Category Archives: Rape

Belief that a rape victim is responsible for the assault misunderstands what rape is all about


This morning I was reading a journal article in the latest issue of Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice & Policy (vol 9:3, special issue on South Africa). In discussing rape of women in the context of South Africa, the authors report

In a recent study, 17% of the South African women agreed that rape usually results from what a woman says or does. (p. 310)

Does this number seem high or low to you? 

While 17% do not make up the majority of women, it is not a small number either. Without being able to see the original study, I had the following questions:

  • 17% of South African women agree that rape usually is the result of female behavior. How many more believe that it is sometimes true?
  • What are the numbers for what men believe about the problem of rape?

Lest we think that this is just a problem in less evolved countries (note: that perception is offensive and false), we have the same conversation debate here in the US about whether a woman is responsible for what happens to her if she drinks too much at a party or wears the wrong sort of clothing.

What is behind rape?¹

Rape by men requires two factors: aggression and arousal. First, the rapist is aggressive and uncaring about the experience of the other, willing to take what they want by physical, verbal, or psychological force. Often (though not always) the rapist experiences anger, both during and after the rape. And second, the male must be sexually aroused in order to rape. Normally, one would think that aggression and anger would extinguish arousal but this is not the case for those who engage in rape.

What enables this pairing? Several factors are clearly involved:

  1. Obsession. When someone is obsessed with sex or power or anything at all it has a tendency to shape a person and to increase self-focus and shape beliefs about what others think and want. Wants become needs become demands. “I want” becomes “I’m deserve.” This is even true for those rapes that appear un-premeditated.
  2. Fantasy. Coupled with obsession, a person must then begin to fantasize about getting the obsession. They may find ways to normalize what they want (e.g., the other person wants it in their fantasy). No one rapes without having practiced in their mind.
  3. Objectification. Others only exist as opportunities to solve the obsession. They don’t have feelings. They don’t have needs. They don’t matter. The best example of this in Scripture is Amnon’s rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13).
  4. Blame-shifting. The victim wanted it, asked for it, deserved it. Alcohol was the cause. They didn’t know it was wrong. They couldn’t help it. Any number of excuses may be at work to shift blame. In order to avoid the crushing weight of a stricken conscience, one would have to find a means to shift blame or deny reality.

Is there a culture of rape?

If a significant portion of a population believes either that victims of rape are responsible for the crime or that perpetrators are unable to stop themselves, then where do those beliefs come from? Culture can support these beliefs, either in an active or passive manner. Mostly commonly we see passive means at work. For example,

  • Failing to investigate he said/she said crimes and thereby failing to bring justice supports rape
  • Responding first to victims about their culpability
  • Promoting violence in media towards victims as normal and acceptable

Who is responsible for rape?

While we can say that sexual violence is multi-factorial (learning, culture, history, habits, opportunity, etc.) it is wrong to say that the victim has brought it on. In fact, a naked individual actually asking to be violated cannot succeed unless there is someone willing to respond. Drunken, flirty, scantily dressed women cannot cause rape (once again, a terrible perception that most victims fit these descriptors). Thus, the only one responsible for a rape is the one doing that act.

For Christians, this should be a no-brainer:

Luke 6:45. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

2 Cor 5:10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

What can we do?

Simple acts are best.

  1. Notice and correct all “explanations” about causes of rape that do not put the blame solely on the perpetrator.²
  2. Notice and speak up about messages from the larger culture that make light of violence, especially sexual violence. In fact one special area is the sexual abuse of teen boys by female teachers. This is all to commonly treated as a win for the boy. It is not.
  3. Engage in community discussion about the shame tactics used to blame victims for their situation.

¹Rape is not only committed by males against females. And there are many reasons why men rape and many contexts in which it happens. This post is not trying to speak to all the types of rapists nor all of the contexts where it happens. It is only focusing on the rape of women by men as that was the context of the initial article.
²There is a time to discuss with both perpetrators and victims about aspect of the situation that may have contributed. A rapist may need to explore how family history or personal abuse history contributed to their acting out. A victim may also need to explore some of their own choices that may have increased their vulnerability to being victimized. The challenge is knowing when. While avoiding these conversations can be unhelpful, having them too early can be deadly to the soul.

