Mind of a rapist

Rape is a behavioural crime. The rapist may not be sinister looking nor a stranger. More often than not, he is a serial offender.  

The largest international study on rape was carried out by United Nations for two years involving 10,000 men from Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka, was published in 2013. The UN study found that rape is not a rarity: one in four men interviewed had raped someone at some point in their lives, in addition, one in 10 had raped someone who wasn’t their romantic partner.

The study clarified that rapes occur within marriage. Repeated offences are very high amongst the rapists and unhealthy about sexuality take root at the young age. The UN researchers that sexual offenders feel a sense of “sexual entitlement” in inflicting violence and about half of them don’t feel guilty about it.

Crime psychologist, Rajat Mitra, who has carried out extensive research involving 242 convicted rapists lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail over a period of five years, ending in 2008, helps reconstruct the mind of a rapist. He has been dealing with rapists regularly, is hired by the police to assist in the investigation of rape cases. He uses his expertise to examine the scene of crime — which is the victim’s body – as it helps him reconstruct the working of the culprit’s mind.

Mitra’s seminal study brings out certain points clearly which may not match with the popular perception about the crime and the perpetuator of the crime. The study categorised rapists into three categories: extremely violent rapes; sadistic rapes; and rapes that were followed by murder.  Here are some pointers that portray mind of a rapist:

  1. Rape is a behavioural crime, is not about sex per se.  It’s an act of violence perpetuated in a most ghastly manner. The need to inflict violence is a substitute to rapist’s inability to seek consent. A rapist is on a lookout for a desolate place or an opportunity to unleash violence on a hapless victim.
  2. Rape is not a crime of passion nor a spur-of-the-moment action. To the contrary, it is a well-considered act where a rapist targets the victim, trails her and plans his attack meticulously. Finding an opportunity, he acts decisively when the opportunity comes, with no malice or fear. He can wait for years for an opportune moment. With the aid of technology, many of the rapists, it has come to be known, stalking clandestinely, with the victim blissfully unaware of an evil eye tracking her movements.
  3. Rape is a serial crime and a rapist is someone who’ll indulge in it repeatedly. There are some common traits. As many as 72 per cent of the rapist interviews showed psychopathic traits or anti-social personality disorders. As many as 68 per cent of them have had difficult childhoods characterised either by violence or bad parenting, and experienced repression. A rapist shows no guilt or any signs of remorse or repentance. To the contrary, ‘the act’ is the highest point in his live, just the recollection of it gives him a thrill.
  4. Rapists nurture a lot of rage against their targets, habitually referring to them disdainfully and abusively, almost dehumanising them as a base object of desire. Rapists have an insatiable sadistic desire to enact their sexual fantasies, mostly violent, bloody outrage; this sets them apart from a normal person. A normal person may indulge in wild fantasise of lurid sexual encounters, it’s only the rapist who works tirelessly towards realising it.
  5. Stereotypes about looks are misleading. Have no doubt, a rapist is not a sinister- looking person who can be detected from a distance. In more cases than not, a rapist emanates confidence, flair and lot of charm before he ambuscades the victim.

Not just the Mitra study, but various other such studies all over the world, point to the fact that rapists in most of the cases is not a stranger. In 90 per cent of the cases, the rapist is a person known to the victim.

In fact, in many of the cases, the implicit trust of the victim leads to rape.  The study points out that a large number of cases involved a relative, a physician, a cult leader or a guru, even a teacher. Like in the Unnao gangrape case, one of the accused, BJP MLA from Unnao, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was known to the 17-year-old Dalit victim. They lived in the same village.

It’s therefore not a coincidence that many of the rapists deliberately opted for a certain profession that allows them access to unsuspecting victims on the premise of trust like a spiritual guru, teacher, doctor or people who work in institutions like orphanages.

Let’s now get to the specifics of the gangrape of an eight-year-old in Kathua. Dr Mitra, after having examined the chargesheet, offers a contrarian view. He finds “lot of difficulties in the narrative” and calls for an objective investigation.

Having dealt with hundreds of paedophilia cases in his career spanning over two decades, Mitra hasn’t come across one where paedophiles worked together for furtherance of a collective cause like religion or nationalism. Also, they rarely drug their victims. “I have never come across a case where a paedophile would hold their victim captive and give the whole issue a communal colour. This will only prove to be a hindrance in the dispensation of justice to the eight-year-old,” warns Mitra.


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