If we teach young girls safety measures to avoid getting raped, let’s also teach young boys to avoid actions that could lead them to becoming rapists
When we think of rape, there is a tendency to imagine a stranger in a dark alley who potentially attacks an unsuspecting victim but this is not usually the case. What happens when the victim knows the rapist well? What happens when we know the monster?
According to RAINN statistics, 93% of juvenile victims knew their rapist. 59% were acquaintances and 34% were family members while only 7% were strangers. What is more disturbing is the fact that rape cases generally remain underreported with less than 1 in 5 victims stepping forward to report a crime5. Some reasons why a victim does not report a rape incident includes, minimal confidence that the attacker will be punished, shame and refusal to turn in a loved one/family member7.
If it is true that only 15% of those raped by relatives report the crime then it lends weight to the fact that victims will most likely never report a rape incident or seek support if the rapist is someone within their family circle6. The outcome of this is a continuous denial of the gravity of this problem in our society because perpetrators/rapists may tend to continue in this act particularly when they know they can easily get away with it.
Studies show that about 99% of rapists are men5. Furthermore, rapists are just like any other person, they do not drop from the skies like aliens or sprout from the ground like a plant. Every rapist is someone’s child, brother, father, uncle etc and are no more psychologically disturbed than those who rob or commit other crimes 7. An ex-convict’s account of the sort of rapists he met in prison comprised of Doctors, Vicars and Air pilots etc. Therefore, there is no typical “profile” of a rapist 6.
Consequently, if a large percentage of rapists are usually known to their victims and a larger fraction of this percentage are family members then it suggests that there is a potential rapist amongst us. Perhaps we might be able to discern a child who may likely become a rapist in future, identifying likely traits and discouraging contributory factors early in life may be the key to this growing menace. If only we can leverage on the family as the single smallest unit in the society to make this happen.
The following are pointers to how boys may likely become rapists when they grow up;
- A culture that links negative aggressive behavior with masculinity is very dangerous. Culture stereotypes were young girls are taught to be passive and sexually dominated by men could lead men to demand some sexual compliance from any female6. Violence shown by young boys towards young girls should be totally discouraged.
- Studies conducted to fully understand rapists revealed that it is not likely for a sexually abused child to become a rapist. Conversely, other surveys show that a significant proportion of abusers were abused as young boys 3, 4. This suggests that when a young child is sexually abused, it is necessary to break the cycle by quickly getting the right help or support.
- Saturating a child with pornography creates an environment that may breed an epidemic of sexual assaults later in life, a number of studies have linked violent pornography with rape although this association still remains controversial. Parents can avoid undue situations were they expose their nakedness to their children; this includes indulging in sexual activities in the presence of a child 8, 10
- A household with an authoritarian father figure coupled with a society that promotes gender disparity is a recipe for raising boys who grow up to believe that women are less and undeserving of respect. Also mothers who allow their sons manipulate and disrespect them are telling those boys that it is okay to disregard women. Such behavior should be discouraged early rather that handling it with parental silence1, 6.
- Boys should never be made to believe that they are entitled to sex with a girlfriend or spouse; People don’t earn the right to have sex from spending money on a date or by being ‘nice’. The decision to have sex should be mutual and respected 1. In addition, YES and NO are two different words.
- Among the substances used in drug facilitated rape, alcohol is the most common. By increasing sexual impulsivity, alcohol has been found to facilitate rape especially amongst college boys since it lowers women’s detection of obvious risks 8.
Each day, well meaning parents or individuals contribute to the rape culture 9 by encouraging some or all of these actions listed above without even realizing it. There is no homogenous group of rapist population 2, 7. All the same, there are a number of causative factors which slowly culminate into becoming a rapist.
While we teach young girls safety measures to avoid getting raped, let’s also teach young boys to avoid actions that could lead them to becoming rapists 10
About The Author
Uduak Edet is a banker and creative writer. Her years of volunteer experience with several NGOs comprise working with young women and children. She speaks French and English and currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and 2 children.
4. Glasser, M Kolvin, I. Campbell, D. Glasser, A. Leitch, I. Farrelly, S. (2001) “Cycle of child sexual abuse: links between being a victim and becoming a perpetrator” The British Journal of Psychiatry, vol 179, no 6 pp 482-494;