GANG RAPES-PSYCHOLOGY AND DYNAMICS

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gang rapes

Courageous and impassioned ordinary men and women of India braved the December freeze to protest in unprecedented numbers, withstanding an onslaught of teargas shells, lathi charges [baton charges] and water canons, to make their cry of ‘enough is enough’ heard. In this regard, India led the world by example. In my lifetime, I can’t recall any other country standing up with such commitment and determination for women’s rights”…

                                                                                         Leslee Udwin

                                                                    (Director and producer, ‘India’s Daughter)

The agony of the ‘Nirbhaya’ case shattered the Indian society to a large extend. It left behind a permanent scar to the women-worshiping culture of India. It proved that the human brutality knows no limit. People fought unitedly, irrespective of colour, caste, political background against the animal instinct that crushed an innocent life to death. Laws changed, but was that the end of brutality? No! Nirbhaya is just one of the names from a long list of women who have been gang raped, killed and silenced. I am sure that after frequent ‘news-flashes’ of similar gang rape cases, we have become so callously accustomed to such news of brutality. Many a times we ignored, many a times the media has ignored and many a times rape cases have been simply wrapped up in the void of silence by those in power, or by the victims themselves or by family members. Our women- mothers, daughters, wives and sisters, irrespective of how old they are, where they come from, what they wear; are kicked, stabbed, lynched, burned, murdered every day until they fade away unapologetically into the remorselessness of oblivion.

Psychology of gang-rapists

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent. Now gang-rape as one may simply understand by its name, it is rape committed by two or more violators. But the pattern and psychology of gang-rapists are found to be significantly different from that of individual rapists.

Inter-group dynamics:

It is very likely that the offenders’ group is very cohesive in nature. The bonding is often based on anti-female rituals, objectification of women, sexual violence, and norms of secrecy and cohesion. Due to conforming to the group, and strong bonding one may participate in activity that he doesn’t fully wish to do.

Deindividuation:

Deindividuation is loss of one’s individuality, one’s identity when one is in a group. As the gang rapists do their crime in a group situation, they often perceive themselves as being subsumed by the group and lose their sense of self.

Culture of the group:

Some groups have culture of hyper-masculinity, male dominance. They view women as their prey and perceive them as a sex-toy. Fraternities, gangs, and military groups often promote such culture.

Hostility:

In comparison with lone offenders, gang rapists’ crime is more hostile in nature. They show more brutality, aggression and inhumanness than an individual rapist. Threatening to kill the victim, non-sexual physical tortures (punching, kicking,biting), verbally abusing one(such as insulting one’s physique) are used by the rapists. Remember the case of ‘Nirbhaya’!

Dominance:

Whereas lone offenders often show a pseudo-submissive behaviour after committing the crime (apologising), gang-rapists mostly show dominant behaviour (multiple rape by the same offender, abandoning the victim, physical violence after committing rape).

 Use of substance:

Gang rapes are mostly associated with use of alcohol and drugs.

Age of offenders:

Compared to individual rapists, gang rapists are younger in age. Their average age tends to be approximately 21 to 22 years (Hauffe and Porter, 2009, and Ullman, 1999b).  Vulnerability of this age to peer pressure and importance of social identity and status may lead them to behave in such manner.

So, one may conclude that individual rape is result of lust in comparison to gang rape which is more of a group dynamics based behavioral issue.

Motivation behind repetitive rape

Gang rapists often repeat their behaviour if they are not arrested. Some motives are typically found among offenders-

  • Opportunistic rapists: They are least pathological. They rape to satisfy their lusts, but their behaviours are controlled by situational limits.
  • Pervasively aggressive rapists: They have chronic problem of anger. They need to release their anger and violence to women in terms of rape can be one such way. Although this is not the only way to direct their anger.
  • Sexually sadistic rapists: They get pleasure from inflicting pain to others and showing sexual mastery.
  • Vindictive rapist: They hate women and uses rape as a way to insult and degrade women.

Date rape

Nowadays, often we get news of date rapes. The typical scenario is, a girl went to a date with her boyfriend, drank something and was raped by her boyfriend and his friends. In such a situation offender trickily uses any date rape drug such as Rohypnol, Gamma Hydrobutyric Acid, Ketamine etc. Some of these drugs even have effect on the memory, thus the victim will not be able to recall what actually happened to her.

A common scenario of gang rape in fraternity houses involves seeking out a vulnerable young woman who wants acceptance or is intoxicated with drugs or alcohol (Sanday, 2007).

Gang rape after war

In a post war situation gang rapes are regular. Some armed groups target women and girls who belong to “enemy” groups during ethnic or political cleansing. Not only rape but other forms of sexual assault, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, sterilization, or pregnancy are also reported. Studies have reported gang rape is common in military. In one international sample involving 223 offenses collected from archival sources dating from 1945 to 2001, 22 percent of offenses involved offenders who were currently in or had been in the military (Porter and Alison, 2006). Often, the combat fatigue, distance from a familial life and lack of individual oversight lead them to becoming a rapist.

Whether it is domestic violence or violent sexual acts to a girl/girls, deeply rooted patriarchal culture coupled with gender based power structure is unarguably the primary cause. Mukesh, the convict of Nirbhaya case said “You can’t clap with one hand, it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9′ o clock at night.” It is shameful if our society and culture supports violence towards women (ranging from eve-teasing to rape) and attribute the blame on the victims. Although, a society with equality for both may sound like a day-dream in present scenario, but that’s what a civilized human society should look for.

 

Disclaimer: The image used here is for representation only and do not have any association with real life individuals or incidents mentioned in the article.

 

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Sucharita Maji
Sucharita is a Research Scholar in Department of Psychology at IIT Kanpur. Her research interest lies in the field of Social & Health Psychology; with focus on gender issues, women & mental health. She enjoys Ravindrasangeet, cappuccino and a good read in her leisure time.

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