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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Psychology of Rape


Imrana, Oksana Makar. Jyoti Singh Pandey. Daisy Coleman. These names would probably mean nothing to most people. But the addition of one tiny bit of information is enough to evoke a sea of response among the listeners- they are the names of rape victims. Most people will be surged by feelings of sympathy and sometimes even disgust. On the other hand, the mentioning of names such as Albert Fish, Ted Bundy, Gary Heidnik, Carlton Gary and so on are likely to elicit feelings of outrage, anger, apathy and also a feeling of helplessness towards the entire situation. With several news of rape being reported and sensationalized by media around the globe, the question arises as to what is that one (or, in all probability more) factor/s that triggers rape. Over the years several people have developed an interest in the rapist rather than the rape victim. What exactly goes on inside the mind of a rapist? Why do they resort to committing such heinous acts?

Rape, is a “ is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that’s person’s consent.” The term is derived from the Latin word rapere which means to snatch or carry off. The derivative itself suggests that the term refers to a forceful act.  Like most other things there are certain myths about rape. One of the widely held and believed myths is that women incite men to rape. However studies have proven likewise. Rape is the responsibility of the perpetrator. Myths exist not just about the victims but also about the perpetrator. For instance another commonly believed myths is that most rapists are non white and usually belong to the lower strata of society. One of the most asked and pondered upon question is why men (very often from upper class and who live normal and dignified lives) resort to the commitment of such abominable acts.

There are several theories that are attributed to cite reasons for committing a rape. Broadly speaking they can be divided into social and biological factors. Nicholas Groth, author of “Men who Rape” has identified several types of rapists. For instance one category is the Anger rapist- In this an act of rape is committed under an extreme fit of anger primarily to humiliate and undermine their victim through rape. They use rape as a sexual tool to ventilate their anger. The action of rape is caused by conscious anger and rage of the perpetrator. Another kind of rapist can be the power rapist-  In this the act of rape is carried out by the offender to establish their power, supremacy, dominance and authority over the helpless victim. Such rapists conduce in fantasies in regard to sexual conquests and rapes. They dwell on the thought that with the passage of time the victim will eventually start enjoying the rape. Power rapists are those who are likely to be serial offenders of rape. Studies have shown that majority of the rapists in The United States of America are power rapists. A third category of rapists can be sadistic rapists- As the name itself suggests sadistic rapists are those who thrive upon and derive a sense of enjoyment by inflicting pain on the victim. Causing pain to the victim evokes sexual excitement in the offender. Watching the pain, agony and suffering of the victim is an erotic experience for the rapist. Such rapists are considered to be the most dangerous as their sexual exploits often leads to the death of the victim. Serial rapist and psychopath Ted Bundy falls into this category of rapists. The fourth kinds of rapists are Date rapists- They are those who rape close acquaintances. Such rapists tend to be inordinately aggressive, possessive and do not respect personal distance. It is easier for date rapists to commit their act as the victims are known to them and are trusted more easily. Finally in war rapes-Where soldiers and other combatants rape women of the enemy country. Rape is often used as a weapon in war to establish to establish male supremacy and also to degrade the moral values and ethics of the enemy country by toying with the chastity of women.

Apart from these social and behavioral patterns, biology also plays a pivotal role in causing certain behavior that induces a person to rape. For instance, in one case a 40 year old man who led an otherwise normal life abruptly began leaning towards pedophilia. He also complained of severe headache that occurred frequently. An examination of his brain showed the presence of an egg sized tumor located in the right lobe of the orbifrontal context which is linked to judgments. Thus very often the behavior of a rapist is attributed to certain biological factors.

Now turning to a more interesting aspect- are there any significant behavioral patterns that can be associated with a rapist? The general population usually assumes that acts of rape are carried out by non whites, those who are less educated and those who belong at the bottom of the social ladder. For instance on hearing the word child molester the image that pops up in the minds of most people are that of a “dirty old man” who usually linger in the park luring children away with candy. Contrary to these vivid ye false pictures that is painted by society it is difficult to label a person as a sexual offender or a rapist merely by his looks. Most serial rapists are average looking men sometimes having a white collar occupation. They can be anyone ranging from ones next door neighbor to a stranger with whom one has had pleasant conversations with. Most rapists are educated giving them more reasoning and analytic power. They usually also have very good communication skills and can interact with women freely. The earlier held notion that rapists tend to be big bulky men who towers over the average population and usually spots an impressive beard and mustache cannot be applicable to all. Several people who fit into this category are mild and gentle by nature. Take the example of Ted Bundy the world’s most notorious serial rapist and killer. He was an average, good looking, charming young man who preyed upon women by raping them before killing them. He does not fit into any of the stereotypes that people usually hold for rapists or psychopaths. Therefore it is critical note that there is no physical appearance which we can label or stigmatize a person as a sexual offender or criminal. However, there are certain traits that is usually predominant in people who commit sexual offenses. For instance such people are prone to use violence for solving any problem. They tend to be very demanding and aggressive in intimate relations. Their charms are very often superficial rather than genuine.


When it comes to punishing a rapist society comes up with the most graphic ways to condemn a rapist. However studies have shown that this does not often help. Locking up a rapist in prison will ensure that no acts will be committed by him during that particular time but after his release he will might continue committing the same act. It is essential that therapy must be provided for such people and help them adjust to society. The society too plays a pivotal role in changing the behavior of a rapist, Rather than condemning and stigmatizing them society must take on a more proactive role.