Are women (or men) obligated to fight back against rapists?

There’s a topic in World News about a Canadian judge who resigned after he was (IMHO justly) pilloried for asking a rape victim why she didn’t “keep her knees together” to avoid the rape.

While so far, all posters have stated their strong disagreement with the judge’s comments, I can recall some examples of Catholic saints who seem to have been canonized in large part because they resisted rape even to the point of choosing death instead.

Where St. Maria Goretti is concerned, it seems she also lived a saintly life, forgave her murderer, and actually led him to repent after her death. But she is often called upon to support people in efforts at chastity.

There’s also a really old martyr saint from the Roman persecution era who tricked a soldier into killing her instead of raping her, I don’t recall her name but I do recall her being described as a “wise virgin”.

The idea that women should resist rapists tooth and nail has certainly been used to cast doubts on rape allegations, and only the rapist who actually physically forces sex despite resistance, is considered a “real rapist”. Sometimes I even wonder if people who believe this, actually think rape itself is no big deal, and only frown on violent “real rape” due to the physical violence involved.

So, is a woman (or man) who does submit to rape at gunpoint, knifepoint, because the rapist threatened the life of loved one, guilty of sexual sin? I doubt it would be mortal sin, considering the amount of coercion. But would it be venial sin for someone NOT to fight back?

No and No.

Possibly Saint Lucy…but I’m not positive.

To answer your question, No there is no obligation to fight back, some women shut down completely when they realize they don’t have the power to stop the attack. Some women fight back so much that their attacker’s end up killing them.

I wish people would remember that rape is a crime of violence, not sex.

Rape is not a crime about sex. Ever.

St. Maria Goretti did fight off the man who tried to rape her, but what makes her doing so saintly is that she did so to save his soul, not hers.


I’m glad you brought this up, because I see what you are saying, and I even wrote a popular Catholic tv show host about this (the issue about St. Maria Goretti and how women are expected to piously handle such a horrible situation), and it went (not surprisingly) unanswered.

I imagine it will be as such here too.

Honestly, is a woman supposed to fight back or pray it away? Can they kill in that situation? Maim? Hurt the rapist… is that allowed? Or do they just supposed to scream and hope some magical fairy godmother saves them at that moment? How exactly is a rape victim OR potential rape victim supposed to handle such an event in a “Christian” way? Do we leave vulnerable people as sitting ducks to be harmed viciously in teaching this ideology? It needs to be addressed within the church since they canonized Goretti, in all seriousness. It makes no sense if people stop and think about it for a bit.

People do not want to talk about this topic. And yes, I know of men who have told me they see no big deal with rape. I can’t imagine what sort of other extreme kinds of filth fills their soul to even think such a thing. There are even people here that deny that rape is common. And people who deny that it can cause extreme psychological distress and damage to a person. … its just something that is not discussed. There are even some who are turned on by the idea or mention of it. Its just a topic that is too messed up to even discuss, it seems.

It would help a lot if men who were raped spoke up about what happened to them. If they would, I think it would help a lot because mainly this is thought of being a ‘woman’s issue’ but its not. Men get raped too, just that you won’t hear about it, because its such a heinous act (that is why the perp does it- it is meant to be that heinous and harmful hurtful to another). Would that judge would have said the same thing to a man who was raped? Or how would that judge have deliberated if it was a man who was raped instead of a woman? What about children of either sex who are molested or raped? Would he say the same thing to them?!

Any chance the OP is thinking about Saint Agnes? I know she is said to have been killed after a failed rape attempt.

Absolutely not, not a sin and they don’t have an obligation to fight back, particularly if they’re being threatened with life or limb. To even suggest such a thing is quite frankly offensive.


Definitely not. Even tho my experience was more than 45 years ago, I remember it vividly. I fought as best I could until he strangled me. When I came to, he was holding a gun on me. I didn’t fight any more. Tho I was pretty much convinced I was going to be dead whether I fought or not, there was always the chance that he would let me go afterwords. And he did.

The weirdest thing about my experience was that I wasn’t a Christian at the time. But I prayed anyway & told God, “You get me out of this & I’ll do anything you want.” So he did. But I didn’t hold up my part of the bargain for about 5 years.

How awful. I feel so bad this happened to you, Bonnie. :frowning:

Would it be a sin for a man being robbed at knifepoint to hand over his wallet rather than try to fight the knife-wielder?

Someone threatened with rape/sexual assault has a right to defend themselves if they can. They* do not*, ever, have a duty to fight.

There are a lot of reasons men don’t talk about being raped and your post pointed to one of the reasons; people still think it’s about sex. If the perps is a man then it’s about homosexuality. If the perp is a woman then it’s about “getting some” and how can anyone have a problem with that?

Are a couple of 9 mm JHP rounds to the c.o.m. considered “fighting back?”

But it had 3 (perhaps more) good effects, as God can bring good out of evil. One is my belief that my promise to God, even tho it was prompted by fear, brought me to the Church. Another is that I learned about guns. Third was that - eventually - I learned to forgive.

I think Maria Goretti’s attacker was a young man of 16. It sounds as if she was trying to talk him out of it. Maybe she did not expect him to stab her because she knew him for a while and I believe they were friends.

Talking someone out of it is not easy, however, and he turned on her.

A rapist can be a grown man with a body builder physique. He can be very strong. Sometimes he can come up and hold the woman in a choke hold, cutting off her air. Then she would be unconscious. There is no talking him out of it.

Date rape is often committed when a guy feels the girl owes him. The problem with that is many people don’t believe that she did not somehow entice and give in to him. That is why it is a good idea, I think, for a girl not to ride alone in a car with a boy, if possible. Maybe she should either drive herself (if she has access to a car and can drive) or have someone drop her off and pick her up. Once a guy has control in driving his girlfriend, there is no real control on her part if he departs from the main road and goes into some lover’s lane.

Even those dating sites on the internet are kind of risky unless precautions are taken.

Where is this coming from? Why are you in any doubt about the lengths a person may go to to defend oneself against sexual assault? One may use sufficient force to prevent the assault.

Who is it that is denying a right of self-defense or arguing the better course (which begs the question, “better than what?”) is always to yield?

Even the SSPX site has that St Maria fought back against Alessandro’s attempted rape, but he was in such a fit of rage, he stabbed her multiple times (14, to be exact). Prior to getting stabbed, she was reported to have begged him not to assault her, as it would send him into eternal damnation. She was concerned with his salvation to the end. Nothing in her story says that women should not fight off an attacker nor does it suggest that she should fight to the death to avoid rape. She was canonized for her piety in forgiving her attacker and being concerned with his eternal welfare, not because she preserved her virginity by dying in a violent manner. I do agree that stories that present her holiness coming from dying before being raped send a very confusing message to rape victims and that’s probably the last thing this holy young woman would have wanted assault victims to feel.

None of us are qualified to say we should fight until we have had a buck knife digging into our throats.

My personal knee jerk reaction, I have to be honest since Im thinking it and I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I am a guy, and if someone wants to rape me, it’s as good a time as any to die a martyr. That is just me. Maybe men feel differently, maybe they don’t, but under no circumstances can anyone judge how anyone handles this type of horrendous crime.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit