex-con. Woman, more than men, need firearms to level that playing field.

Ahem. You gun nuts crack me up.

Lemme spell it out for you: she's saying that if you KNOW your attacker, it's not a "legitimate" rape. And if it's not a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of... Well, you know.

Friends don't shoot friends who rape them!

Well, *I'm* so dedicated to not being raped that I make everyone entering into my house go through a metal detector, and I have a half-dozen mini, unmanned, armed drones patrolling my home and property 24/7. That way, if I'm somehow caught off-guard and unable to shoot my attacker (whether that be my parents, partner, sibling, pastor, pizza-delivery person, etc), I can strafe them via a verbal command. They've only misfired once and shot my dog (I've since been able to go through hypnotherapy to stop talking in my sleep) but that's just one of those chances you have to take if you are really, sincerely committed to not being a victim of violence.

Or you could simply take a few self-defense courses, purchase a handgun that fits you, get a concealed carry license and live your life the way you want to, but whatever, as I stated before, it's your life, your right to choose how you live it.

Naw, it's Rambo or nothing. No shortcuts or consideration for the practical realities of my life. True dedication to rape prevention means that I live, breathe, and eat rape prevention and killing those who threaten me. Which is why I make sure to put my piece on the table during family dinners, to remind everyone at the table of what real dedication looks like and serve as a positive example. Don't worry, that piece isn't loaded. I'm not a total, irresponsible nutcase. That's what the drones are for.

Reading all the comments above, it's remarkable how the supposed "gun nuts" offer facts and logic, while the gungrabbers offer sarcasm and condescension. It doesn't bother them at all that they don't know anything about the operation and use of guns, and it doesn't bother them at all that they are weakening rather than strengthening women. They simply follow the leftist dogma handed down to them, and reject anything else out of hand with a snarl or a laugh.

Hyperbole and emotion are the fuel of liberalism.

Don't be to hard on the anti-gun people; I grew up in a bastion of liberal/progressive thought on the west coast, the conditioning one receives from the culture is as strong as any fundamentalist relgion.

Thier conditioning teaches them to fear and loath thier warrior/fighter aspect, the gun, as symbol of a warrior, carries all their fear loathing contained in an inanimate object.

It took a near death experience from the attempted mugging to show me the delusion I was under, The me before my awakening would look at what I have grown to become with horror; I don't believe that many people from this particular culture, without the same near death expetience, would be able to come to see and free themselves from the prison created from thier cultural paradigm.

You make a good point, nmstandingbears, but I would have an easier time pitying these folks if they weren't constantly trying to deprive me of my fundamental rights.

I agree joshlevy, it really is difficult to remind myself of this basic truth that they are to be pitied for thier delusion and denial, not to be angry or hateful towards them; it is especially difficult when there is so much hate and anger directed at us that are simply practicing a traditional American right.

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