Chapter 11 in Rodman Philbrick's novel Freak the Mighty is entitled "The Damsel of Distress," which implies that, rather than someone who needs rescuing, the damsel is the cause of distress. The damsel being referred to is Loretta Lee, the woman whose purse Max and Kevin found after their nemesis, Tony D., and his gang stuffed it down a sewer drain. Kevin is fascinated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table—he even calls his mom The Fair Guinevere in honor of the legendary character (and because her name is Gwen). He decides that he and Max can go on quests like the knights of old, to right the wrongs of the world.
Their first damsel in distress is Loretta Lee, but she becomes more of a damsel of distress because she recognizes Max. She knew his father, Killer Kane, and that causes Max trouble later on in the novel. In chapter 11, she encourages Iggy, her boyfriend, to fight Max, but Iggy refuses because he doesn't want Killer Kane finding out he beat up his son.
Because Loretta involves Iggy in her conviction that she knows Max, the boys get trapped inside their apartment for a time. They only wanted to return the purse and leave, but Iggy forces them to stay for longer than they'd like. If Loretta had just accepted the purse and kept quiet, they would have been able to do their good deed and forget about the encounter.
When Killer Kane ties Max up, Loretta realizes he has crossed a line and goes to free Max. In the process, Killer Kane finds her and begins choking her. This causes Max to remember the incident when he was four years old, when his father killed his mother. He does his best to get his father off Loretta and tells his father he remembers him killing his mother. So, in this novel, Loretta causes some distress, but she also relieves some distress (while in the process, uncovering distressing blocked memories).