Hesperian Health Guides

How to Avoid Rape

There is no one right or wrong way to behave to avoid rape. But there are some things a woman can do that may make her less likely to suffer some kinds of rape. What a woman does depends on how well she knows the man, how afraid she is, and how much danger she thinks she is in. Remember, if a woman is raped, it is not because she failed to avoid the rape, but because someone stronger forced himself on her.

These ideas may help any woman avoid rape

three women sitting close together while working outside
Protect yourselves.

Work with others.

  • Do your work with other women. You will be safer and stronger if you work together in groups
  • Do not let anyone who makes you feel nervous into your home. Do not let him know if you are there alone.
  • Try not to walk alone, especially at night. If you must go alone, hold your head up and act as though you feel confident. Most rapists will look for a woman who looks easy to attack.
  • If you think you are being followed, try walking in another direction, or go up to another person, a house, or a store. Or, turn around and ask him very loudly what he wants.
More Information
self defense
  • Carry something with you that will make a loud noise, like a whistle. Also, carry something that you can use to defend yourself. This could be a stick, something you can spray in his eyes, or even some hot spicy powder—like hot pepper or chili powder—to blow in his eyes.
  • If you are attacked, scream as loudly as you can or use your whistle. If this does not work, hit back quickly to hurt him, so that you may be able to get away.

Learn to trust your feelings.

Most women are taught from a very early age to always be polite and to try not to offend anyone. So when someone does something that makes a woman feel uncomfortable, she often has a hard time acting on her feelings. But be careful if you:

  • have a lasting feeling that something is not right.
  • feel afraid, or like you want to leave.
  • feel uncomfortable with comments or suggestions the person is making.
  • dislike the physical contact he makes.
a young woman thinking while a young man holds her arm
I don't want to look stupid by running away from him... It's probably nothing anyway.
Trust your feelings. It is better to offend someone if you are wrong than to be raped.

It can be hard to act on these feelings because you may be afraid of what other people will think. In addition, if the person is someone you know or care about, you may not want to admit that he would do you harm. But it is always best to trust your feelings and get out of a situation that feels uncomfortable before anything bad happens.

Be prepared to get away:

  • Avoid going somewhere alone with a person who makes you feel uncomfortable or who you do not know well.
  • Always have a way to get home if you decide you need to leave. It is better not to go somewhere if you will not be able to get back without the person’s help.
  • Tell the person that his comments or touch make you uncomfortable. If he does not change the way he is acting you should get away from him as soon as possible.
If he has power over you (for example if he is your boss, your doctor, a teacher, or an official):

Be aware that if a man cannot gain control over a woman through sexual violence, he may try to gain control over her in other ways.

  • The first time he does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, tell him to stop. If he is trying to take advantage of his power, he will look for someone who is easy to frighten. Let him know that you are not frightened. He is less likely to treat you badly (for example to fire you, refuse you medical care, or deny your request) if you can get him to stop bothering you before he has done anything that makes him look foolish.
  • Talk to other women about him. You are probably not the only one he has bothered. If you must continue to deal with him, try to bring a friend with you so you are never alone with him. Warn other women to be careful.

Help children avoid sexual abuse

Sometimes sexual abuse of children continues for many years. A girl may be told that she will be harmed or even killed if she tells anyone about it.

  • Teach children about the possibility that they may be touched sexually, and how to tell the difference between touching that is affectionate and touching that is sexual.
  • If possible, have girls and boys sleep separately, especially after age 10 or 11 years old.
  • Make sure children know who they can talk to if something should happen to them.
  • Believe a child who says he or she feels uncomfortable around an adult or older child—no matter who that person is.

This page was updated:02 Sep 2020