Monday, March 28, 2011

When rape becomes a habit

So another serial rapist - who attacked elderly people essentially unchallenged for 17 years - is finally caught and sent to prison in the UK. Delroy Grant may have assaulted more than five hundred victims in their own homes, many of them ill with diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, before his appalling activities were brought to an end.

Perhaps I could mention how little news coverage the individual attacks merited while Grant was still at large. Or I could shake my head in disgust at another messed up investigation of a sex attacker by the Metropolitan Police. Or I could seethe at one psychologist describing Grant's actions as "stealing sex", as if theft could be in any way analogous with the despicable nature of his violent crimes.

OK, so I did mention those factors. But I don't want to focus on them. I want to mention again that the nature of Grant's rapes - against people unknown to him - are extremely rare. But there are two aspects of Grant's behaviour that are not so unusual.

One is that Grant's violence was not confined to the victims of his sex crimes. This charming man was also responsible for perpetrating domestic violence against at least one of his former partners - his ex-wife, Janet Watson. She testified against him in court.

The other is Grant's repeat rapes - he did it over and over again. As a rapist of strangers, Grant is a relatively rare creature. But as a serial rapist, he is not.

Two studies are quoted in this blog post by Yes Means Yes. One was a sample of almost two thousand male US college students, the other a survey of more than eleven hundred newly enlisted men in the US Navy.

In each case, the men were essentially asked if they had ever forced another person into having some form of sexual intercourse with them. The word "rape" was not used in either questionnaire.

In the sample of college students, 120 admitted they had raped or attempted to rape someone. The blog analysed the figures thus:
Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.

The students were also asked about violent acts they committed. Once again, the rapists, especially the repeat rapists stood out:
These 76 men, just 4% of the sample, were responsible for 28% of the reported violence. The whole sample of almost 1900 men reported just under 4000 violent acts, but this 4% of recidivist rapists results in over 1000 of those violent acts.

The study of new naval recruits asked similar questions about forced sexual activity and the results were very similar. A large proportion of the rapists were recidivists and between them they had carried out the majority of the sexual assaults mentioned in the survey.

In the vast majority of cases in both samples, the rapist already knew their victim. It was also clear that as well as the violence reported, by far the favourite modus operandi of the rapists was to ply their victim with alcohol.

Rapists, these studies would suggest, often get a taste for rape. Violence is frequently a part of their personality. And in general, they prefer to target someone by befriending them first - and by offering them a drink.

So why are so many of these rapists' victims made to feel they somehow brought the attack on themselves? These men know exactly what they're doing.

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