Saturday, June 11, 2005

A different look at rape

Rape is not about hormones raging out of control. People with hormone surges manage to get through their problem periods without engaging in anti-social behaviour, for the most part. (PMS and menopause wreak far greater havoc with their hormone surges than the hormones that urge people to have sex.)

Rapists are bullies. Bullies have poor self images, low self esteem. Bullies need love, but have no concept of how to get it in an acceptable manner.

Fear on the part of a woman attacked has the same effect on the rapist as fear on the part of a person attacked by a bear has on the bear. It makes the bear and the rapist more determined than ever to complete the task at hand, usually in a more violent fashion.

As counterintuitive as it seems, a rapist wants attention of a gentle and affectionate kind, more so than he wants to rape his victim. But his victim doesn't want to give him anything positive. So he determines to be violent to overcome resistence to what he needs.

A rapist, I believe, needs touching in the same way that everyone needs to be touched. Not just rapists, but most (if not all) people who exhibit anti-social behaviour need more gentle touching than they get.

Some get no touching at all. This makes them feel alienated, socially detached, from those around them. The situation dehumanises them because they have no idea how to achieve what they believe others around them are achieving, loving touch, and they have little understanding of their own need for touch.

Why do they have so little understanding of the basic need for touch? Because we don't teach about that need. We don't have mechanisms by which people can be touched in a socially acceptable manner when they need it, in ways that they need it, because we don't know how much people need to be touched.

Since we don't know about this need, we penalise those who violate the custom about not touching strangers. It's called assault, a crime in most places. Because of this law and the custom against touching others more than absolutely necessary, many communities develop social customs that forbid touching others, except for family members and in certain situations such as when greeting or comforting a friend.

Because of our ignorance about our own basic need for touch, we create circumstances that make anti-social behaviour a last resort for people who have no other way to tell the world that they can't cope with their alienation from it.

Rape, like other crimes of violation of the person, is a consequence of our unintentional alienation of already marginalised people from access to what they need to make their lives more normal.

Crimes of violation of the person will remain with us until we teach about this need that we have, about how to recognise symtoms of an unsatisfied need in others and socially acceptable ways of dealing with this problem (that is, of giving touch).

The problem is not rape so much as it is our ignorance of the basic human need for touch. Ignorance of any kind responds to teaching.

For more about social and community problems and solutions for them, see

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic SocialProblems'

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