Woman Beats Crap out of Would-Be Attacker

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You thought it was a real headline, didn’t you?

You thought for the first time in U.S. history, there was a story in the news about a woman beating her attacker senseless, instead of the other way around.

Sucker! It’s been how many years of print journalism, and how many years of TV news, and how many stories of men raping women, men beating women, men “sexually assaulting” (whatever that is) women, men strangling and mutilating women, etc.? And have you ever heard a news story where a man attempts to carjack a woman in a parking lot, and she turns around and kicks the crap out of him because she’s got some martial arts training? Or maybe she was a total dainty daisy, but managed to knock his head to right angles with his shoulders, using a purse filled with 75 pounds of cosmetics?

Or maybe she, you know, hauled out a gun and shot him dead and the D.A. is looking at the evidence right now to decide whether or not it was self-defense. I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear that one.

Where are these stories? I simply don’t believe they don’t happen. Maybe they just don’t get reported – at least here in the US. I don’t know about other nations – but I’d love to hear, if anyone feels like sharing a comment.

A lot of women have hand-to-hand training. A lot of women have guns. A lot of women have enough sense to take advantage of a situation if there is anything that could be a way out. Are we supposed to believe that all attackers are so skilled at picking victims who won’t be able to fight them off? That not even all those guys on “America’s Dumbest Criminals” run into a woman who can beat them at their own game? Weird, isn’t it? Unless, of course, that just supports your pre-existing belief that women always panic in a crisis.

Somehow, what we hear most often – particularly on TV – is about women pleading for their lives, or the lives of their children. We are shown only responses of fear and submission. Of women telling us “he was so strong, I couldn’t believe how strong he was”. Of women assuring us – on talk shows often hosted by women – “you think you’d rather fight and die than be raped, but then when it happens, you’ll do anything if he’ll just let you live”. I know women with experiences like this often feel that people think them weak: I want to make it clear that I don’t. I salute them for doing what it takes to survive, and I’m sorry they experienced the situation at all. But the fact is, it is statistically impossible to believe that there has never been an assault in which a woman found a way to fight off her attacker.

Occasionally, we hear stories where a woman fights a rapist and ends up murdered – though they are usually reported with vague phrases like “signs of struggle”, and you have to read between the lines to get the real gist. Still, that indicates to me that some women do fight back.

It’s just that the news only chooses to report about assaults that end badly for women. Now, seriously: what sort of a society does that?

When I was in high school in the eighties, my college friends were getting lectures from campus counselors on how it was preferable to submit to rape, because (they claimed) otherwise the physical damage would be more severe. This little theory lost steam after a couple of years because it’s patently absurd from both a biological and tactical standpoint, and because it was serving rapists so well in court – the argument being, if she submitted, it must have been consensual. But the fact that this sort of thinking ever entered mainstream education gives me the chills.

Combine it with TV news’ distinct bias toward reporting only assaults that end traumatically for women, and I start pricing quality tin-foil hats.

I’m sure the excuse TV networks would offer is that jeopardy gets high ratings and heroism doesn’t. After all, Lifetime TV, a network supposedly pandering to what women want to see, can’t seem to show enough “women in jep” (industry lingo for “women in jeopardy”, i.e., battered women, kidnapped women, raped women, women willing to submit to rape in order to save their kids, etc.) mini-series. What’s a TV news network to think?

And yet, every now and then, the local news likes to show a heartwarming story of a stranger who stopped a burglary and saved a shop owner’s life. Or the ever-popular “barely lingual child calls 911 and heroically saves Mommy’s life” schtick.

Oddly, the heroes in these stories are always men or children. Honestly, I can’t even remember a child hero story that involved a girl calling 911. It must be that women defending themselves is unladylike, and goodness, we can’t have that on TV.

This has everything to do with why I started this site, questioning the lack of fictional female heroes in TV and film – particularly U.S. network TV. I do believe someone’s trying to send us gals a message, possibly that it’s a woman’s lot in life to be a victim, and any attempt to deviate from that path will result in further abuse and degredation.

Be sure to read the COMMENTS on this entry – they really expand on this topic!


  1. says

    Like Linnea, I too am a female black belt. I was once involved with several other female black belts from many different martial arts schools in creating a one-day self-defense seminar for women.

    It is my experience, incidentally, that untrained women have a very hard time responding to anything with violence. We’re heavily socialized against it from a very early age, and it takes quite a lot of effort and training to overcome the “nice girl” responses and learn to actually hit someone, for most women. Because of this, we focused mainly on escaping techniques in the class I helped to develop, which was something that most of the women we worked with had no trouble whatsoever learning and performing.

