Monday, March 11, 2013

The psychology of rape and domestic violence

Recently, I have become a fan of Aljazeera. It first caught my attention when I watched the coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict on CNN and then on Aljazeera. Their analysis is well researched and their journalists come from all over the world with many perspectives. Their documentaries make an honest attempt at gathering views from both sides, without too much "reporting" involved.

Their recently published documentary 'It's a man's world' delves into the psychology behind rape. I was a bit disappointed that India was not chosen as a subject country for this study, but the focus is on Cambodia, where the percentage of self-confessed gang rapes is 5 -- much higher than the other countries that were studied. Gang rape is so common in Cambodia that there is a word for it. The men who confessed show a range of emotions but no empathy, or guilt even. The study is innovative in this area because it was based on a "ridiculous" assumption that rapists would actually talk to a reporter, let alone permit rolling cameras. But, they did.  Here's an excerpt from the story.

“What are they like?” A friend of mine asked when she contacted me during the filming of this difficult story, “Are they like a pack of rabid dogs?” While many would like to think that gang rapists are in some way psychopathic, they are actually just like other men. They have mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, girlfriends and every one of them told me they would not want the same thing to happen to the women in their own families.  

Sadly, many of these men feel no shame (their insistence on anonymity stems more from fear than shame)  in accepting that they have participated in a gang rape, because it is like a sport to them. Men are likely to accept that they have forced a woman to have sex with them, than women are likely to accept that they have been raped. It is funny how even the stigma associated with these crimes works against the victim than against the perpetrator. 

But kudos to Aljazeera for presenting a perspective that actually answers the WHY behind rape. It will take at least an entire generation to see the kind of parity we want to see between genders as far as this issue is considered. That estimate also assuming that the stigma around reporting rape is reduced by the work of media, the women and most importantly, the 4 in five men who don't rape. 

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