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What Makes a “Rapist”? (Psychological Analysis)

Rape is a Hate Crime
By Maryam Bachmeier
Psychologist, Counselor, Writer – U.S
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The purpose of rape is to hurt another human being while often making one feel superior as well.

After the recent incident in New Delhi, India, resulting in the death of a brutally gang raped female doctor, I was asked two sets of profound questions. 

One is “Why do societies face such violence and crimes and why are some societies more vulnerable than others?”  The second question was “What is the psychology of the rapist?”  What could make an ordinary human turn to be such a brutal person and commit such a horrendous crime?

I would like to respond to these two very important issues by talking about societies in transition first.  Then I will address the psychopathology of a sociopath and what we know about perpetrators who commit brutal and horrendous crimes as well as the “group” dynamic when a hate crime is engaged in by the instigator and those who participate.

Note that I use the word “hate” to describe rape.  Rape is not a sexual activity.  Rape is a hate crime.  It is usually used to exert and establish power and dominance over the other, to take something away from the person (her honor, her virginity, her reputation, her life), or to get revenge against her family or clan.

The purpose of rape is to hurt another human being while often making one feel superior as well.

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Now we are aware that rape is not a sexual act,  it is a demonstration of power. However, I would propose that we take a look at what happens in societies that are in the mist of transition.

Looking into the Causes

Many people ask about why a society might look the other way when such brutal psychopathic behavior occurs as a crime against a woman?

There are some areas to look into that which often go unperceived by a sincere humanity as we attempt to solve this puzzle.  When a society has traditionally minimized the contribution of women because of their gender, meanwhile this society has a tradition of treating women as second class citizens; it does have within its fabric the ability to equally disregard the crimes against women.

Now we are aware that rape is not a sexual act,  it is a demonstration of power. However, I would propose that we take a look at what happens in societies that are in the mist of transition.  Countries like India have had a recent and rapid growth in technology and with that a new prosperity.  This changes the landscape of a country.

I am not an expert on Indian culture and there is much that I cannot address as to the Indian social norms.  However, on a global level, the roles of men and women and their respective places in society have been well defined for many generations. Though the awareness has shifted to India due to recent international news, I propose that as human beings have the same core principles shared among the whole of humanity, societies also share the same common tendencies with the whole of human society.

Thus, the tendency for one society or another society to be more or less vulnerable to experiencing a high rate of crimes against women, such as the one that is getting our attention in Delhi India at this time, is more dependent upon the current ecosystemic milieu that any said society is occupying. This makes some sense when you look at this from the perspective of human survival.  When we do not have the empowerment that technology and prosperity can provide, the strict roles of men and women help sustain family and community.

When a society engages in proactive change, welcomes, and develops technology as India has, it will empower both men and women to expand their roles, functions and places in society.  The number of women who enter the work force and into decision making positions outside the “natural environment of the home” will naturally increase.

Many ask: how can we cure a psychopath?  There has been a lot of research in an effort to determine what causes a person to become a socio-path, and how we can treat this condition.  However, to date, in spite of all efforts, there are no real solutions found.

On the other hand, Societies that  experience rapid transition can experience extreme resistance to the resulting changes in women’s roles, functions and status.  There will be a residual of people who are not ready for such change and who will misguidedly perceive accomplished women as a threat to the traditional values that they hold dear.  If this residual of population is large enough, then it is possible that crimes against women will be ignored or minimized, and/or women will not receive the protection that they deserve.

Horrendous crimes do and will continue to exist even in the healthiest of societies.  The societies that recognize that such behavior is a crime are the ones who will increase their ability to reduce the frequency of such crimes due to their awareness, their laws, and their ability and willingness to enforce the laws that protect women.  The criminals who engage in these kinds of behaviors and rape, torture, then kill in cold blood are called psychopaths, or sociopaths.  We will now take a look at what this means, especially in relation to rape of women.

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Some men have a literal hate for women. This is called misogyny.  There are cases of women who have hate for men as well, but this article will address misogyny as the topic is about rape against women.

Who is the Rapist?

A socio-path is, by definition: an individual who will engage in behaviors for his or her own self fulfillment, at the expense of another, and will use others for one’s own fulfillment irrespective of whether or not is causes harm.  A socio-path does not have empathy for others and does not have a conscience, or experience remorse or guilt when he or she victimizes others.

A sociopath will do what makes him or her feel good, or to get what he or she wants, regardless of how they affect others.

If a sociopath exists within a society that supports the use of women for sexual pleasure and boxes women in this stereotypical status, then rape may not even seem or feel wrong to him.

When a society is changing its own structure as often occurs as a natural adaptation within an integral system of nations, communities, and family systems, and this results in the way the status or roles of men and women are perceived, some people may come to feel threatened by these changes.

Such change always forces changes in identity and the way people perceive their own role and function within their society.

As mentioned earlier in this article, this can be at the root of why a society in transition may not be ready to take responsibility for the protection of women, when traditional roles and ways of functioning within the society are changing.

Additionally, some men have a literal hate for women. This is called misogyny.  There are cases of women who have hate for men as well, but this article will address misogyny as the topic is about rape against women.

Men who have a very real and literal hate for women may have been beaten, abandoned,  or abused by women, such as their mother, or a female relative, or may have some other traumatic experience with women during their childhood.

When you combine misogyny with psychopathy, you have a very dangerous mixture within a man who is capable of cruel, abominable and appalling crimes against women.

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The psychology of gang rape is that of the group.  A sense of belonging is experienced by the “brothers” as they develop camaraderie through having this shared experience and shared goal.

Gang Rape

In the case of gang rape, the group dynamic of shared violence against women likely includes a shared misogynistic belief  about  women as evil, or about a type of women being evil, or somehow either deserving to suffer, or deserving to be eliminated with the deluded idea that society would somehow be better if the object of hate were killed.

Thus, the gang has a shared belief system, a shared code of “ethics”, and shared goals.

The psychology of gang rape is that of the group.  A sense of belonging is experienced by the “brothers” as they develop camaraderie through having this shared experience and shared goal. A major influence that contributes to the cohesiveness of the group is an emotional dependency upon one another, which often is a result from a deep sense of inadequacy and a need to find identification and a sense of belonging to a group.

In cases of gang rape, the leader is usually a strong socio-path who also has “charisma” and the ability to influence others.

Crimes committed by groups, especially rape can be especially horrific because the individuals in the group will become even more aggressive or violent than if they were to act alone.  The combination of autonomy, an adrenalin rush, and peer approval work together often leaving such individuals temporarily feeling a rush of power that can compensate for their usual feelings of inadequacy.

The individual is also relieved of total responsibility for the crime, because the act is shared. During the process of the act itself, the individuals within the group often become de-individualized experiencing “strength” and “power” from the group.  The individual can lose his awareness of his own personal morality and values as the individual identifies with the group, accepting or adopting the group’s “morality” as his own.

Nothing written here leaves the reader with many good feelings or feelings of hope.

Many ask: how can we cure a psychopath?  There has been a lot of research in an effort to determine what causes a person to become a socio-path, and how we can treat this condition.  However, to date, in spite of all efforts, there are no real solutions found.

What does seem apparent is that when a society develops strong boundaries and has laws in place that are enforced to protect women, and then the frequency of such crimes can be decreased. And, of course, these kinds of laws are a reflection of the societies’ own belief system about women, and a reflection of how much society values women.

Related Links:
“Where Was God!?”- On Indian Gang Rape Victim
Islamic Punishment for Rape
India Rape Suspects Face Death Penalty
Rape Stalks Helpless Somalis

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