    So, anyway, I’ve got two big points I want to hit here:
    1) I think it’s harder for the average American woman (not a martial artist, not unusually “butch” to begin with) to respond a threat with violence than it is for the average American man. That said, however, it certainly does happen. More frequent yet are times when an average woman has responded to a threat with very effective escaping techniques. Over the course of researching for and teaching these classes, I spoke to a -lot- of women about their personal experiences with sexual violence. Quite a few of them managed to startle an attacker into letting go and then got away quite handily.

    This comment is getting huge, but as someone who has taught self-defense courses for women, and who has been through all of the sensitivity training one takes before teaching such a course, I do have to add – there is no shame in submitting, either. If you are attacked, and you survive, whatever you did was *the right thing to do*. It wasn’t your fault, and whatever you did in your own unique circumstance was absolutely the correct response. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

    2) Ok, and after my reflexive counseling motion, moving on to point the second:

    There’s definitely something going on, culturally, about repressing the idea that women can either fight back or get away from an attacker. We were lucky enough, when I was working on that program, to have some really wonderful cooperation not only from our Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, but also from a couple police officers and other representatives of community groups involved with sexual violence. These people were really enthusiastic about the kind of empowering we were trying to do, and very encouraging, as well.

    Not long afterwards, however, I had my own personal brush with sexual violence, and the response to it by the campus police was totally bizarre to me. I’ve written pretty extensively about all of my thoughts and feelings about it (which you can read, if you like), but what I really want to share here is something that came up sometime afterwards during a class, when my experience came under discussion.

    My professor told us that she had once been told that something like 60% of all women who fight back against an attacker end up with serious physical injuries. The implication of such a statistic is clearly that women shouldn’t fight, because it will only get them injured. I’ve heard similar statistics tons of times before, from many different sources. What my professor pointed out, though, and what never really gets said, is that 100% of women who don’t fight back against a rapist…get raped.

  2. Graculus says

    There’s certainly been some reports over here – a cursory search of the BBC news website revealed a number of ‘woman fights back when attacked’ stories, including a number of stories where women successfully fought off sex attackers.

    I’m sure we’ve also had at least one story recently where someone jumped the wrong woman and she kicked the shit out of him but I can’t find it at the moment.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Fascinating – I really can’t remember even one story like that in my entire life from any US news, local or national. Not even from the 24-hour cable news networks, who need every headline they can get to fill up the time.

    From what little I’ve seen of the BBC, I think they have a very different approach from the US networks. For example, they don’t seem bent on making every story into a potential threat the way the US news syndicates do.

  4. Linnea says

    There are cases where women successfully use violence to defend themselves, but your chances of finding these incidents reported outside the martial arts and/or weapons communities are nil. For example, back in the 90’s Black Belt magazine reported on an incident where professional kickboxer Kathy Long physically defended herself from some (male) nutjob with road rage. The various shooting magazines regularly report on incidents of women successfully scaring off attackers just by pulling out a gun, w/o even firing a shot.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    Linnea, you raise some *great* points that go well beyond the scope of my article, and I would actually like permission to repost your comment as an article in response to my article (a lot of readers miss the comments). If you’re interested, you can write me through the Contact Me link in the upper left corner.

    For now, I’ll just say I agree with you – we have a culture of victimization. We seem to think it’s better to become a martyr than risk slipping over to the dark side. I disagree: I believe passivity merely sidesteps the challenge of being a good person, as opposed to fulfilling it.

  6. SunlessNick says

    Having been reminded of this thread by a recent comment on the “Revisit” one…

    It didn’t occur to me the first time round, but this dearth of news reports of women successfully fighting back is a strange thing to square with the rape apologist meme that a woman who doesn’t fight back essentially deserves what she gets (and possibly wants it too, the slut). But if that’s the case, then why aren’t the people who follow that meme at the forefront of wanting resistance stories published in the media – after all, wouldn’t they want the media to be encouraging what they consider to be non-rape-deserving behaviour? “Woman beats the crap out of would be attacker” ought to be music to their ears – if they were what they claimed of course.

    Then again, I’ve voiced the suspicion here before that most rape-prevention advice is – at least on some level – really about giving excuses to rapists. Certainly there’s a big crossover between it and rape-apologism. And that makes the lack of woman-beats-up-attacker stories much less surprising to me. Depressing, but it doesn’t surprise me that a meme of “X means women don’t deserve what they get” pairs with a habit of “let’s not publish too many stories that suggest X is a viable strategy.”

