Monday, February 28, 2011

The Psychology of Rape

On February 11, 2011, intrepid 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan fell victim to an attack in Egypt as she covered the unrest and overthrow of the Egyptian government. She suffered a brutal sexual attack by a gang of men shouting accusations suggesting she spied for Israel. A group of women and members of the Egyptian army rescued her. Logan flew home and remained in a hospital for five days with severe internal injuries. Since January 30, 140 correspondents have been injured or killed while covering the unrest in Egypt. The list includes reporters Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour. Katie Couric described being "man-handled" while reporting in Egypt.

Sexual assault, like that sustained by Lara Logan, occurs about once every minute in the United States. In fact, one in ten rapes in the U.S. involve multiple assailants attacking a victim. In South Africa, Lara Logan's birthplace, one in three rapes involve multiple perpetrators.

Why do men around the world rape women? Rape researchers typically fall into about three different camps. Feminist researchers see anger and hatred for women as the primary cause of rape. Behaviorists focus on research showing that rapists respond to deviant sexual stimuli, unlike non-rapists. Evolutionary biologists see rape as biologically programmed to ensure that men with strong sex drives reproduce. In an attempt to understand the complexity of rape, Dr. Gordon Nagayama Hall found four main types of rapists:
  • Type 1: The Aroused. Impulsive, he becomes aroused by deviant sexual stimuli such as bondage or cruelty to women.
  • Type 2: The Conqueror. Often the date rapist. He believes women enjoy rape. Misinterprets signals from the woman. For example, if she invites him to her dorm room, he assumes she wants rape.
  • Type 3: The Angry. Motivated by rage toward women. Acts out the anger in sexual attacks. Considered the most dangerous kind of rapist.
  • Type 4: The Abused. The repeat offender. Likely abused as a child. Difficulty establishing long-term relationships.
Dr. Hall cautions against simple explanations for rape. Evolutionary biology theories do not explain the sexual assault of infants or senior citizens. Feminist theories don't explain how men with meaningful long-term relationships with women can then go out and rape strangers. He believes that by studying the multiple reasons for rape, researchers can reduce it's frequency and design better treatment methods for offenders.

I suggest the best place to begin rape prevention strategies is with our children. A recent study of 1,600 juvenile sexual assault offenders found:
  • Just 33 percent of these boys perceived sex as a way to demonstrate love or caring;
  • 23.5 percent believed that sex was a way to establish power and control;
  • 9.4 percent found sex to be a good way to dissipate anger;
  • 8.4 percent believed sex to be a way to punish others.
In a study of college men, 35 percent admitted they would violently rape a woman who had rejected a prior advance if they were assured of getting away with it. Many men and women believe a woman deserved rape if she was intoxicated, led the man on, or invited him into her bedroom. In a 2003 study, men who were highly competitive and win-oriented reported more sexual aggression and held beliefs that supported rape. This impulsive type may have much in common with the hostile group who attacked Lara Logan.

In a small town in Texas a high school cheerleader was dragged into a room and raped by two star football players. The victim, H.S., reported the crime. The boys were arrested, released and returned to the football team, while H.S. returned to cheerleading. In an act of protest, H.S. turned her back on the football player who raped her and refused to cheer for him. H.S. was kicked off the cheer team. Her family sued and the judge ruled that H.S. must cheer for her rapist. I offer another explanation for rape, of both the physical and legal kind. It appears many men, in positions both lofty and low, possess the emotional intelligence of a kumquat.


A Voice of Sanity said...

It appears many men, in positions both lofty and low, possess the emotional intelligence of a kumquat.

Certainly many lawyers (and thus judges) are. However your remark is rather insulting to the noble kumquat.

Dr. Gina Simmons said...

To the noble kumquat, I humbly apologize.

Unknown said...

I very much enjoyed this article and found it so interesting that we may be able to help a little by beginning education early as mentioned with our children. Yep, many men in high positions have definitely demonstrated they possess the emotional and collective intelligence of a kumquat, or maybe beef jerky! (Just wanted to put my plug in for the kumquat.)
N. Williams

Dr. Gina Simmons said...

Thank you Nola for your comment. Beef jerky also works in that context.

Bar L. said...

Great post. I linked to it on my blog which is specifically about rape and sexual abuse. The last story about the cheerleader makes me crazy with anger and disgust. I think I'd compare that type of men to having the mentality and intelligence of dirt clod.

DrGina said...

Thank you Barbara! "Dirt clod" works too.

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