Women News Network - http://womennewsnetwork.net/2015/06/02/why-do-men-rape/
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Why Do Men Rape? Comparing the Epidemic from East to West
Sarah Honan with Elaine Replogle / WNN Interviews
male fascination around the world with stories, sculpture and images of rape is
nothing new. But are images of violence against women a modern contributor to
male aggression and domination of women today? An increasing number of experts
say yes. A more recent study suggests a connection between violent sexual
behavior and “being exposed to violent pornographic images,” outlines Medical doctor Michael Rich, director of the
U.S. Center on Media and Child Health in Boston, Massachusetts. Over three
centuries ago, this depiction from 1650 A.D. shows the Rape of Proserpine,
known also as the ‘Rape of Persephone’, by Baroque painter Simone Pignoni. To
see more paintings link here: 18 famous paintings about the myth of Persephone (Proserpine).
Image: May 1882: given to Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy by Mme veuve Poirel
Waterford, IRELAND, WESTERN EUROPE: Two women leave their
homes to spend time with friends. One goes with her friend to see a new movie
that has just been released called “Life of Pi.” The other woman goes to a
local and well-loved gathering place called the Tin Roof bar. These are two
very different women; two students on two different nights in two different
years; living on two distinctly separate continents.
But what do these two women share in common? On these two
nights, nights like any others, these women were brutalized, violated and gang
raped by men.
On the night of December 26th, 2012 Jyoti Singh Pandey and
Awirnda Pratep Pandey are making their way home from the movies when they board
an off-duty charter bus they are told is going in their direction. There are
six men on the bus, including the driver.
When the bus veers off course and the doors are shut the male
and female friends question the driver. They are greeted with taunts and
interrogation for being an unmarried couple out so late.
Pratep Pandey is beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious as his
friend Jyoti Singh Pandey is dragged to the back of the bus.
Fearlessly Jyoti fights her assailants as they viciously rape,
strike and penetrate her with an iron rod. Like trash on a highway the pair are
thrown from the bus when the assault is over. Along with countless bite marks
and livid bruising, the twenty-three year old woman medical student suffers
massive damage to her genitals, uterus and intestines as a result of being
raped with an iron rod.
Thirteen days after her attack Jyoti Singh Pandey died from her
Prior to her death she gave the police a detailed account
of what had happened.
All six assailants–Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan
Gupta, Akshay Thakur and an unidentified minor–were arrested and tried in
court. All were sentenced to death except the minor assailant who raped Jyoti,
who received a maximum sentence of three years in a reform facility.
Tennessee, U.S., Americas
On the night of June 23rd, 2013 a woman who we will call Jane, a
student entering her senior year in Vanderbilt University, goes to a popular
local hang-out for college students, the Tin Roof Bar, with some female friends.
Here Jane meets Brandon Vandenburg, a football player who she
had known and been dating for about two weeks.
He buys her three drinks. Then he buys her a fourth, a blue one
which she sips. This is the last moment she remembers of the night.
At 2:30 a.m. Jane is passed out in her car outside Vandenburg’s
college dormatory building.
Vandenburg enlists the help of his friends Cory Batey, Brandon
E. Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie to carry Jane’s lifeless unconcious body
It was there Vandenburg’s roommate Mack Prioleau is asleep but
wakes from his top bunk bed hearing voices. He looks down from his bed seeing
Jane on the floor and the staging for Jane’s rape begins. Not knowing what to
do Mack turns his head and tries to go back to sleep. But after multiple rapes
occur he leaves the dorm room without calling or notifying the police.
When the police contact Jane three days later she denies that
Vandenburg had done anything wrong. But soon she learns what really happened to
her that night.
Revealed in a tortuous court case outlining the details of her
multiple sexual assault, Jane learned the outcome of the crimes made against
her as Vandenburg and Batey were sentenced to aggravated rape, sexual battery
and unlawful photography and videography. To date McKenzie and Banks are still
According to the U.S. Department of Justice a sexual assault
happens in the U.S. every two minutes. Eighty-two percent of all rapists also
know their victim, although surprisingly 98 percent of all rapists never spend
a day in jail.
Where have men learned that consent is not a necessity? And in
these most extreme of cases, that women’s bodies are property to be used and
discarded? It seems logical that only men can stop rape and yet it is women who
feel the need to protect themselves. When the worst does happen, it’s the women
who are questioned as to their role in the assault.
On the stand Jane was asked by defence attorneys about her
alcohol intake and whether her prescription medication may have interfered with
alcohol. The Delhi defence attorneys in Jyoti Singh Pandey’s case were far more
blatant in their victim blaming.
But the question remains: Why do men rape?
think in general if you want to get the simplest perspective on it, male[s] use
violence to control females and they do it very often and they control those
females for sexual reasons. It’s done in every species,” said Biologist Dr.
Michael Ghiglieri during a 1996 PBS – Public Broadcasting Service documentary film “No
Safe Place: Violence Against Women.”