  7. photondancer says

    I’ve noticed on the IMDb messageboards, where I’ve spent far too much time the last few years, that whenever a woman fights a man in a film or tv show there is guaranteed to be a post whinging about it. It may be along the lines of “is anybody else sick of seeing yet another fighting woman beating a man?” (because film and tv are just so saturated with such scenes, I guess). More insidiously, it usually comes disguised as a public service announcement: “I’m just worried that real women will think they can fight back against a man if they see such depictions, and then they’ll be hurt the poor darlings”. These posts still get written even if the woman doesn’t win the fight (e.g. Janis being shot in FlashForward); it’s the very fact that she dared raise a hand against a man at all that upsets some people.

  8. Julie says

    One of the *best* scenes I’ve seen lately of a woman beating on a man was on the season premiere episode of “Burn Notice”. Sam, an ex-spy working with Michael Westin the main character, burst into the home of a biker leader’s girlfriend (or wife, I can’t remember). Neither of them expects what happens next–Sam gets the crap beaten out of him by the biker chick.

    There’s a lot that goes on in that scene, and it’s not like there aren’t strong women already in that series. But that scene really stood out. In the same episode, there’s a lot of action involving Fiona, also dealing with bikers.

  9. Katja says

    I was daydreaming the other day about being attacked and immediately kicking the guy’s butt from here to Mexico (this involved kicking him in the crotch and smashing his head into a dumpster to knock him unconscious) – and even though it was pure fantasy begotten from boredom and the desire to feel like I can take care of myself, I got interested in the idea and googled “woman beats up attacker” to see what I could find of real news stories like that. So I found this. I believe it’s true that women fighting off men goes less reported than it should, at least on a national level…but I did manage to find this article, which describes a pretty badass woman beating the daylights out a home invader/sex offender. http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x223858984/Woman-fights-off-attack-holds-suspect-for-police

    It’s pretty fantastic. She fights him off and he tries to escape, but she keeps going after him and taking him down. Knocks him around the room, knocks him outside, knocks him down the porch stairs, starts beating him in the head with a trash can. The only thing I don’t care for so much is at the end of the article, a policeman says something about how she, with the assistance of her father, kept the guy from escaping. After reading the article and watching the video, it doesn’t seem like her dad really had to do much. The woman said the attacker couldn’t get up, and I took that to mean she had so thoroughly kicked his ass that he physically couldn’t. I’m kind of annoyed that she couldn’t get full credit for subduing the man alone, and they felt the need to credit another man for helping when she was doing fine on her own. Anyways, just thought I’d share this story because it’s pretty great.

  10. says

    I stabbed my attacker with a screwdriver. Never saw hide nor hair of a reporter. For that matter, I can’t recall actually seeing anything about the attack in the local media.

    Since he pleaded out and got a slap on the wrist style punishment, I barely even talked to cops or lawyers about the issue either. The guy who ran in after hearing the commotion talked to the lawyers more than I did. He actually commented on the fact people were congratulating him for being heroic when all he actually did was save the life of my attacker instead of just letting me finish killing the jerk.

  11. Keith says

    “My professor told us that she had once been told that something like 60% of all women who fight back against an attacker end up with serious physical injuries. The implication of such a statistic is clearly that women shouldn’t fight, because it will only get them injured.”

    Sadly, your professor was only told part of the story. I remember reading a study twenty years ago, possibly the one that had been quoted to her, or perhaps a follow-up of it. My memory might be hazy on the exact details, but I remember the important point I took from it. The study surveyed survivors of sexual assault (I don’t remember the exact definition used) and asked whether they resisted and whether they were beaten. It found that every single woman who resisted her assailant her assailant was beaten. But it also asked a terribly important follow-up question:

    Which happened first?

    It turned out that every woman who had resisted had done so *after* her attacker started beating her.
    Right around the same time, I came across a newspaper article about a woman who was attacked as she left work at a department store late one evening. As she approached her car, she had her keys in her hand. When a man attacked her, she hit him across the eyes and he fled. Being hit across the eyes with a set of keys really doesn’t hurt much. It certainly isn’t debilitating, but it sends a strong psychological message: screw with me and you risk something very important to you. This guy wanted an easy victim, and when this woman made it clear that she wasn’t, he fled.

