Understanding the epidemic of Rape


Every time there is rape in india (they do happen very often) how media reports it depends on whether it is worthy enough to earn some brownie points. if it is they make an issue of it (an issue should had been made every time) otherwise it is reported on the 4th or fifth pages of newspapers. When an issue has been made out of it a public frenzy follows, somebody has to be made accountable (co-accused) besides the accused. Ultimately the  search ends at the home (family) of the accused but not before highlighting the inefficiency of police and government at large.  Then we return to our homes satisfied and happy about the fact that our efforts led to the arrest (which doesn’t happen in all the reported cases of rape) and fast tracking the case in court (which otherwise can take decades). We rest carefree  till another rape of a young girl in a metropolitan city is reported!

What we don’t do during all this is introspect as a society, try to figure out how we collectively are responsible for these gruesome acts.

After the notorious Delhi gang rape New York Times  conducted an interview with David Lisak, a renowned Psychologist and an expert in violent crime. While replying  to a question as to how should government curb these crimes, he said “Response has to be on multiple levels. First there’s the safety of individuals– you need a criminal– justice response, you need to be more successful at capturing and prosecuting criminals to send a message, ‘this is criminal behavior that will be punished’. Then you have to look why groups of men are doing this.”

So here a famous psychologist charts for us preventive measures as well tell us how to go to the root cause of the disease, but we seem to hear only the first part and completely neglect the importance of the next. No doubt the preventive measures help in decreasing the frequency of the crime but the crime is not going to just vanish unless we address the root cause.

In order to highlight the importance the preventive measure let me quote another renowned psychologist, Dr Rajat Mitra, he is one of the few in India who has closely studied sex offenders to understand the motivation behind their attacks. He interviewed hundreds of sex offenders in Delhi’s Tihar Jail over several years during his research.  Dr Rajat in conversation with India Ink (New York Times) about his research findings says, “There was a wide spread belief among offenders that they were going to get away; they thought they would be able to circumvent the system. It was usually their third or fourth crime, and their confidence level that they would be able to get away was very high. Any behavioral psychologist would tell you that this does not come with first crime.”

We all would agree to these findings and in fact the recent gang rape in Mumbai vindicates Dr Rajat’s deduction that they are habitual sex offenders.


Further in the interview Dr Rajat talks about how active policing could prevent gang rapes, he says “unfortunately, there is very little awareness among the police in India about the functioning and control of such elements. For example, in a city like Hong Kong, if a group of men are seen driving around in an inebriated state, or are seen on the road behaving in an inappropriate manner, a police vehicle would immediately start trailing them, and they would be made to take an alcohol test and be booked if they had already committed any minor offenses, which could be a step towards preventing a bigger crime. The police are on active lookout to prevent such situations before they occur.”


We do somewhat accept the failure of justice system and policing, not because we are a responsible society but because it absolves us as society and individuals from any wrong doing. But the times has come when we have to accept as a society our part of responsibility and stop blaming the families of criminals only, for the wrong upbringing  .

Judith Rich Harris, a well known psychology researcher, who developed model of visual information processing and co-authored text books about developmental psychology with Robert Liebert. In 1994 she formulated a new theory of child development, focusing on the peer group rather than the family, for which she received the American Psychological Association’s George A Miller Award. This new theory formed the base for her book “The Nurture Assumption” in which she challenges the idea of personality of adults being determined mainly by the way their parents bring them up and argues that peer influence and community influence are more important than family environment in determining how the child turns out.

Another research conducted by psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson, seems to justify the findings of Miss Harris,   in which they argue that more than the nature or beliefs or upbringing of a person it is the situation itself that decides what a person is going to do in that given situation.


Now that we have understood that it is the situation rather than the person which is more responsible for the crime, we need to take a deeper look at the  situations or precursors that make a person to commit crime. To have a bit of idea about this first we need to understand the theory of “broken window”.  To understand this theory lets assume a situation, assume there is a play ground and there is a building near by. One day while playing the kids accidently break a window, scared they immediately run from the play ground. Next day they return to the playground, they see the broken window and while playing they try not to break another. Some days pass by but the window has not been repaired yet , so kids break another window but this time consciously, for fun. And soon the day comes when there are no more windows to break.

