Study shows that words can stop sexual violence

In a psychological study, verbal dissent proved more efficient than non-verbal actions in stopping the respondents from raping a fictional woman. But a staggering 30% of respondents would still be willing to rape if nobody was to find out.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Study shows that words can stop sexual violence - NewsMavens
Sexual harassment. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Imagine you are in a room with a woman called Amy. You have been dating her for a few weeks. You know that she had a few one-night stands with other boys before dating you. She is wearing a tight t-shirt that shows off her breasts. You start kissing her and touching her breasts, which arouses you, when suddenly she says “stop”.

What do you do?

This is a made up situation described in a study that explored the behaviors of American university students. It has recently been published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Respondents were divided into three groups. In the first one, the story ends with Amy expressing her dissent verbally. The second group works with a scenario in which Amy protests in a non-verbal way, through gestures and movements. The third group is told that Amy protests in both verbal and non-verbal way.

The study found that verbal disagreement proved more efficient than non-verbal actions in stopping the respondents from raping a fictional woman. When she refused to have sex in a non-verbal way, often students would not stop and tended to justify their acts by repeating common myths about violence.

The most prevalent one was -- and I am sure you have already heard it regardless of where you are from -- "when a woman says ‘no’, she means ‘yes’". 

While the study was conducted on Americans, Slovaks may not be immune to such myths either. According to the 2016 Eurobarometer, more than half of male respondents in Slovakia assumed that sexual intercourse without consent can by justified by various excuses. For example: if a woman was drunk or took drugs, if she allowed the man to accompany her home, if she wore “provocative” clothes or did not defend herself physically.

Details from the story:

  • Another survey, published in 2014, examined whether university students would force a woman to have sex with them if nobody was to ever find out. A third of them said yes. After changing the description of the act to the word "rape", only 14% were still up for it.
  • According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, one in three women living in Slovakia experienced physical or sexual violence.
  • Authors of the study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence claim that sexual violence is the most prevalent crime among university students.
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