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Filed under Abuse, Rape, sexual violence, trauma, Uncategorized

How labels we use reveal self-deception


 

Someone sent me one of Ken Pope’s summaries of a recent essay about the differences in research findings when asking men if they have ever used force and held someone down during sex versus asking them if they had ever raped another person. You can read the original research he was discussing here, which is by some researchers at the University of North Dakota.

No, I’m not a rapist, but I have used force to make someone to have sex.

Let that previous line sink in a bit.  We’ll discuss it in a minute. But first, you might not want to read the article so let me tell you what the authors were interested in knowing. They wanted to know if there were differences between men who are hostile towards women and accept the label of rape and those who have used force but deny the label.

This allows us to test whether there are differences in men who do not identify with the “rape” label on sexual aggression surveys, although they have committed acts that would be defined as rape. Men who admit intentions to force women to have sexual intercourse only, but do not believe that this act constitutes rape, might not be primarily motivated by a desire to retaliate and overpower women. Their behavior could be guided by other factors in line with stereotypically masculine gender roles such as having a high desire for sexual activity, viewing sexuality as a competition and a way to gain respect among peers, and lacking consideration for women or viewing them as sexual objects. Therefore, we hypothesize that men do not endorse any intentions for sexual aggression will differ from the other two groups of men primarily on a dimension characterized by hostility toward women as the strongest loading factor. (emphasis mine)

What did they find?

As hypothesized, a sizable number of participants indicated that they might use force to obtain intercourse, but would not rape a woman. Men who indicate intentions to use force but deny intentions to rape exhibit a unique disposition featuring an inverse construct of hostility toward women but high levels of callous sexual attitudes (Check 1985). Given that hostility toward women involves resentment, bitterness, rejection sensitivity, and paranoia about women’s motives, we consider the inverse of hostility toward women in men that intend to use force to be indicative of an affable, trusting, and nonreactive affect toward women. When combined with callous sexual attitudes, we interpret this function as representing personality characteristics that might lend themselves to allowing men to not perceive his actions as rape and may even view the forced intercourse as an achievement. The primary motivation in this case could be sexual gratification, accomplishment, and/or perceived compliance with stereotypical masculine gender norms. The use of force in these cases might be seen as an acceptable mean to reach one’s goal, or the woman’s “no” is perceived as a token resistance consistent with stereotypical gender norms. While the ultimate outcome of either act constitutes rape, this pattern of results suggests that there might be different types of offenders with potential differences in underlying motivation, cognition, and/or personality traits.

So, not every rapist does so for the same motives (and therefore our interventions will need to be different). Some knowingly rape and are not self-deceived about their actions. Others who are willing to acknowledge “forceful intercourse” group reveal deceptions  (probably both in view of self and other) that enable rape to be considered something less than it really is.

Labels and what they may reveal

What labels do you use and what do they reveal about yourself and your proclivity to self-deceive? Here are some examples

  • I exercise (once in a great while)
  • I stand up for myself (I attack anyone who disagrees with me)
  • I used to struggle with porn (well, I look about once a month but I don’t think I will do it again)
  • I eat healthy (I’m obsessed with food labels)
  • I am good at doing my taxes (I underreport income)
  • I’m a Christian (I go to church but never really talk to God)
  • Let’s just call it sin rather than abuse (because I won’t accept my actions are abusive)
  • I need (I want/demand)

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Filed under Abuse, counseling science, deception, Psychology, Rape

Rape Perpetration Statistics: How common is it in SE Asia?


