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She had once risked rape herself, when militiamen stopped her car on the road to Kigali at night.

The sentence is from an article.I'm confused about the bold part, I think "risked raping herself" would be more appropriate.

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    It's impossible to rape oneself. "Herself" here should not be combined with "rape". It's the general idea that she, too, came close to being raped (I assume the context talks about other women who are routinely raped in some part of the world, and this particular heroine of the story also almost got into this situation). – tenebris2020 Mar 20 '18 at 13:20
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    @tenebris2020 - I agree that the wording in the article is a bit awkward, but it's not ungrammatical. Sentences such as: "She had once tried sushi herself, while eating at a Japanese restaurant," or: "I once bought a timeshare myself, before I knew any better" are not all that uncommon. – J.R. Mar 20 '18 at 15:07
  • @J.R. At no time have I stated that the quoted sentence is ungrammatical. I meant that OP's interpretation of it (raping oneself)—and thus, his ideas about how to re-word the phrase to bring it closer to his interpretation,—is wrong. The original phrase itself is totally fine. – tenebris2020 Mar 20 '18 at 17:52
  • I ought to clarify probably. Maybe the OP wasn't interpreting it as that "she raped herself." But his suggested change of "rape" to say "raping" instead—creates an ambiguity, the result of which could be the interpretation that "she raped herself" (almost). That is why "rape" should not be changed to "raping". Exactly what Andrew's answer says. – tenebris2020 Mar 20 '18 at 17:53
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    @tenebris2020 - Your comment says: "Herself" here should not be combined with "rape." A learner could easily extrapolate that comment, and conclude that, grammatically, "Herself" should not be combined with any verb. I just wanted to clarify that's not what you meant. – J.R. Mar 20 '18 at 20:17
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"Raping herself" would have implied she was the one performing the act, which doesn't normally make sense and certainly doesn't fit the context. Another example:

She once tried tattooing herself, but quickly gave up when it proved more painful than she expected, and she couldn't hold the needle straight.

The word order in your example ("risked rape herself") instead says that she, herself, was once threatened with potential rape. This emphasizes that she personally understood the danger to women in that part of the world.

I doubt many native speakers would find your example confusing, but it could instead have been written as:

She herself once risked being raped, when ...

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    Exactly. "Risk doing something" means you are the one who is doing it. "To risk something" means risking the posssibility that something might be done to you. – tenebris2020 Mar 20 '18 at 17:57
  • I think you're hung up on "raping" being near "herself" instead of the difference between "risked rape" and "risked raping". What if "herself" wasn't in the picture and it was "She had once risked raping when militiamen stopped her car." ? Why does it have to be "risked rape" ? – ColleenV parted ways Mar 21 '18 at 11:04
  • @ColleenV Yeah that's a good point. I guess you could. Since as I pointed out in my answer the "herself" is an intensive pronoun and should be able to be removed without changing the meaning, maybe we consider the sentence by removing "herself" and seeing how that looks/sounds. – Zebrafish Mar 21 '18 at 11:17
  • You are correct about what "raping herself" would have meant. However "risked rape herself" would actually mean that she took a risk which could have resulted in rape. The author of the article probably meant "she was herself once at risk of rape". – David42 Mar 21 '18 at 12:05
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Some people here seem to have misunderstood the meaning of the word "herself" in this sentence. Here "herself" is not being used as a reflexive pronoun, in other words this has nothing to do with raping oneself.

The word "herself" here is being used in what's known as an intensive pronoun.

An intensive pronoun adds emphasis to a statement; for example, "I did it myself." While English intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, yourself, himself,herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves) use the same form as reflexive pronouns, an intensive pronoun is different from a reflexive because the pronoun can be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intensive_pronoun

What adds to the confusion is that rape is both verb and noun. If many women in her community have been raped, and she hasn't, then it is perfectly fine to say "She nearly risked rape herself by walking down that dark alley." This is not a reflexive pronoun, it has nothing to do with raping herself.

Example:

"It wasn't uncommon for the town's guards to drag any beggar or undesirable down to the king's cells to interrogate and torture their captive. I once risked torture myself when walking the town's streets at night and barely avoided confronting the watchmen."


"At the protest nearly all of our group were either arrested or threatened with arrest. I knew I'd risk arrest myself if I didn't settle down.".

  • Why wouldn't we say "risk raping" instead of "risk rape" though? – ColleenV parted ways Mar 21 '18 at 11:05
  • @ColleenV I guess you could. – Zebrafish Mar 21 '18 at 11:20
  • I think "raping" doesn't really work, but I don't know how to explain why. We can say "You risk a beating if you disobey the guard." but we wouldn't say "risk a raping". We normally say "risk being raped". – ColleenV parted ways Mar 21 '18 at 11:24
  • @ColleenV Those are all very good points. Language is weird, I don't really think there exists a definitive list of rules without controversy. And the language changes with time such as to make some rules obsolete. – Zebrafish Mar 21 '18 at 11:33

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