What is the psychology of rape?

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Men, survival, Uncategorized, Women
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Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland. The psychiatrist, who got his undergraduate medical degree from NRS Medical College, Kolkata, is passionate about women’s issues. While discussing the recent rise in violence against women in India, Dr Gangopadhyay very patiently answered all the questions that I had. In this post I am sharing my interview with him, where Dr Gangopadhyay not only talks about the current situation in India and the way forward but also shares very interesting information with us. Here goes:

Q: What is the psychology of rape?

A: There is nothing which can be branded as typical of a rapist and no particular traits that can help us isolate rapists. Rape is the most extreme form of sexual violence. We all have inherent capacities to be violent but various inhibitions such as social norms, education, environment, religion and cultural attributes modify the primal instincts. However, in certain circumstances we all are capable of presenting with violence, which can be most often manifested in the context of domestic violence.

Offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence are more likely to commit rape

What can be stated with certainty is that offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence such as exhibitionism or indecent assaults are more likely to engage in the commission of rape. Moreover, research indicates that the presence of disinhibiting factors (In psychology disinhibition is a lack of restraint manifested in several ways, including disregard for social conventions and poor risk assessment) such as alcohol, illicit drugs and anger have been noted to be associated with extreme acts of violence such as rape.

People with no criminal history commit marital rape

However, in my view, it is quite possible for somebody with no criminal history, in absence of disinhibiting factors to engage in such heinous behaviour which is probably most pronounced in the context of “marital rape”.

Q: Apart from incarceration can psychological counselling be used as a means to reform rapists?

A: Custodial sentences only act as a form of punishment and are a punitive measure. They are not effective in changing the behaviour of offenders including sexual offenders.

In the UK there are psychological programmes for rapists in prisons

In the UK, an individual who has been convicted of serious sexual offences, including rape, would need to compulsorily participate in psychological programs in prison which are delivered by Forensic Psychologists within the Criminal Justice Services. These programs would often address issues such as victim empathy, anger management, impact of misusing illicit drugs and alcohol and would be delivered through various means such as role-plays, group discussions and individual therapy.

Anti-libidinal medications are also used for therapy

Recently, there has also been an interest in the use of anti-libidinal medications i.e. medications which reduce sex-drive, in the management of sexual offenders.

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Q: Why do you think there is a rise in violent crimes against women in India?

A: There can be several reasons for this:

We are getting to know because of greater media coverage

Firstly I should comment that what we are seeing as a rise might be due to more effective media coverage and greater awareness of the general public, particularly women, regarding the absolute non-acceptance of such criminal behaviour.

Sexual violence is not the norm anymore

Women are more convinced now as individuals that any kind of violence against them which includes sexual violence is “not the norm” and this then leads to a greater chance for women who have experienced violence to be open about it and report it to the criminal justice system.

The skewed sex ratio in India is also to blame

The second reason probably is the high male to female Sex ratio in India. Sex ratio is expressed as the number of women per thousand men in a given population at a given time. The high sex ratio in India can be attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for male heirs. This affects future marriage patterns and fertility patterns and causes unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners. Except Kerala and Puducherry all other states and union territories in India have a negative sex ratio i.e. less than 1000 women for every 1000 men, with Haryana faring the worst among states (877 women per 1000 men in 2011) and Delhi near the bottom for Union territories (866 women per 1000 men in 2011). This might explain to some extent the high incidence of sexually violent crimes in these areas.

Q: What steps can be taken in India to handle the current situation?  

A: Firstly there has to be an absolute political will to tackle this which has to go beyond narrow party interests. Secondly, I believe that there is enough legislation in India to protect women and prosecute offenders. What is lacking is effective enforcement of these legislations due to various factors such as shortage of resources, corruption and political (and various other) interferences on the public protection and prosecution systems (Police & Courts). This has to change.

India should stop projecting women as commodity

I also consider that mass entertainment media such as advertisements and films have been sometimes guilty of projecting women as a commodity whose only goal in life is to appear beautiful and obediently serve the men folk whether as a daughter, sister or wife. Such projections only nourish a derogatory view towards women which can be manifested in thoughts such as it is permissible to use force including sexual violence towards women.

The notion that women attract the attention of rapists by their behaviour and clothing should be attacked aggressively 

Finally, though unfortunate, it is still widely considered in India that a woman who is dressed seductively is more likely to be sexually violated because she is almost inviting it. This notion has to be attacked aggressively through various perspectives such as education, media, politics and it has to be spelt out clearly that whatever way a woman chooses to behave or dress, it does not give any individual any right to violate her privacy.

Q: There is violence against women in UK and there is violence in India too but in what way are these two places different?

A: There are a few separate issues that we need to consider. Firstly, UK and India belong to two different socio-economic categories. With respect to violence against women, the important relevant differences would be in literacy levels and a more effective, well-resourced public protection system (Police & Courts) who are relatively free from political influence.

