What a silly question to ask a survivor. Like rapists walk up to their intended victims, square up, and say I'm going to rape you and wait for you to get in the first punch. I'm the father of three beautiful girls who were all raped multiple times before getting through the 11th grade...in a private school. They were sent to Krav maga classes and learned a bit of self defense. Two were raped after those classes. To be fair to their instructor they stopped going after a month but that doesn't really matter. Knowing how to hurt another person doesn't mean you can. To my shame I did ask them this horrible question in a way. I said, "Whatever that scumbag did was not your fault. Why were you unable to defend yourself?" Their replies ranged from "I still cared about him", "he was my best friends brother" to "I don't know, I just froze."
I taught Krav Maga for self defense as an assistant instructor for a while after what happened to my daughters. Learning to throw punches and kicks is far different from learning how to fight. Learning how to fight in a controlled environment is far different from being attacked in the street, and being attacked in the street (as shocking as that is) is far less shocking than being attacked by someone you know and trust. You will never know until it happens. I will tell my students that not fighting is a perfectly natural documented self defense strategy. Guys don't seem to get this and some women even who have not had the full power and rage of a man turned on them. Best bear defense? Play dead. We always hear about fight verses flight but never the freeze effect. Sympathetic nervous system takes over in moments of great stress. "Tonic immobility" is a common and valid form of self defense. It's kind of like your hindbrain taking over and saying play dead and lets think of something else. To see some great examples of this just watch an episode of scared straight. You see these hard ass kids saying no i'll fight if they get in my face but when that inmate outweighs you with obvious muscle by 100 lbs you end up combing his chest hair in front of everyone.
I'm of two minds about fighting back. I say yes you can learn ways to physically and violently defend yourselves. It will cost money and time though no more than a gym membership. But that doesn't mean it will prevent someone from attacking you or that you will be able to fight them off. I know for a fact that most women have enough strength to disable a strong man but what does that mean really?
I live in TX where lethal force is authorized to "prevent rape or aggravated rape". Just cause one has the strength to use a weapon on another person does not mean they will be able to. My instructor had me tapping out and in a breathless panic when he had me on the ground for the first time. He just layed on me. Seriously that's all he did was keep me from pushing him off and I gave up in like 40 seconds. I outweighed him by 20 lbs. I was ready to give up on the whole class and remember I started cause my daughters were raped. To say I had rage issues and uber motivation is an understatement. Also I'm a man. I was encouraged to be physically violent with others (football and other sports not to mention fight or you're a sissy).
To get to the point: how can people expect women to succeed in fighting off a man who typically has 40 percent more muscle mass and denser bones (read more able to dish out damage and more able to resist injury)? Throw in that the man will typically have had more violent encounters and what chance do they expect her to have? Don't ever blame yourselves for what happened and don't feel bad about second guessing yourselves. You're still human and this is how humans learn. When bad stuff happens we look back and seek what we could have done to change it. Perfectly natural and healthy...as long as blame is not attached. You can hold onto responsibility for your actions but you should never take responsibility for your attacker's actions. I personally believe, and I told my daughters so, that a woman should be able to walk naked down a dark ally in the dead of night without worrying about being accosted. No matter what potentially dangerous or risky situation they find themselves in they still deserve to be treated like they are cherished, not owned or obligated. Let me end by saying it is absolutely possible for women to learn effective self defense. For survivors I recommend programs specifically for survivors. The best ones will provide a number of options to choose from which physical altercation will be only one option.