For a crime problem to be stopped or nipped in bud it has to be understood. To put a stop to the raping spree we have to fix the broken windows and keep on repairing each new broken window before another one is broken. For that we need to identify the broken windows first.  Dr Rajat has already helped us to identify couple of broken windows, we need to eliminate these precursors of  crime, the cues that seem to convey to the criminal that it is ok to commit a crime as nobody is going to hold them responsible and accountable. To start with we can start with the following:

  1. Need for overhauling of judicial system, as the current judicial system provides more confidence to the offender that he will be set free than to the victim.
  2. Need for active policing, being proactive rather than waiting for the crime to happen.
  3. Need to sensitize police and public regarding rape:  police needs to be sensitized about  how heinous as a crime rape is. Police need to understand that it is no ordinary crime, right now even the top police officials behave and talk about rape as just another crime or no crime at all, rather they speak of it as a repercussion to the victims actions (her dressing sense, her independent nature…). Dr Rajat while speaking about his research in Tihar jail says that around completion of his research a senior police officer came upto him and said, “what is there to research about rape?” (Rape main kya study karne wali cheez hai)
  4. Need for training police: officials need to be trained how to handle a rape case and how to talk to a rape victim. According to Dr Rajat, during his research, he didn’t come across even a single officer who had been trained in how to conduct interview with the rape victim.
  5. Need for women to stop accepting harassment and stand for their rights: women need to stop accepting sexual harassment, groping, eve teasing, trashy comments as a part of their day and instead make the harasser see that it is not acceptable.Women need to stop waiting for some gentleman to deliver their rights to them rather demand them. Remember it is the environment or situation that makes a gentleman a gentleman. Seemingly insignificant things like making a person vacate  a seat reserved for women can have significant effect. What is happening is women, especially young girls wait for the man to vacate the seat while they silently stand nearby. This makes them vulnerable for to be exploited by another person standing nearby. The person standing nearby  will see this young girl as the one who prefers to keep silent, so he will stand too close to comfort, that is just the beginning. So stop waiting and start demanding.
  6. Say no to trashy Movies: we as a society need to stand up and say enough is enough and no more movies which glorify eve teasing. Movies have made us to think of things, which some years ago were out and out unacceptable, as acceptable.
  7. Women no commodity: no matter what we a company is selling but it needs a scantly clothed women to sell it. Some times it is hard to figure out what exactly the ad is selling. It is high time to start projecting women more than just beautiful commodities. Companies (ad companies) won’t do this on their own, unless we demand it.
  8. Make every one equal before law: Every one who is accused or has committed this crime should be treated the same. No one should be given a differential treatment, no matter who he is, be it some powerful politician, a god-man or an army officer. How can in one case a victims word be considered good enough to register a case and in other you rubbish it as useless accusation. As has been discussed earlier small things have great significance, they have a cascading effect.
  9. The temple of law shouldn’t protect accused: many sitting legislatures of the Indian parliament are accused of rape but they still continue to sit in the temple of law representing people making a mockery of judicial system of the country. They should at least be suspended till investigation is completed and then a call should be taken according to investigation report. At least this will send a message to the common man that even the powerful can’t escape from the consequences, how can he.
  10. Object to objectionable: if we are not going to object to people using objectionable language or signs then why should they think we would stop them from doing what is unacceptable.   Draw a line what is acceptable and what is not and when someone crosses that line make sure that you point out to them, be it in office, home or in public place. Even if you overhear a person passing a livid comment on some one else in public place do object. Make people around you know that words like maal, item etc  are not acceptable to you, whether you are a male or female, by doing so you make sure you, your wife, girlfriend, sister or mother  are addressed (referred to) respectfully. When some one refers to coach reserved for women as maal dabaa  make sure you object.

On social media India is already being referred as #Rapistan, how long before it replaces “snake charmers”!