The Psychology of Rape
By: Rose Lauren Mariano
It is something that we often hear it the news as this sad crime is occurs more often than ever. One word that sends chills to women everywhere, because the truth is that any person of any background or social status could be a victim of this heinous crime. To understand this, it is imperative to discuss what rape really is. According to Margaret DiCanio, Rape is a form of assault where one individual forces another to have sexual intercourse against that person’s will. Most experts believe the primary cause of rape is an aggressive desire to dominate the victim rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfillment. It is important to know that rape does not only affects women, but men as well though it is not that common. There are many different types of rape that occurs in our society. To name a few, there is the date rape, gang rape, marital rape, prison rape, statutory rape and incest. But what is it that drives people to commit such offense? What are the factors that influence individuals to do such action?
Individual rapists have varied motivations in doing such act. It may be for pride, for lust or maybe just a whim. It has been longstanding belief that people rape for one thing and that is for sex. The past 20 years has been an eye-opener for psychologists and sociologists as they have begun to study the psychology of rape and rapists. Their findings have shown that rape is a crime of violence, often regarded by the woman as a life-threatening act in which fear and humiliation are her dominant emotions. Sexual desire is less a motivation for the man than violent aggression. In a study by Menachem Amir as seen in the book, Patterns in Forcible Rape, a rapist is not someone who stands in a crowd and can easily be spotted and identified. A rapist maybe a neighbor or friend, someone you know who blends in well with everybody. In his theory rapist fell into two categories which are criminal and psychiatric. The criminal rapist he viewed as a poorly educated man from the lower socioeconomic level who had a criminal record of offenses such as exhibitionism, fetishism, etc. He saw him as generally antisocial and easily influenced by his peers. The psychiatric rapist was viewed as a well educated man from a higher economic bracket. He was believed to rape because of some personal problems or inadequacy and he may feel remorse after the assault. However, these are not generally accepted theories but are considered a stepping stone to more in depth research. A more widely accepted theory is that most rapists seem to come from a subculture of violence whose values may be different from those of the dominant culture. Therefore these adolescents and young men may be demonstrating their toughness and masculinity in a more violent and antisocial manner.
Psychological effects are also very evident on the victim of this heinous crime. Rape victims tend to experience intense, and sometimes unpredictable, emotions, and as they are hounded with the traumatic experience that they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event. Most often, the victims go through disruption of concentration, sleeping patterns and eating habits. Sometimes they also feel extra cautious about their surroundings which caused them to feel jumpy or always on edge. Due to the graveness of the assault, victims tend to seek isolation that it hinders them in revealing their ordeal to relatives, peers and worse, seek police or medical assistance. There is a certain feeling of shame and guilt, though the encounter is not entirely their fault. Rape victims also have the inclination of acquiring Acute Stress Disorder, wherein their feeling of numbness and detachment, difficulty remembering important parts of the assault, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and avoidance of social life to name a few. In 1972, psychologists Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holstrom embarked on a study of the psychological effects of rape. After they gathered information from rape victims in Boston and observed a pattern of reactions, they held a theory named Rape Trauma Syndrome which was divided into two phases: acute and reorganization. The former depicts the victim experiencing extreme nightmares, heightened anxiety, frequent flashbacks, and denial while the latter allows the survivor to attempt to recreate the world that they once knew.
There are various psychological studies wherein there is research found to support the theories on what drives a person to rape and its effects on its victims. It is best for all people to equip their selves with knowledge and be vigilant in their society as they will never now when and where such crime may happen, unpredictable as it often is.