Need of psychological services to deal with the rape crisis in India

Need of psychological services to deal with the rape crisis in India

Rape is not a women’s problem But a men’s issue and it should be dealt with.

The prevalence of headlines recording hundreds of rape cases across the country every single day, makes it redundant to mention statistics in order to convince the readers of the reality that rape is, in fact, one of the biggest problems of the Indian society. In order to address a crime as complex as rape (from a psychological perspective), one needs to have a close-to-holistic understanding of it, which includes evaluating perpetrators perspective. So, what can possibly be the reason for an absolutely vile act of such aggression and hostility towards women?

Many conservatives have maintained that the problem is women wearing revealing clothes and exposing their bodies leading to the arousal of men. As absurd as these suggestions are, to be the sole cause for an act as abdominal as rape, they are also the type of claims that perpetuate victim-blaming. Let us shift our attention to empirical evidence that attempts to decipher the causes of rape. Interviews have been conducted with the perpetrator of sexual violence that have recorded them saying that they were angered, drunk, or wanted to repay her for the arousal. Despite the irrationality of these justifications, they are of importance in understanding rape because these are one of the most prevalent reasons recorded. However, they are proximal causes and are limited in their capacity to explain rape in a way that makes sense to a person with stable emotional intelligence.

Once we understand a behaviour, we can begin to manage or control it, which is why there is a grave need to recognize why men rape, by taking a look inside the head of these perpetrators.

Role of attachment theory

Attachment theory is one of the most influential and controversial theories in psychology, developed by Bowlby and Ainsworth (1991). Essentially, through this theory, the authors have identified three types of attachment styles in infants: secure, ambivalent/insecure and preoccupied/anxious-avoidant

According to the Strange Situation experiment if the infant was given comfort and security, meaning it was attended to when crying, the infant tends to have a more secure relationship. However, if the infant has a disorganized attachment style, it can be said that the infant was rejected or not well-attended to when crying. Such a situation is symptomatic of other wider problems that the child may incur in any future attachments.

Additionally, Bowlby had also studied attachment in the light of the Freudian concept of ‘inner world’. Bowlby claims that in this case, when the child has a secure relationship, it has a better internal working model (1969), meaning a mental framework that represents the ability to understand the world, self, and others. Insecurely attached infants have a fairly underdeveloped internal working model.

Sexual predators, who were not securely attached to their caregiver in infancy, tend to have implications on their internal working model. These implications affect how they understand themselves and others. It is with these working models that children predict the attachment figure’s (caregiver in infancy and partner in adulthood) likely behaviour. Most sexual predators are heavily neglected during infancy, which generates a feeling of self-unworthiness and thus when they desire to get intimate, they anticipate to get rejected. This prediction of rejection and rejection itself has the capacity to generate a feeling of anger. But one may question, and rightly so, what makes this anger turn into something as wildly obnoxious as rape? This can be answered by some more theoretical grounding in mentalization and emotional intelligence.

Mentalization

Mentalization, is the ability to reflect upon and understand one’s state of mind. The attachment patterns have a crucial role to play in developing the ability to mentalize in a child’s mind. A securely attached child is likely to have a positive interactive relationship to their caregiver which will help in understanding one’s own emotions, feelings and that of the others. Whereas those with disorganized attachment patterns are likely to have a hostile relationship with the caregiver, perhaps even an abusive one, which greatly affects the ability of a child to understand its own state of mind. The sexual offenders (who might have a disturbing childhood and disorganized attachments as observed by Hudson) do not have the mental framework and emotional intelligence to contain their feeling of anger, arousal, and rejection. So their lack of comprehending own emotions and expressing it creates a mental distance from the person they are interacting with. During their childhood the mental distance they had with the caregiver and the lack of physical attention they experienced (human contact when they were crying etc), deprived them from understanding their own emotions, creating a mental distance, which may result in their need to seek physical satisfaction. In order to achieve the satisfaction, they might even use force because they assume rejection and neglect.

Relevance of these theories

Sexual offenders have an insecure attachment that may go all the way back to their childhood and still affect their current mental state, decision making, social behaviour and the perception of self. It is within this context that they are motivated to rape. This is among multiple other theories and causes that have been tried and tested in order to understand the psychology behind rape. A theory is neither a confirmed proof of anything, nor does it say that all sexual offenders have an unstable emotional intelligence. These theories only support the evidence that says sexual offenders are insecurely attached and may have a mental functioning that pushes them towards rape. The theories and research work discussed, point towards the issues of parenting, the neglect of child services, and the taboo, as well as the underdevelopment of psychological care for the masses, as a prospective reason to commit the heinous crime - rape. One might then ask, what is the solution?

There is no one explanation or one solution for rape but there is without a doubt the need to start acting in order to get closer to what plausible solutions are possible. Owing to the rudimentary stage of psychological and parenting services in India, now is the time for more debates and discussions to develop those services in the most effective way possible.

The rape culture is one of the biggest challenges to overcome this stagnation of the societal growth. To cope with this challenge, we need to act in the direction of normalizing psychological services, therapy, parenting services and so on by trying our best to dodge the stigma around therapy and counselling, whether it is for parents, for children or for the family. Furthermore, countless rape cases and its descriptions are published, but relatively few are seen on why it happens and what should be done. To fill this gap the concerned scholars need to focus on the complexity and breadth of rape as an issue.

As people start understanding the extent to which deficit in mental health and emotional level can jeopardise the entire society, perhaps they will start to ponder upon the importance of therapy and encouraging parenting services, which can initiate slight betterment in current scenario.

About the Author

Ishah Shah
Psychologist.

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