Speaking to WNN in a recent one-on-one interview, United States
Adjunct Professor in Sociology Elaine Replogle, at University of Oregon, shares
her views on the cases in India and the U.S., including why she believes
educating young men about sexuality and consent from a young age is extra
What fuels gender based violence and how can we begin to turn
the tide on the international rape epidemic? This interview seeks to find the
Honan for WNN – Women News Network: Given the vastly differing cultures in
which both of these crimes took place, do you think that we can fairly draw
comparisons between the Delhi Rape case of 2012 and the Vanderbilt University
rape case of 2013? If so, what comparisons can be drawn from a sociological
point of view?
I am going
to cautiously say that I think you can. However, I do think the gender norms in
India are more rigid. There are stronger expectations for how women behave and
stricter penalties for not doing so. I think if you look at cases across many
many countries you see that sexual violence can be a form of punishment for
women who are somehow out of place, somehow not behaving correctly.
classic victim blaming.
So I think
that in both cases you see men, particularly in groups which in this case is
also a key variable, can be emboldened to commit violence against women because
there’s a very good chance they’ll get away with it in both the U.S. and India.
In any kind
of mob violence it’s far less likely that any one perpetrator will be
identified. Often in cases of mob violence the victim can’t accurately remember
particular faces because trauma does things to people. It’s also easier to get
other people involved if it seems that everyone’s doing it so there’s certainly
a mob mentality to both these cases.
cases it struck me that there is a certain degree of premeditation. The Delhi
men were out joyriding. I don’t know if that was with the expectation of raping
someone, but it certainly seems like a possibility.
the Vanderbilt athletes, again it’s hard to prove premeditation. But in the end
it was groups of men that worked together to accomplish these rapes.
reflecting on an article I wrote several years ago but I think you can see
bystander effect and the impact of reference groups in both these cases.
There’s a lot of sociological literature that suggests people don’t intervene
in a crime if they think they can’t or they think other people are. In both
these cases there is no evidence that they thought other people were
intervening. So there’s issues of bystander effect, mob mentality and reference
groups going on in these cases. The men in effect are performing for each
performing a vision of masculinity by committing these acts in front of other
In particular, how would you compare the attitudes shown by the defence
attorneys in both cases and would you describe this as a typical response to
victims on an international scale?
has been numbered as thousands of angry protesters, including both men and
women, in the Northeastern Nagaland district of India stand and march in the
streets as they hold placards in protest against the rape of a child in
Dimapur, Nagaland. Image: Kalimpong News/Caisii Mao
Krakauer’s book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” he
spends quite a lot of time talking about our justice system and how it is
designed intentionally to be more forgiving of the accused. We do not want to
incorrectly identify someone as guilty who might actually be innocent, so the
burden of the proof is much much higher for the victim to produce evidence. In
both cases the defence attorneys must portray the victim in the most negative
light possible in order to secure a not guilty verdict for their client.
American and Indian defence attorneys would do the same thing–perhaps with
different language–I can’t imagine a contemporary American defence attorney
resorting to the same kind of really explicit ugly victim blaming quoted from
the Indian attorneys. The American attorneys questioning of her [Jane’s]
alcohol intake and her prescription medication could at least be interpreted as
an attempt to raise doubt about her habits, subtly getting to place doubt in a
jury’s mind about her complete innocence.
We have to
remember that when attorneys are trying to secure a not guilty verdict they are
not saying that their client is innocent. You can also say that this is rape
culture and victim blaming, especially in the case of college athletes, puts
them on a pedestal. But that’s a whole different discussion of the oddity of
celebrity status of college athletes. That is a very important variable in the
Vanderbilt case. People working in the justice system feel it’s better to have
this weakness then the weakness flipped in the other direction where we might
over identify people rather than under identify.
Despite the particular brutality of these two cases sexual violence is being
recognized as an international epidemic. Rather than viewing these men as the
bad apples in a barrel, is the barrel itself rotten? What, in your opinion, are
the global cultural attitudes fuelling this wave of gender based violence?
answer that question would take a dissertation! There are so many factors to
look at. What society are we looking at? What class of people? What era? What
political climate? I can only talk about the U.S. climate with any kind of
modest knowledge. U.S. data shows that most men don’t rape. The stereotype of
who a rapist is very much determines how we interpret the cases of rape.
[bus gang] rape, where they [rapists] are strangers, more easily conform to our
[Western] image of the rapist. The Vanderbilt case is a little different but
actually more consistent with most cases of rape. More often than not women
somehow know the men who have raped them.
