In every seminar I have ever presented over the past 11 years, there is always a question about carrying a gun. Many women fantasize about how they would level the playing field and let Smith & Wesson come to their rescue, killing the rapist, ridding the world of one more evil monster. I doubt many survivors share this fantasy as approximately 85% of rape is committed by someone the woman knows, not random monsters. Most women wouldn’t pull the trigger on someone familiar to them.

A college woman who survived being raped on her campus, pleaded her case to the Colorado Senate, during their hearings to consider a bill to ban concealed weapons on college campuses. In the aftermath of her assault, she couldn’t help wondering if she were allowed to carry her gun, could she have prevented her rape.


Two major issues at play here.

FIRST: The onus should be on boys and men not to rape, instead of saddling girls and women with checklists of changes they need to make and things they need to learn to avoid being caught in a rapists web. That’s like blaming a teller for a bank robbery and grilling them with questions like, “Why didn’t you fight? Did you say no? Were you sober?”  Rape is a crime. Rapists are criminals. The focus needs to be on helping to prevent boys and men from becoming offenders.

SECOND: Having a weapon is a very dangerous proposition, even for women who are trained in marksmanship. However good their aim or comfort with a weapon, the heightened circumstance of an assault changes the scenario entirely. That requires a completely different kind of training. The kind of training the military and police get. Without this specialized “habit under stress” repetitive training, the likelihood of producing and using a fire arm effectively is very low and the chance of the weapon being turned against you is very high.

A recent article in the Washington Post by James W Hopper, PhD details the physiological reasons a gun is a bad idea. Although he doesn’t focus on guns as a topic, he does explain how the most likely response to the stress of rape is to freeze. Although most people know the “fight or flight” aspect of our survival instincts, what many people don’t know is that order of behaviors tends to be, “freeze, flight or fight” in that order. It’s much more common for a startled animal/human to either become rigid or flop like a rag doll in the face of overwhelming stress.

Although the idea of wielding a gun makes many women feel safer and more powerful in a scenario where someone violently and intimately steals their power, in practice it just doesn’t work. It’s yet one more non-issue that obscures the true nature of the problem, which is preventing the rapists from raping.

Instead of buying a gun, be a good role model and help every man in your life treat you with respect and dignity. That will go a lot farther in terms of helping us be a kinder and safer culture for girls and women.

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