Manchester Evening News/AP

Profiling Rapists May Help Prevent Abuse

March 18, 2009 10:30 AM
by Shannon Firth
Over years of research experts have pinpointed the characteristics shared by common, “undetected” rapists; can knowledge and awareness help protect female students and soldiers?

Cunning, Deliberate and “Regular”

Seven years ago, David Lisak, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, gave nearly 1,900 men a “life experiences” survey. They were “regular men,” 28 years old on average, who attended college part-time and worked. In their responses, 120 of them detailed situations that would be legally categorized as rape. “Of the 120 men, 44 committed rape once. But 76 men committed 439 rapes, an average of nearly six rapes per man,” reports military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

According to Lisak, “undetected rapists” are skilled at choosing “vulnerable victims.” They isolate their victims, threaten them, and use alcohol and “as much violence as is needed” to force their victim to surrender. The term used to describe this common practice is “acquaintance rape.”

Lisak noted in his 2002 report, the “Undetected Rapist,” that such men are easily insulted by women, and hold grudges. This resentment warps their perspective, causing them to view women as “‘teasers’ who either ‘secretly’ want to be coerced into sex, or else ‘deserve’ it.”

Lisak also found that certain subcultures seem to promote rape. Some fraternities consider pornographic films entertainment. In doing so, he explains they are “normalizing” violence.

In addition to college campuses, rape is also prevalent in the military. In 2007, Salon writer Helen Benedict interviewed female veterans of the Iraq war for her book “The Lonely Soldier.” Benedict reported that since the war started, 160,500 female soldiers have served in Iraq, meaning one in 7 soldiers was female. Despite this shift toward equality, at night, women cannot go to the toilet or shower alone for fear of being assaulted.

Spc. Mickiela Montoya, who was in the National Guard in Iraq and carried a knife for protection, told Benedict, “This guy out there, [h]e said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don’t have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead.”

Benedict cited a 2004 study of veterans seeking help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after Vietnam, and each war since which found that 71 percent of the women veterans sought help because they had been either sexually assaulted or raped.

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In 2005 the Defense Department set up a Web site meant to discourage men from committing rape, and to make it easier for women to report it. However, Benedict calls attention to the military’s blind spot: more than one in 10 army recruits has a violent or criminal record.

Still, the U.S. military is seeking change at a grassroots level. In August 2008, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston spoke at a conference for soldiers in Lansdowne, Va., about the I.A.M. Strong project, which stands for Intervene, Act and Motivate.

Preston told audiences that the army is “going on the offensive” to fight rape and assault.  He added, “As a brother, a sister, a fellow Soldier, it is your duty to stand up for your battle buddies, no matter the time or place.”

Reference: Men ending rape; “The Lonely Soldier”; Suzanne Swift’s story

Men Ending Rape, founded by Keith E. Edwards, reminds audiences that men also have a duty to prevent rape.  In addition to raising public awareness, Edwards helps campuses launch their own student-run organizations.

To learn more about rape and the military, read Helen Benedict’s book “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq.”

In 2006, Suzanne Swift, an Iraqi war veteran, went AWOL after the army demanded she return for redeployment under officers who had condoned her being sexual assaulted. She was arrested and imprisoned on charges of desertion. Her mother, Sara Rich created to share her story and to offer help. The Military Sexual Trauma Contact Sheet offers support for other victims.

Related Topics: Study explores why some teen boys hit their girlfriends

In October 2008, findingDulcinea reported on a new study that explored the environmental influences that predispose adolescent boys toward dating violence. The study looks beyond the behaviors of the individual and examines situational factors.

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