“I Felt Powerful and Confident”: Women’s Use of What They Learned in Feminist Sexual Assault Resistance Education

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Psychology of Women Quarterly

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sexual assault, rape, risk reduction, sexual assault resistance, empowerment self-defense, intervention, university women




Research on women’s response and resistance to sexual assault risk has informed the development of interventions to improve women’s ability to effectively resist sexual assault. However, little is known about how women anticipate, navigate, and respond to risk following participation in sexual assault risk reduction/resistance education programs. In this study, we examined the information and skills used by university women who had recently completed the effective Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) sexual assault resistance program. We analyzed responses from 445 women using descriptive statistics and content and thematic analysis. Just under half (42%) of women used at least one EAAA strategy in the following 2 years. Most women reported that their efforts were successful in stopping an attack. Women’s responses included strategies both to preempt sexual assault threat (e.g., avoiding men who display danger cues, communicating assertively about wanted and unwanted sex) and to interrupt or avoid an imminent threat (e.g., yelling, hitting, and kicking). Women’s use of resistance strategies worked to subvert gendered social norms and socialization. The results suggest that counter to criticisms that risk reduction/resistance programs blame women or make them responsible for stopping men’s violence, women who took EAAA typically positioned themselves as agentic and empowered in their resistance.

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