CHAPTER 15. RAPE

 

Definition

Rape is forced, non-consenting sexual activity. This includes date raper where the force, even it not violent, is still employed.

Occurrence

In 1985 there was a total of 87,340 rapes in the United States (Thio 1988:1135). The crime of rape, however, is notoriously underreported. Between 20 to 30 percent of all American girls twelve years old will be subject to rape at least once in their lifetime.

Moralism

An especially damaging piece of moralist misunderstanding is the traditional blame placed on the rape victim herself. Many people still believe that raped women "asked for it" or did not exercise enough caution. Rape until the 1970s thrive on prudery, misunderstanding, and silence. According to Chappell, Geis, and Fogarty (1974), studies performed prior to 1969 focused on the concern that individuals accused or rape should be protected. The 1970s saw the appearance of several publications in the psychiatric literature that represented a marked departure from the traditional view of rape as victim-provoked (Burgess and Holmstrom 1985:47-48).

The moralism applied to the rapists is also applied to the victim. Many people urge the rape victim to pull themselves together or to "snap out of it."

The most common misconception about rape is that the rapist is a sexual degenerate that cannot control his sexual desires. The theory of sexual degeneracy is treated in the chapter on pornography and other forms of sexual addiction. This theory is useless because it is little more than name calling.

A popular theory is that rape is not really a crime of sex but a crime of violence. The problem with this is that it leaves out the element of sex. If rape is really a matter of violence and the desire to dominate then the obvious question is why don't men rape other men. The fact is that rape is best described as a paraphilia and this involves both violence and sex, or rather violent sex. The rape paraphile has a love map that views violent sex as orgasmic.

Since rape is a highly politicized area of study there have been many false starts in this area. One of the worst is the radical feminist belief that all men are potential sexual perverts and rapists, and they use rape as a means of social control. Frankly, economic control is a much more effective way of keeping the discrepancy between the sexes alive and ongoing.

As mentioned before, most men are interested in sex. Evolution has made sure of that. There is an argument that male propensities to multiple partners could have an evolutionary basis. In particular, among nearly all mammalian species, whereas females emphasize care of offspring, males tend to emphasize securing as many sex partners as possible (Ellis 1989:14-15). It is a long jump, however, from evolution of the sex drive to a discussion of the evolution of a rape instinct in males. Both the sex drive and a drive to possess and control motivate rape. For instance, Ellis goes too far in postulating a theory of a drive to possess and control. It smacks too much of the charge against instinct theory. Instinct theory could explain any phenomenon by postulating an instinct for the phenomenon.

It seems unlikely that rape is a major form of sexual control of females. Most men do not have a rape paraphilia and therefore would not enjoy violent sex. And even if they had a desire to rape, this does not mean that they would actually commit rape. They would also have to have a disturbance in their control system. Some men might engage in rape fantasy, but this is different from a paraphilia. A rape fantasy involves occasional imaginings rather than being central to orgasmic world of the paraphilia. The supposition that all men want to rape from an occasional rape fantasy is as mistaken as supposing that women who have occasional rape fantasies really want to be raped. Many rape fantasies on the part of women involve the fantasy that they are so attractive physically that men cannot possibly control themselves but must have this ravishing woman.

Men, in order to control women, do not need to use rape. Economic control, combined with some violence and force, have always been basic weapons of social control and these are more likely to be used than rape.

Etiology

Available studies (Abel et. al., 1978, 1980; Groth 1979) suggest most emphatically that men who rape are marked off by significant and striking differences. Most studies have found that convicted rapists exhibiting unusually poor social skills in interacting with members of the opposite sex (Ellis 1989:53).

As in most cases of deviancy, there is a go and stop model at work. In cases of criminal acts there has to be more than disturbances in just the go side of the motivation model. There has to also be disturbances in the stop model.

The stop-go model applies to rape. The go part may be connected to an imprinting error. It may be that the desire to dominate and control is a result in this imprinting-like process rather than being a basic drive. We have already shown how many paraphilias can be related to disturbances in the cortex of the brain, wherein baser drives from the reptilian complex can have befouled the love map of the sexual imprinting-like process. The disturbance in the top part of the model consists in the rapist having less ability to control his basic drives. No doubt there are probably problems with serotonin levels in the systems of violent rapists.

