The “Rape Someone Else” Model 

The “Rape Someone Else” Model 

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that a group of first-year college students who received prevention training reduced their incidence of rape and attempted rape compared to the group that didn’t engage in the prevention training. The training included learning to assess risk and training in self-defense techniques.

This is exactly what many people recommend to me when I discuss Keep Her Safe and the concern I have for my own daughter. It’s the solution posted in many comment sections on articles about sexual assault. The idea is that if a young woman doesn’t drink, doesn’t wear sexy clothing, and knows self defense, she’ll be less likely to be sexually assaulted. The results of this study seem to bear out the effectiveness of that prevention approach.

At Keep Her Safe, we call this prevention and self defense approach the rape someone else model. There will always be someone out there not so well trained and vulnerable to assault. It’s just like the pitch by the company that sold us our home security system: the burglar goes to the neighbor without the alarm because it’s easier.  

Like many parents, I’m preparing my daughter to assess risk and learn self defense techniques so she can safely navigate through the risk of sexual assault on campus. I feel good about doing my job as a mother, but what doesn’t sit well is that in protecting my girl, someone else’s less-prepared daughter is at higher risk.

The rape someone else model doesn’t address the wider problem on campuses; it seems more to divert sexual violence elsewhere than to prevent it. When parents evaluate schools with their high school students, a more effective effort is to look for comprehensive training programs that get more directly to the root of the problem, covering topics like healthy relationships, affirmative consent, and bystander intervention.


Sheri Heitker Dixon is the founder of Keep Her Safe, a non-profit organization committed to making college campuses safe from sexual assault.

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