Law · Women Empowerment

What about the Rapist?

The brutal rape of two minors in Uttar Pradesh a couple of months back followed by the recent case in Karnataka, has everyone questioning the safety of women in India, yet again.

 In analyzing the victimization of rape, have you ever wondered, what is going on in the mind of the rapist? Why is it that the victim of this specific crime is seemingly the only one directly left with mental and physical scars? What about the rapist? Do they have their own mindsets? Do they have personality disorders? Or is there a genetic compulsion?

When we think about the act of sexual violence against women and what could possibly have gone wrong, we invariably end up blaming the women and ridicule them for falling prey to such an act right before being ostracized. Women mistakenly feel something is wrong with them for being raped. This inflicted perspective can lead to years of shame and the development of various clinical disorders such as major depression and in worst case scenarios, personality disorders.

From the victim’s viewpoint, whether it is a gang-rape or there is a single perpetrator, the psychological trauma is the same. The degree of physical violence may or may not be different. Along with the incidence of rape, the severity is also worsening.

However, in all this hatred and anger directed towards the rapist, and the victim for invoking this wrath on her, the underlying pathology of the rapist is often ignored. What goes on in the minds of the men who impose themselves on unsuspecting women – young, old, comatose or infant – is one question that has exercised many. So, what is that makes a monster out of a man?

 As per the 1991 study conducted by Barbaree and Marshall on Behavioural Aspects of Rapists experts narrow it down to: History. Isolation. Anger. Impulse.

What goes on in the mind of a rapist while committing the act is perhaps a mystery even to the man who commits the crime yet it is clear that in most cases, the act itself isn’t always an outcome of lust. Revenge figures really high on the list of reasons why men rape women.

For the power-assertive rapist, or the anger-retaliation rapist, anger pervades the mind. It is not so often about control, as it is often said, but more about the rage. Rapists are often intensely angry, depressed or feeling worthless for days even months leading up to rage. Being angry at a woman or being insulted or perceiving an insult by a woman is a significant trigger. In that instance, rape would occur, not necessarily as a sexual act, but more as tool for asserting power and to humiliate. The notion that women incite men into rape is misleading. It is the manifestation of a patriarchal mindset seeking to excuse the criminal.

The desire to commit the act in the first place stems from a patriarchal structure of society that looks at women’s bodies as commodities. They are considered as objects to be used rather than individuals to be respected. A man who’s been brought up with such a mindset will never have any regard for the woman and when there is no respect, rape is inevitable.

The theory stands, as according to the 2007 figures from the National Crime Records Bureau over 92.5 per cent of the victims knew the offender. Within it, 36 per cent were neighbors.In many cases it is a way of taking revenge on the woman and teaching her a lesson. The idea is to assault a woman where it hurts her the most socially. The intention is to also destroy not just herself image, but also stigmatize the woman within and outside her community.

The sexual abuse and accidental murder of Mumbai-based lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha at the hands of a watchman she had reprimanded is a classic case in point. While Purkayastha’s assailant was driven by lust and had no intention of killing his victim, men seeking out revenge are capable of causing further harm to the victim. They derive sadistic satisfaction by inflicting injury upon the other person and can murder their victim.

This desire to dominate can also stem from their own childhood experiences. If a man has faced abuse as a child, there is a greater tendency for him to force others to experience the same. It is in such cases that the abused becomes the abuser.

If you are growing up in an environment where you are taken for granted or have been abused regularly, it isn’t unusual for you to do the same when you’re in a position of power because you do not know any other way to be.

The figures of a study conducted by Sanchetan, a Delhi-based NGO led by leading psychiatrist Dr. Rajat Mitra, with 242 inmates of Delhi’s Tihar jail over five years substantiates this theory. Over 68 per cent of the rapists had had difficult childhoods. Moreover most of them harbored hatred towards women in general and often referred to them abusively. 

Moreover, it may also stem from an inability to form satisfying sexual relationships and poor inter-personal skills. This type of rapist may commit the act to fulfil a fantasy of a proper relationship with the victim. They are obsessed with sexual thoughts and unable to postpone their need to be satisfied.

Usually rapists also have a lot of social issues, resulting in unresolved anger and hatred. Substance abuse or drug addiction increases the tendency for such people to indulge in rape too. Alcohol and other hallucinogenic substances are the other major factors that play a role in reducing inhibitions in people.

Sigmund Freud’s structural model of id, ego and super-ego come into play here. The id is the unorganized instinctual part of the psyche, the ego being the co-ordinate, realistic part and the super-ego that is the critical and moralizing one.

When you have one too many to drink, your super-ego and ego vanish, leaving the id in charge. In such cases you begin to think that you rule the world and everything belongs to you. Once the carnal instinct takes over there is no stopping it. Your thoughts become vivid and your virtual reality takes over. How often have you seen or heard of respectable officers engaging in activities you wouldn’t otherwise expect of them? Once inhibitions are lost there’s really nothing to stop you.

 The psychology of gang-rape is a little different. Here, in a group, social inhibitions dissolve quicker. There is usually an initiator, who is often the first to rape and the most brutal, too. There is a resistor, the most unconvinced, but he, too, commits the crime.

Rape is the most complex of all heinous crimes as far as criminal psychology goes. In the recent findings of the clinical psychologist who studied more than 200 rape convicts in Delhi’s Tihar jail, it was concluded that rapists seldom show remorse for their crime. Most rapists in jails confess that they were caught after repeated crimes. Each successful crime emboldens them further, and they become worse with every subsequent crime, in terms of deception and violence. When rapists say they are sorry, it is not for the crime, but because they have been caught or that they have to face the punishment.

 These trends will get more pronounced, unless the certainty of punishment sets in. Fear of punishment shall remain the biggest deterrent.


About the Author

1599574_10152147037795280_427181969_oMohona Thakur

A fourth year law student at ILS Law College, Pune, Mohona is a workaholic by nature. Her idea of a holiday doesn’t go beyond ten days and you’d probably see her restless in case she is jobless at any given point of time. She firmly believes that her work shall speak for her. She has a keen sight for details, be it in the wares of Sarojini Market or research for a moot or paper. She’s been a cent percent-er in the complex subject of Psychology and dabbles in her fair share of photography.

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