In UK there is greater social acceptance of a victim

Secondly, there is greater social acceptance of a victim who has been subject to sexual violence. This then facilitates the reporting of such incidents. There is also an understanding that a woman is free to choose what she wears but that does not give any man a right to behave in an inappropriate manner.

Convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either

However, convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either and often prosecution is abandoned owing to lack of evidence in spite of access to better Forensic facilities.

Support and rehabilitation of victims is necessary

Finally, there are a lot of agencies (Government and NGO’s) who provide support and rehabilitation for victims of sexual offences and their families in the UK, which might be a development need for India.

(Dr Partha Gangopadhyay trained in Psychiatry in London and then undertook further training in Forensic Psychiatry in Scotland for four years. His work involves looking after people who have a mental disorder but who have also committed a crime i.e. mentally disordered offenders (MDO). His research interests lie in Medical Education, specifically assessment for undergraduate medical students. His other interest is Medical Ethics & Law in which he is pursuing a Masters.)

  1. insaneowl says:

    Thank you Amrita and Dr Partha Gangopadhyay for this interview. I am reblogging it as your views need to be shared worldwide.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Thank you so much for reblogging.

      • insaneowl says:

        Your interview as I said addresses a relevant social issue and evil. This is prevalent throughout the world and social order. However I have found a tweet addressed to me, which has forced me to withdraw the interview, so that no one can spread hate messages against India or any community. I know you will understand.

      • amritaspeaks says:

        I wonder how can a psychologists point of view where he has addressed issues not only in India but also abroad fuel hate messages for our country or any particular community? I have no issues at all that you have withdrawn the interview from your blog because it is entirely your space and your decision. I completely understand.

  2. Partha Gangopadhyay says:

    Thank you Amrita for this..it has been an absolute pleasure sharing thoughts! Thanks Insaneowl for reblogging!

  3. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Hope you have heard about what has happened in Mumbai yesterday night. I need your comments regarding something. If you see my facebook wall, you will know…

  4. Gourab says:

    Very nicely explained Dr. Gangopadhyay. Thanks Amrita for sharing.

  5. coresector.communique says:

    Dear amrita,
    Loved the piece. It is certainly an extremely well crafted story. Can we run it (with all due credits to you and a link back to your blog) in our site http://www.corecommunique.com?
    Please let me know
    Best regards

  6. Moushumi Chandra says:

    Very well explained and what a time for this article. Delhi, Mumbai…..all over India its the same. Its high time Press & Politics think of the safety of Women in this country. We all are talking about it, writing about it and discussing in all forums but still this is continuing in India. When I am writing this somewhere this mishap is happening………

  7. Feminist Bhai says:

    Hey Amrita,

    Thanks for posting this interview covering a broad range of aspects of sexual violence. I wonder if it would be useful to add some notes on how some of us think about rape in the Unites States.

    It’s interesting to hear Dr. Gangopadhyay talk about the use of anti-libidinal drugs as a form of therapy for perpetrators. In the US, a more radical analysis of rape suggests that it isn’t about sexual gratification at all, but about domination, power and control. Some here would suggest that curbing the libido of perpetrators wouldn’t actually reduce the rates of sexual violence, rather the need is to address the root causes of unequal power and systems of oppression. From this perspective, it’s easier to see that although in most cases the perpetrator is male and the survivor is female, offenders can be of any gender, any race, any class background, any sexual orientation, any marital status, etc.

    I deeply appreciate the perspective that sexual violence is becoming less of a norm in India. When someone close to me came out to her extended family as a survivor, somebody told them that they feel like every woman in India is a survivor of sexual assault. Not a scientific analysis by any means, but it was striking that she honestly felt that way. I’m excited to be living in a time where the perspective on violence against women in India is shifting!

    I also appreciate the connection between selective abortion, infanticide and sexual violence. Sexism and male domination is thought to be one of the major factors that allows our rape culture to perpetuate here in the states. Though again, I’d suggest that it’s too narrow to think of *all* offenders and straight men, even if that’s the case a majority of the time. We run the risk of marginalized the experiences of those survivors that don’t fit into this description. Not all rapists are men, not all rapists are straight, though in a vast majority of cases this may be true.

    Thanks you for sharing this interview, I’m grateful to have learned from your perspective.

    • Dr Partha Gangopadhyay says:

      Dear Feminist Bhai

      Thanks for your considered comments. I should apologise as I ought to have mentioned at the outset that “rape” in this article presumed the act of this extreme sexual violence being perpetrated by a man where the victim is a woman. This was with reference to the recent recurring unfortunate events of sexual violence against women in India. I had no intention to marginalise the experience of any individual who does not belong to this context. Your points are extremely well-made and appreciated.

  8. Very interesting interview……I also believe society must have an active role to play in preventing such incidents from happening, and it should start at the community level. There should be a need too among our leaders to take an active interest in local issues at the same time create an awareness among the people that women too are part of our culture and need to be shown respect.

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