Sexual Assault Prevention | Straw Dogs [2011]

Every so often a film comes around, like this remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film Straw Dogs, where the viewer witnesses a scene (of which the above clip is just a short sample of) that not only creates a great deal of uneasiness, but of shock and fear.

The Combative Corner would like to thank, Rener Gracie for responding promptly to our request for feedback.  As many of you know, Rener  just recently produced the dvd training series, Women Empowered.  T.J. Kennedy is a self-defense instructor, contributing writer and founder/head instructor of Hybrid Fighting Method Global.  Michael Joyce is also a self-defense instructor, founder/head writer for the Combative Corner and head instructor of the Outfoxxed Program (specializing in Women’s Safety).


1. Close the door, lock it, and call the police.
2. If he gets in, get out of the house and get help.
3. If he pins you and you can’t get away, feign compliance and then use the Triangle Choke (Lesson 10, Giant Killer Variation) to render him unconscious with your legs when the opportunity arises.

Overall, remaining calm, feigning compliance, saving energy and looking for the best window of escape will catch him off guard and give the best chance of success.

Most Common Mistake: Trying to use violent strikes to incapacitate him which will only burn energy and make him angrier. (click here)


In my opinion, Kate’s character could have had a chance. I have never been in this particular type of situation, but I can say with confidence that she likely had a lot of fear to work through – which makes any physical task difficult.

The only real chance I see for her here is to cause some heavy trauma to high value targets (eg. knee to groin), maybe even using objects around her as improvised weapons (eg. the glass dish on the coffee table to his face). She may have been able to flee to another room (adjacent kitchen) to get more “fatal” implements such as a knife or scissors.

And then running, and if there was a functional vehicle outside to leave ASAP to either her husband or the authorities.


The situation presented above is a frightening one and similar to what many women envision.  When I ask my students to imagine this and play the scenario out in their head you can see a lot of things change: their posture, the way they breath, etc.

The first step is to prepare.  Women should seek a self-defense class that teaches realistic and practical means of avoidance, escape and defense… and moreso, they need to continue to hone these skills.  Secondly, beyond the knowledge & skillset that you may acquire in a class, men and women both should mentally prepare.  Do run-throughs of various scenarios whereby you enact your gameplan smoothly and successfully.  Don’t superimpose yourself in the role that Kate is playing, superimpose yourself in the actions that Kate should have been making.

But let’s say she didn’t do any of the above.  When her assailant braces the door with his foot, it is imperative that she braces with her foot as well (barefoot or not).  If there is a wall, pillar or something heavy that she can post against (to leverage her strength), you should always use it.  If the scenario then plays out that he tries to batter the door down with force, a well-timed opening of the door will have your opponent either off-balance or falling through the doorway, (possibly) leaving you a chance for escape.  I concur with T.J. about the knee to the groin (when he’s in close range), but she would either need to follow-up fast with an improvised weapon, run to a safe location (seek authorities), or finish the fight.  Still risky, especially as terrified and under-confident as she is in the film.

There are no guarantees, but the woman (or training student) must use her own judgement, be decisive and use 100% determination.  Rener is correct in saying that in situations of this nature, when you are going up against bigger, stronger opponents feigning compliance may open a larger window of opportunity than if you struggle and deplete your energy stores.  A well-executed triangle choke with the legs is a fair-good bet.  [future article on this later]  You should be confident in your technique however, which always boils down to training!  Keep training, and stay safe everyone!


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14 Responses to “Sexual Assault Prevention | Straw Dogs [2011]”

  1. Amir N. [via Facebook’s Personal Defense Readiness Group]

    Frighteningly realistic video, but very useful for preparation. I think the door scene is the most important part: she feels uncomfortable, and he is obviously up to no good. With training, she would have known how to stop him there. But there are other ways to prepare: a chain on the door could have helped, as could a peephole in the door.

    If you let him in though, things become a lot more difficult. Once he is inside, he has gained ground: something that he will not likely give up. This is why it is important to start resisting early: the earlier you start, the bigger the chances of success. In this case, it is not likely he will listen to ‘please leave’, so getting him out will either require great communication skills (and time) or physical effort. Buying time to call the police would be an amazing help (especially psychologically), but it’s not something to rely on.

    In this case (and many others), the assault seems to be about power and revenge. Don’t be afraid of angering him by fighting him; because he already is angry. Unless you have a gut feeling telling you not to, fighting him once he starts the assault is the best option. I firmly believe hitting the opponent in the face is the most effective way of discouraging him to proceed the assault, on top of a good chance of a knock-down (with training), so that’s what I would recommend. But again, stopping him at the door would be ideal, especially if prepared (peep-hole & chain).

  2. Clint C. [via Facebook’s Personal Defense Readiness Group]

    “Most Common Mistake: Trying to use violent strikes to incapacitate him which will only burn energy and make him angrier.”

    I don’t fully agree with this statement. While every situation is different, to blanketly state that violent strikes are a mistake, I believe is inaccurate. A woman that took one of my seminars ended up having to defend herself against her (soon-to-be-ex) husband when he pinned her against a wall and started choking her. This was, specifically, one of the scenarios we went over and the defense involved strikes and it was effective for her. Again, I’m not saying strikes are always the answer, hence I don’t believe it’s proper to say strikes are never the answer.