David Lisak has done [research] work on rape for years and according to him a
small number of men commit most rapes. They are serial rapists. That’s why it’s
worrying when rapists never see the inside of a jail cell or are never even
reported, because they will most likely do this again.
is that good people, people who in other circumstances strike us as very
ordinary, are actually capable of doing something so violent and ugly. So I
hesitate to say that the entire barrel is rotten because most men don’t rape,
the socialization process seems to be working quite well.
also the reality that in cultures where rape and premarital sex are completely
taboo, India being one of them, it’s more likely that any kind of sexual
violence goes unreported which then fuels the silence and implicitly the
acceptance of theses crimes and the victim blaming. If a girl gets raped then
in some way she was misbehaving.
unwanted sex is certainly used as a punishment for not playing your gender role
In both of the U.S. and India rape cases the perpetrators were found,
prosecuted and convicted. There is considerable evidence though to show that
this is a rarity in sexual assault cases. Why do you think there is such a
shroud of silence surrounding gender based violence?
I feel in
the last several years there’s been an explosion of talk on this topic; so I
don’t feel that I’m [personally] living in a silent place now. But I have to
say I’m on a college campus and this is a different environment than most
people are living in.
hard for me to have an accurate read on what people are hearing or not
hearing…If you look at old newspaper articles it was always there if women were
years there’s been a real attempt for women to be very, very vocal about their
experiences about PTSD from sexual assault, the incident rate, and especially
on campuses about street harassment. There have been many people making inroads
to ensure this isn’t a silent topic .
assault] is underreported. Some people feel shame. Some people may not want to
relive what they just went through. A huge deterrent to reporting is what you
have to go through both physically and emotionally to get through a rape case.
I just read
in an article this week that the average rape kit [used to preserve DNA
evidence under rape] takes 4-6 hours. I had no idea they took that long, but
knew they were very thorough. Of course in the U.S. there’s an enormous backlog
of untested rape kits. So a woman who is violated has to consider all these
factors before she decides, “Do I even want to say anything?” Psychologically
for some people it may be easier to say, “I’m going to pretend this didn’t
happen and move on.”
not that is a wise choice in the long run is debatable.
For fear of being simplistic, whose problem is this to fix? While women in the
past century have accomplished so much for themselves it seems unreasonable to
describe rape against women as a ‘women’s only issue.’ Surely only men can put
an end to this kind of Gender Based Violence (GBV)?
Men have to
take this on as an issue that is their issue.
made some good inroads here. There’s also a group called The Good Men Project that has written off-and-on
about this topic.
real question is, “How do you encourage participation in these kind of groups?”
and “Where and when should this education start and at what age?”
I think the younger the better. I have two sons, my youngest is ten, but it’s
not like I’m sitting around having a conversation with him about rape.
In your opinion, what steps could the global society take to end sexual
violence? With young men learning their sexual expectations of women from the
media and online how can we combat these pervasive sources to educate young men
in a positive way?
I can only
tell you what I’ve done for my older son and this is very personal. I don’t
have any study on it. There’s a program called Our Whole Lives (OWL) that was
created by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a 30 week sex-education
course for kids from 7th to 9th grade. The curriculum is very comprehensive.
They educate about different types of sex, birth control, along with
descriptions of feelings and [topics in] understanding different sexual
orientations, including LGBTs.
a huge part of the course, along with [the topics to help in the understanding
of] sexual violence. OWL also addresses in the curriculum some drug and alcohol
issues and how that can affect consent.
[who are part of the course] come out realizing that sexuality is [just] part of
being a human being, and that it has to be integrated with other aspects of
life. They learn that there’s another way to think about sex rather than just
mechanics or how to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs.
always say, “Oh goodness, I don’t want to do this!” at the beginning. But by
the second or third week they can’t wait to go to their [once a week] classes
because it’s interesting and it’s addressing questions they really have.
It would be
great if other churches would take on projects where sex wasn’t talked about in
a moral or religious realm, but in a way that recognizes sex as being [the
normal] part of being a human being.
OWL is very
different then what most people get in terms of any kind of [basic] sex-ed
curriculum in [U.S. public] schools… It would be good if [all] schools
attempted to approach the subject. Schools would be the logical place to make
sure kids understood what consent is.
kids did nothing else but spend time talking about consent to flesh-out what
consent means, along with all the variables under which someone cannot be
considered able to consent, that would be extremely helpful in educating young
men and women.
India struggles to stop a rising gang rape epidemic, violent rapes and sex
attacks in the region have shocked the world. But the reaction of India’s
authorities has proved to be just as shocking. This report asks if India’s
balance of justice has started listening yet to the victims, or even if it
could have gone too far. “I was mocked by the police”, says now deceased
activist and women’s advocate Suzette Jordan, who after being gang raped at
gunpoint in India found little to no aid or protection from the Kolkata police.
Accused of “being a prostitute” by a Cabinet Minister, Jordan’s case highlights
the constant injustice in response to rape from within the Indian government
and police. Through a policy to arrest anyone accused of a crime, whether they
are guilty or not, another problem has surfaced. In spite of this issues of
politics and victim blaming for women rape survivors in the region force
numerous women survivors to continue to speak out as loud as possible against
injustice. This report asks where the balance of justice needs to be placed
within India’s endemic culture of violent rape.