We focus first on the go model. Studies among mammals generally and humans specifically have shown that the hypothalamic-limbic structures are sexually dimorphic. Men tend to be characterized by hypersexuality, but this is of course in contrast to the female. Ellis (1989:14) argues that females must devote a great deal of reproductive time and energy gestating offspring that males do not (in fact, cannot) commit. Given the relative speed with which males can make new offspring (gene carriers), there is no more productive activity that males can commit themselves to than that of copulating with many sex partners. Females, on the other hand, choose those males more likely to show commitment beyond the first few copulations. There is a resulting tension between the different optimal approaches to reproduction for males and females. (Now this does not mean that men should not strive to be faithful in marriage, but rather that moral codes should perhaps not be as harsh and moralistic as the present ones.)

For the go part of the model, Ellis (1989:70) argues that due to varying degrees and types of exposure of their brains to androgens, males vary considerably in both their motivations to rape and their tendencies to learn and use raping techniques.

Exposing the hypothalamic-limbic structures to various high (male-typical) androgen regimens (Ellis 1989:76) increases the probability of both hypersexuality and extreme possessiveness. Given that the perinatal period of life is when androgen regimens have their most lasting, irreversible effects upon brain functioning, it is hypothesized that a some time during the organizational stage (perhaps limited to only a few days), if androgen levels (especially T and its aromatized metabolite, estradiol) are unusually high, the H-L structures will be permanently organized to display hypersexuality and extreme possessiveness toward multiple sex partners following the onset of puberty.

There is no real evidence either that rapists are over-sexed. Many paraphilias are actually accompanied by hyposexuality rather than hypersexuality. Many have pointed out (Hucker and Bain 1990:101) that the key role testosterone plays in sexual desire. But the results of hormone studies do not appear very impressive and there is a definite need for further research.

For the stop part of the model, Ellis (1989:83) stresses that the reticular activating processes play an important role in rape etiology in terms of sensitivity to aversive feedback from victims and to the prospects of criminal sanctions for committing rape. Persons most prone to employ forceful tactics in attempting to copulate are relatively insensitive to the suffering of others (see Truscott and Fehr 1986).

Rape Trauma

Rape trauma is an acute stress reaction to a life threatening situation. Indeed, rape is such a violation of the human being and such a humiliating and frightening experience that it can well be compared to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Selye (1974, cited in Burgess and Holmstrom 1985:47) states that the biophysiological process of adaptation to stressful situations develops in three stages. First, an alarm reaction begins, which includes initial responses of surprise and anxiety and beginning mobilization of defenses both physiological and psychological; second, the stage of resistance, in which the victim uses all bodily resources to combat the problem; and third, the stage of exhaustion when all bodily resources have been depleted.

Two main components of stress response are first, an intrusive thought repetition tendency, and second, a denial-numbing tendency. The event has been incompletely processed cognitively and thereby remains in active memory storage as a potential influence of behavior (Burgess and Holmstrom 1985:47).

Symonds (1975, cited in Burgess and Holmstrom 1985:47) has delineated four phases of stress response, two occurring during victimization and two occurring in the post-trauma phase. Phase I includes reactions of shock and disbelief accompanied by temporary paralysis of action and denial of sensory impression. Phase II (or when denial is overwhelmed by reality) is termed "frozen fright" and includes terror-induced, pseudo-calm, detached behavior. In Phase III, after the criminal departs, the victim experiences circular bouts of apathy, resignation, anger, resentment, rage, insomnia, startle reactions, and a replay of the traumatic event through dreams and nightmares. Phase IV includes restoration, resolution, and integration of the experience into the victim's behavior and lifestyle.

Sutherland and Scherl (1970, cited in Burgess and Holmstrom, 1985:48) describe the adjustment phase to rape. The first phase is shock and disbelief. This is followed by or alternates with fear and anxiety. The second phase, called "pseudo-adjustment," includes such coping mechanisms as denial, suppression of affect, and rationalization used to regain equilibrium. The victim resumes normal activities, appears to be adjusting, and shows little interest in outside help. This is healthy, but temporary and superficial. The final phase, integration, often begins with the victim feeling depressed and wanting to talk. Self-blame and a sense of defilement are common. Fear, anxiety, and depression are within normal limits.

The rape can be so traumatic that some women can never, without professional help, overcome the after effect of rape. And some women will be more affected than others. This does not depend on how "strong" the women are or how much "willpower" they have, but on their physiological makeup. In many women the rape can cause permanent changes in the balances of neurotransmitters so that any return to normal without psychiatric intervention is very unlikely.

 

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