    GREAT (in an educational sense) video and insights!

  3. Jake S. [via Facebook’s Personal Defense Readiness Group]

    There’s something that was bugging me about this for a while. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I took the dog for a walk yesterday afternoon (side note: having a dog grants you an amazing opportunity to have some thinking time every day. Surprisingly useful, that.)

    The thing that bugs me is this.

    All of the responses were about physical tactics: lock the door, get an improvised weapon, strike, use a triangle choke…everything proposed was a physical response. Which is fine, except that this video is a perfect example of how self-defense is not solely a physical problem.

    Amy doesn’t fail to defend herself because she lacks a physical skill set. She fails to defend herself because she lacks a psychological skill set. All of the strikes, eye-gouges, and triangle chokes in the world wouldn’t have availed her anything, because she didn’t understand how to work past her fear and get motivated enough to DO something.

    Look at the dynamic of the scene. Amy knows (hey look, intuition at work) from the moment she opens the door that there is something wrong. If she didn’t, Charlie provides plenty of clear pre-contact cues, from forcing his way inside, to repeatedly ignoring Amy’s demands that he leave, to comments about her appearance and smell, sexual innuendo, and insults to her husband’s manhood…short of wearing a sign that says “I am here to rape you”, Charlie is pretty clear about his intentions from the moment that door opens.

    The issue isn’t that Amy doesn’t know that something is wrong. It isn’t that she lacks a physical skill set. The issue is that Amy is too paralyzed by fear to be able to do anything. She could have been a ninja commando MMA goddess, but without the knowledge to motivate herself and act, any theoretical skill set is useless.

    The psychological, not the physical arsenal is the one that is lacking here.

    • S Kai L [response to Jake S. in FB’s P.D.R. Group Page]

      ‎”She could have been a ninja commando MMA goddess, but without the knowledge to motivate herself and act, any theoretical skill set is useless.” GOOD ONE Jake!

    • Terje T. [via Facebook’s Personal Defense Readiness Group]

      Love your answer Jake Steinmann, and it got me thinking about the mental barrier of going up the violence ladder. The BG is aready there, while she isn’t, and to “meet” him on the same level, she has to mentally move. It looks like (in the movie) that she takes on the tyically womens approach of “hoping that giving in” can reason the BB out of his intent. Were as she has to move up the violence ladder, because her current tactic only shows the BG that he’s on the right way for his goal.

  4. TheZappman [via YouTube Video Post]

    She humored him by letting him in, this gave him the power in the situation, he insisted and she relented. A dangerous precident to set. There was no will on her part to create injury to her attacker, she ineffectively pushed and struggled as she succumbed to fear. She could have blinded him with her fingernails, what stopped her? She lacked the assertiveness to be rude and the will to do structural damage to her assaliant.

  5. Holdenc96 [via YouTube Video Post]

    When he pushes her against the wall, she could have kneed him to the groin. Then when he leans forward in pain, she could have gouged out both of his eyes with her thumbs.

  6. […] Luke Holloway, owner of Raw-Combat International, and training provider for security, police, military and and civilians, gives us his input on our previous assault scenario based on the recent re-make of Straw Dogs (video here).  To those that missed our original article, please visit it first.  Sexual Assault Discussion – Straw Dogs [2012] […]

  7. Sorry guys maybe I’m not seeing something here, but everyone just seems to be over complicating the matter. Wouldn’t a forearm to the throat followed by any other injury really but lets say a huge kick to the groin to drop the man, then a stomp of kick to his eye, pretty much end the situation? But that’s just me

  8. I suppose I’m just simple…I’ve never even taken a fight class yet; but I remember watching this movie for the first time and saying out loud to myself during that opening part where she makes the mistake of opening the door at all (simulating Kate’s character):
    “Oh, well, if you’re going to force you’re way IN, I’m going OUT” (and leaving the house right as he pushes his way inside and struts past her).

    Yes: Bare feet, robe, and all. It’s better than the alternative.

    I think that one quote from “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (which features another brutally horrific rape scene), is fitting – something akin to “We’re often more afraid of offending others than ensuring our own safety”.

    As a woman, I feel like this is a big one to conquer, and in the context of the character within this story, it really does make sense how her psychological block of conflicting feelings (small Southern town where everyone acts polite/doesn’t lock their doors) got in her own way of rational acting.

    Even so, I’m now Googling what a “Triangle Choke” is 🙂

    • There’s one good thing about films like this…they surely get you thinking. And if you really truly think about it, you ultimately learn or rediscover something about yourself! A huge part of self-defense is about making right choices: choices in creating barriers, choices in correct speech, and choices in correct actions. Another important element is the safety aspect. Have a “plan”, knowing your environment, knowing where and how to use improvised weapons, etc. In my opinion, ever woman should know the triangle choke. Good for sport fighting and great in personal self-protection (if you can set it up). The Gracie Brothers (Rener & Ryron) have great videos and their presentation of “The Giant Killer” Variation is the best I’ve seen. They teach it in their Women Empowered Dvd course. Top notch stuff!

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