    My conclusion? The men who are going to hurt you decide whether they’re going to do so before they ever lay eyes on you. But some of them are more interested in an easy victim than in hurting you in particular, so you might as well resist. That said, every situation is unique, and only the person in that situation at that time can say what is the best thing for themselves. I would never tell someone who survived any sort of violence that they had done something wrong; clearly they did something right because they are there to talk to me about it.

    • says

      Roy Hazelwood, one of the early FBI profilers, says he refuses to answer the question of whether women should fight back or not because there are so many variables. Some rapists *like* being resisted, but it makes them angrier, and so they might kill you (then again, I’m with you: if he’s that type, a power-dominant rapist, your chances of NOT being killed were already slim, because he’s also intelligent and organized enough to know you’re a witness if he leaves you alive). But many rapists do *not* like any form of resistance – at the slightest show that you’re not just taking it, they’ll run off and look for an easier target. Which is depressing because, sure, it saves YOU, but not the next woman.

      I think more education on rapist psychology could help people hone their instincts, and THAT might give them the sense of what’s best to do in a given situation. But even that’s not terribly reliable, because it’s not like you can really do drills on it, and with any luck it doesn’t happen often enough for you to hone your skills.

      And none of these tidbits really prepare a person for being attacked by someone she knows, which is far more common. I guess most typically, someone who knows you isn’t going to kill you because that could be traced back to him as easily as anything else. But would fighting back be effective, or just get you more injured? Who can say?

      • Keith says

        One of the best books I’ve ever read on this subject is “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. The book kind of loses focus in the middle, but the beginning and end are worth it. I think that’s because what he has to say is relatively simple, and his publisher said “That’s not long enough. Pad it out some or we can’t charge book prices for it.” Its message is actually pretty simple: you already have the tools you need for recognizing danger; all you have to do is learn to recognize them. It then talks about the ways that your intuition speaks to you. I also teach a college class, Intro to Martial Arts, and at the beginning of the semester, I tell my students that if they’re taking the class to learn to defend themselves, they’re much better off buying that book. It can really help you see trouble before you even get to the point of immediate danger. More importantly, it helps you live a safer life without having to be paranoid and anxiety-ridden.

  12. Keith says

    Posting this as a separate comment, as I’m not sure if it would be considered off-topic.

    I teach Aikido. A few years ago, a woman started training at my school. She had studied tai chi for three years or so, and wanted training in something that used similar principles with a more hands-on approach, as her tai chi practice was primarily of the solo forms*. I told her that her tai chi would definitely help her pick up Aikido more quickly, as she’d already learned a lot about body control, stability, and relaxation.

    After about two months at my school, which isn’t really enough to learn anything in a usable manner, she told me she had a question about something that had happened to her earlier in the week. She returned to her car after work, the parking lot attendant grabbed her by the wrist, tried to pull her and made it clear that he intended to rape her. After trying unsuccessfully to make her move by pulling on her arm for several moments, he fled.
    Her question was, what should she have done differently? We do a lot of work against wrist grabs in Aikido, and the whole time he was pulling on her arm, she was thinking “I’m supposed to know something for this, but I can’t think of anything!”
    I looked at her and asked her how tall the guy was. About 6’3″, she figured.
    “So, this guy who is almost a foot taller than you are grabbed you and tried to move you, and couldn’t. And you want me to tell you that you should have done something differently? Really?”

    *Tai chi does have two-person forms, freestyle exercises, and weapons training; however, it is very rare to find a school that teaches them, or emphasizes the self-defense aspects of the art. Personally, I think this is a shame.

      • Keith says

        I don’t know. She hadn’t done so when she came to me, and I encouraged her to, to protect the next woman. But she never told me if she did; she stopped coming to class not long after that. I’ve often wondered the same thing.

  13. says

    Another good book is Beauty Bites Beast by Ellen Snortland. I have both that and Gift of Fear. Although, I remember feeling a little hopeless reading GoF, like there wasn’t really anything you could do to fight stalkers and harrassers and rapists. Your safety is the prime concern for DeBecker but it is just so infuriating these guys have the privilege of making you overhaul YOUR life and alter YOUR behavior so as to not encourage them. I suppose that it’s true to life, though. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it’s pretty bleak.
    BBB, to me, was a more satisfying read because it incorporated feminist thinking and was more proactive in empowering women. REAL empowerment, not the “sexy” kind.

  14. Alara Rogers says

    I have actually seen this headline. It was about a Russian girl, maybe 16 or so, who stabbed a would-be rapist to death. The guy attacked her because it was his birthday and he thought he was entitled to sex, and she stabbed him to death, and was exonerated under self-defense. Her first name was Oksana; I don’t remember any of the other details.

    • Alara Rogers says

      Okay, the headline wasn’t literally “woman beats crap out of would-be attacker”, it was more like “girl stabs rapist”, but the idea was the same.

  15. Anonymous please says

    regarding the story of the woman that kicked the shit out of her attacker…
    its funny they said “with her father’s help she didn’t let him escape”
    i think the one the father saved was him, really. mama bear was protecting her kids and broke her hand kicking his ass. honestly i think the part with the nurse was funny because she should have been warning the guy and not her. i wonder how it feels when someone holds power over YOU now, huh? wish it was on video so i could do instant replays of her decking him against the stove. i thought she was gonna turn the stove on.

  16. Ari says

    I’ve heard quite a few stories of women fighting off their attackers, and a quick search of the CBC site (I live in Canada) reveals the same as the BBC above. When I was in high school self-defense classes based in aikido were mandatory for all of the girls; in my senior year there was an attempted assault against one of the juniors on the jogging trail outside the school building, and she fought him off successfully and gave credit to those classes. I’m not sure it was ever reported in anything more than the local paper, however.

    We get a lot of American news and media here, though, and come to think of it I can’t remember such a story ever coming out of the US. Then again, the news from the US always seems to be bent on making everyone terrified of setting foot outside their own homes, and “you might be able to successfully defend yourself” isn’t panic-inducing enough for primetime, I guess.

    I’ve also noticed the tendency on forums for there to always be a handful of people who jump at the chance any time there’s any depiction of a woman fighting a man (even with firearms!) to point out how “unrealistic” it is. Even if she loses. If she so much as throws a punch and lands it, it’s “liberal brainwashing” and “now women are going to think they can do that and they’ll only get hurt”, etc. etc. I, personally, am more annoyed when a show/book/etc. goes out of its way to get the woman on one side to fight the woman on the other team so to speak, in order to avoid this problem and cater to those people.

  17. Azzy says

    I’m from Romania, and we get stories about women fighting off attackers once in awhile. One I remember vividly, because it happened in my town: a purse-snatcher stole some woman’s bag, and she chased him for nearly two kilometers through the busy streets, until a passer-by saw what was happening and tripped him up. Once the purse-snatcher hit the ground, the lady was on him like a fury out of hell, punching and smacking him. By the time the police officer arrived, the purse-snatched was begging to be taken away (the police officer was accompanied by reporters, and we got to hear the purse-snatchers shrill whining as he was being taken away). Man, people were cracking jokes about that story for weeks (“Har har, who needs the police when we have Angry Bag Lady?” or “silly thief, he got beat up by a woman! What a pansy!”, because obviously, if he were a True Manly-Man, he wouldn’t have been beaten up by a woman, nevermind that she was twice his size and fueled by pure, possessive anger).

    However, the majority of these kinds of stories, few though they are, tend to be along the lines of women warding off rapists. I remember one such case where two elderly women (I think they were sisters) had their home invaded by a creepy neighbor trying to rape one of them, and they managed to pummel him and scare him off. The tone of the stories on the news is always “ha ha, look at the stupid criminals! They can’t even choose their victims right!”

  18. Casey says

    This discussion makes me think of the occasional news snippets of girls and women who fend off potential robbers/rapists/etc. with MAD MMA SKILLZ and the people who poo-poo such articles using the rhetoric “IF A MAN FOUGHT OFF A CRIMINAL LIKE THAT THE NEWS WOULDN’T EVEN GIVE IT A SECOND THOUGHT” (which I guess ties into the “LIBRUL BRAIN-WASHING AGENDA~!!1one” notion) despite the fact that I’ve seen more than a few stories in the news about men fending off assailants with armbars and figure-four leg-locks (however most of these stories are framed as “isn’t it so quaint that somebody used a pro-wrestling move to beat up a robber and it worked?? LOLZ!”).

  19. says

    the only publications in the US that publish stories about women successfully fighting off assailants are American Rifleman and American Hunter, both published by the National Rifle Association. not that i’m plugging the NRA–i let my membership lapse decades ago—but there definitely is something sinister going on culturally about women, on all fronts, not just self defense. the Old Boy network is pushing old stereotypes about women, and pushing them hard.


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