Perhaps the most obvious explanation for the existence of unacknowl­edged rape victims lies in the nature of the assault itself. It is quite possible that those victims who acknowledge the assault as rape were subjected to a higher level of physical force or threatened physical force, or displayed a higher level of resistance. There is a sizable literature showing that the perceived amount of force and resistance are the most important factors in an observer’s decision as to whether or not a situation is rape (e. g., Bourque, 1989; Parrot, 1991). Perhaps the level of force and resistance are also de­terminants of whether a victim labels her own experience as rape.

Research on the relationship between force and rape acknowledgment has provided contradictory results. In Koss’s (1985) pioneering study, ac­knowledged victims did not differ from unacknowledged victims on of­fender verbal pressure, offender physical violence, type of force, degree of force, victim resistance, or clarity of nonconsent. However, Bondurant (1995) found that level of force was significantly related to rape acknowl­edgment. Sixty-two percent of women who experienced physical force ac­knowledged their experience as rape, whereas less than 10% of women who were intoxicated or threatened with force acknowledged their expe­rience as rape. Furthermore, when Bondurant examined various predictors of rape acknowledgment, she found that the perceived amount of assailant force accounted for more of the variance than any other factor. Bondurant’s acknowledged victims also reported engaging in greater resistance and suf­fering more physical harm than those who were unacknowledged.

Andreoli Mathie et al. (1994) asked rape victims to check one of four alternatives—“none,” “slight,” “moderate,” and “large”—in respond­ing to the question, “How much force did he use?” Acknowledged victims indicated experiencing a significantly greater level of assailant force than unacknowledged victims. More than 87% of the acknowledged victims indicated that either a moderate or large amount of force was used by the assailant, whereas only 28% of unacknowledged victims reported a mod­erate or large degree of force. This finding was replicated by Andreoli Ma­thie and Kahn (1995) who asked rape victims to respond on a 7-point scale to the question, “Overall, how much force did he use in this situa­tion?” Acknowledged victims perceived their experience as involving sig­nificantly more assailant force than did unacknowledged victims.

To explore more thoroughly differences in the amount of force ex­perienced by acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims, Andreoli Mathie and Kahn (1995) asked participants to indicate the extent to which the man used verbal pressure, threatened physical harm, covered her mouth, held her down, twisted her body, pushed or shoved, scratched, slapped, hit, kicked, bit, choked, threatened use of a weapon, and actually used a weapon. Participants responded to each item on a 7-point scale ranging from 0 (“not at all”) to 6 (“a great deal”). A similar set of questions was asked regarding amount of victim resistance using the same response format to the stem, “What I did to resist,” and included tried to leave, tried to talk him out of it, verbally protested, tried to scream, screamed or shouted, verbally attacked him, pushed or shoved him, scratched him, slapped him, hit him, kicked him, bit him, tried to use a weapon, and used a weapon.

Overall, regardless of acknowledgment status, level of assailant force and victim resistance were quite low, typically between 0 and 1 on the 0— 6 scales. The only assailant force items for which the mean was greater than 3.0 were assailant’s use of verbal pressure (both acknowledged and unacknowledged victims) and being held down by the assailant (acknowl­edged victims only). The only items for which the mean for victim resis­tance was greater than 3.0 were for “tried to talk him out of it” (both acknowledged and unacknowledged victims) and “verbally protested” (both acknowledged and unacknowledged victims). These findings support the conclusions of Muehlenhard and Linton (1987) and Rapaport and Burkhart (1984) that most men gain nonconsensual sexual intercourse by simply ignoring the verbal protests of the woman and refusing to stop, rather than by using high levels of force.

Although the overall level of force was low, we found significant differences between acknowledged and unacknowledged victims in levels of assailant force for some assailant behaviors. Acknowledged victims re-

TABLE 2

Percentage of Rape Victims Responding “Not at All” to Each of the

Resistance Items

Item

Percentage

Tried to leave

33.8

Tried to talk her way out of it

20.5

Verbally protested

20.3

Tried to scream but was unable to do so

79.7

Screamed or shouted

75.7

Verbally attacked or swore at him

78.4

Pushed or shoved him

74.3

Scratched him

83.8

Slapped him

87.8

Hit or punched him

84.9

Kicked him

89.2

Bit him

91.8

Tried to use a weapon

100.0

ported that the assailant was more likely to have used verbal pressure, threatened physical force, held her down, and pushed or shoved her than did unacknowledged victims. When all of the individual assailant force items were combined to form an overall measure of assailant force, ac­knowledged victims reported significantly more force than unacknowledged victims. Unlike the victims in Bondurant’s (1995) study, no significant differences were found between acknowledged and unacknowledged victims for level of victim resistance either on the individual items or on a com­posite score.

Although not found by Koss (1985) in her original study, the evi­dence seems clear from the more recent research that the amount of as­sailant force is an important factor in women acknowledging that they have been raped. Apparently, one way women know they have been raped is that their assailant used at least some minimal level of force. Although Bondurant (1995) found that acknowledged victims reported greater resis­tance to their assailant than unacknowledged victims, Andreoli Mathie and Kahn (1995) did not find a difference in victim resistance. Table 2 presents the percentage of rape victims (acknowledged and unacknowl­edged combined) from Andreoli Mathie and Kahn who responded “not at all” to each type of resistance. For the majority of these rape victims, resistance either did not occur or was limited to attempts to leave and verbal protests. The lack of resistance may have been due to the low levels of force used by their assailants.