Most violent crime victims who survived the attacks say they tried to protect themselves, and 63 percent say their efforts helped, a government study found.
However, the study and a victims' rights group both cautioned that the survey's findings should not be seen as an endorsement of fighting back, as those who may have fought back and paid with their lives were not accounted for in the report.The study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics was based on National Crime Survey interviews from July 1986 through June 1987 with about 100,000 people age 12 and older in 49,000 households nationwide.
The findings "should not be used to recommend whether or not victims should defend themselves or to determine the measures that are most effective," the study says.
John Stein, deputy director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, says there's no universally appropriate response to a violent crime due to varying circumstances. Even if there were, he said, the victim probably would be too shocked to carry it out.
"If we do resist, it's not because it's a calculated decision," said Stein, whose organization advocates victims' rights, does research on victim assistance and provides direct services to victims.
When one is confronted with a violent criminal, the situation "clearly is not one in which training, thinking, cognitive stuff is taking place a lot," Stein said.
"I'm not saying we are powerless in moments of crisis, but we certainly emphasize to victims that the level of decision-making we are likely to operate under is very low," he said. "That's one of the reasons we're not certain that, for example, self-defense training is likely to have much of an impact."
The survey found that 73 percent of the victims of violent crimes - rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault - made some efforts to protect themselves.
Those efforts included fighting back, threatening the attacker or screaming from pain or fear. About one-third resisted or tried to capture the offender, one-fourth ran away or hid and one-fourth tried to persuade or appease the offender. Some tried more than one measure.
Of those victims, 63 percent say resisting helped, 7 percent said it led to more harm, 6 percent said it both helped and hurt, 13 percent said it did neither and 11 percent weren't sure of the effect.
The report did not give a margin of error for the survey results.