Investigating the self-protective potential of immobility in victims of rape

Brooke A. de Heer, Lynn C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Using a nationwide sample of reported rape cases collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI; 389 victims; 89% stranger rapes), this study investigates assumptions about self-protective behaviors for rape victims. Past research on victim resistance strategies often specifies active resistance as self-protective, inadvertently underestimating the potential for biologically based reactions, such as tonic immobility, to be self-protective as well. Results confirm that rape victims who were verbally and physically immobile during the attack were less likely to be injured and have force used against them. In addition, victims who were verbally immobile suffered a less severe attack. The results indicate that immobility may protect the victim from increased injury, force, and severity of the attack. Implications for the legal and public definition of consent are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-229
Number of pages20
JournalViolence and Victims
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Consent
  • Rape
  • Resistance
  • Tonic immobility
  • Victim injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Law


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