Just saw this UN funded study in the Lancet (you can download full-text as well) after reading this news item about the study. Stunningly, 1:4 men in the large cross-sectional study indicated they had forced sex on a woman, whether girlfriend, spouse, or stranger. They did not use the word “rape” in the study in order to get at the issue of consent. For some, rape conjures a violent act at gunpoint. However, when it is used to describe (as it should!) sex with those who are unable to consent (inebriated, too young, etc.) or those who consent unwillingly (forced spousal sex), you can see the numbers show a common belief that men need to find sexual release and that females must comply.

I also found the re-offending rates stunning. Those who commit one rape are much more likely to commit a second rape. This is of course not surprising if the society does not punish the first one nor give women the possibility of seeking justice after rape.

Does anyone know of a recent similar study done here in the US? I would like to see that too. One might hope that attitudes are different here but I suspect there is a similar if less frequent pattern here.

 

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Filed under Rape, Sex

Tuza 2.0: Day Five


[June 27, 2013]. Day two of our three day conference. Today Dr. Barbara Shaffer talked about the problem of marital rape and reviewed 6 common characteristics of some abusive spouses. The participants were very involved in this presentation and the discussion about sex in marriage provoked some interesting debates among the group. The large group discussed the matter of dowry. In Rwanda, a husband’s family agrees to pay an amount to his bride’s family. The price is in terms of a number of cows. A friend told me that nowadays, “cows are kept in the bank.” This tradition gives many men the belief that they have purchased their wife. Now the wife is his (cherished) property. As such, he has rights to her body. Based on the conversation, I would argue that the concept of marital rape might indeed be foreign. One participant asked how 1 Corinthians 7 fit into this discussion. We were able to examine that this passage offers women the right to control their husband’s bodies just as much as he gets to have a say about her body. Not being sure where everyone stood in the debate, I concluded with a reminder that Philippians 2 requires that we emulate Christ in not demanding what we are due but giving it up so as to shine like stars.

After lunch Dr. Langberg presented on dissociation and a group of Rwandan counselors illustrated a counseling scene of dissociation and a counselor’s techniques in calming and grounding. Very well done! Just before the end of this day’s training, Rowan Moore gave a talk about child abuse. Kivu boats

Before dinner, we hired a local young man to take us out onto Lake Kivu in his boat. Ten of us motored out toward Peace Island. We didn’t have enough time to go all the way to Napoleon Island but we rounded several small islands and enjoyed the setting sun. We passed several fishing boats netting the tiny fish that are in the lake. We could feel the stress of the day fade with the lap of the waves. [photo courtesy Laura Captari]

After dinner, we had an evening of celebration. We identified our Barnabas’ (each person secretly wrote notes of encouragement and prayer to another). And of course, there was dancing and laughter. I have come to love the fluid hand motions during dancing and the energetic movements of men and women. Sadly, I  cannot dance to save my life. I have not rhythm. Of course, there was a dance where I had to be front and center. I tried hiding behind a camera but even that did not save me. Still, it was sweet medicine after 2 days of talking trauma, abuse, and violence.

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Filed under AACC, Abuse, counseling, counseling skills, Rape, Rwanda, Uncategorized

Listening to trauma


Those interested in trauma recovery work in international settings where rape is used as a tool of war will find this article on CNN to be of interest. WARNING: Not for those who are easily triggered by trauma stories!

Here’s a couple of reasons to read the article.

1. Why do this work?

They believe that listening is acknowledgement — and that acknowledgment is a kind of apology. Listening, they say, is the least the world owes.

2. Impact of this work?

You will experience secondary trauma. Don’t think you won’t.

3. How to do this work?

Start with an open question: Tell me about your experience. Look them in the eye. Don’t look at your notepad. If they say, “No, I don’t want to talk,” then leave. If they say, “Yes,” and tell you horrible things, wipe the emotion from your face. Get over being surprised they would tell a stranger, you, such intimate violations.

Know they are telling you because they need to tell someone, for whatever reason. And bearing that in mind, make no promises. Different victims want different things — revenge, financial compensation, asylum, prosecution of their attackers. Tell them that you can only listen, and do only that.

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Filed under Abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape