I am turning back to delve further into the topic that was the subject of my first blog post. I found it obligatory to pen down some of the myths related to the heinous crime of rape (some of them are extremely surprising and disturbing) and I feel it is high time that some of these myths are debunked.
While the majority of humans around the world, irrespective of their origins, nationality and worldly experience, maintain a consensus that non consensual sex is a crime and rapists are individuals who deserve to suffer( many of us do believe that rapists should be tortured to death to experience the pain they inflicted; preferably be castrated). Yet, The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study, surveyed around 4500 women who had been victims of sexual assault in college and reached the conclusion that 95% of the rapes on college campuses never get reported, one major reason being fear of being ostracized by their fellow students or acquaintances.
The question that haunts me and probably many others like me is why do we sympathize with these victims and at the same time treat them differently? Yes, hypocrisy is a major factor at work but there are various other factors. These are some of the myths that most of us believe about sexual assault and the victims of sexual assault (and hence blame any behavioral changes on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
- Some women have rape fantasies and/or enjoy rough sex. Hence, it is possible he was giving her what she wants but she does not want to accept that she enjoyed it .
Firstly, actual prevalence of rape fantasies of women is much higher than we could imagine. A recent online poll revealed an astonishing and well, disturbing fact : rape is ranked third in the top ten sexual fantasies of women. Does that change the definition of rape and make it acceptable at some level? No. Actually, there is such a massive difference between fantasizing about rough sex and rape that it is necessary to distinguish the two so that a victim is not left feeling that “there must be something wrong with me” or they are “mentally ill” or “perverted”.
Studies have shown that a great deal of our enjoyment of sex is not due to the physical dimension of the act, the rush of arousal could be felt by thinking that someone wants us so badly. Romance novels have been supposed to be “porn for women”; the astounding success of books like Fifty Shades has brought the revelation into limelight that a large number of women enjoy being submissive during sex. But the thing is when a woman fantasizes about rape, she is not really thinking along the lines of “Oh! I wish my boyfriend would hurt me violently and traumatize me and my happiness is destroyed” but more along the lines of “I wish my boyfriend would want me so passionately that he cannot stop himself from exploring me”.
So does this mean a no is a precursor that she really wants it? Actually the actions taking place in a woman’s mind, when she has inherent rape fantasies, is equivalent to the motions of rape; but the actual psychology behind it is absurdly different. The human sympathetic nervous system becomes active when a human is under stress or danger, and the “fight-or-flight-mode” is galvanized in him/her which results in increased heart rate, respiration and genital arousal. Fear and excitement have many a times been a parallel occurrence; hence scientifically justifying why rape fantasies ranging from light to perverse can arouse a woman and NOT be a signal that she wants to be raped.
Women who are masochistic by nature enjoy rough sex. Some women just want to entertain a unrestricted and speculative behaviour towards sex. But all of them are aroused by the pleasure that they imagine themselves receiving in their fantasy but real rape is followed by trauma, loss of self-esteem, social exclusion, etcetera which is not desirable to any woman. It is important for women to communicate this to their partners that rape fantasies contain three key elements: force, sex, and non-consent( from the viewpoint of the fantasizer, an implicit consent has been given) and it is important for all of us to get a deeper understanding of the human psyche to realize that everything in life does not ensue in shades of black and white; there are shades of grey too.
- It is not possible for a woman/man to experience single or multiple orgasms while being raped. It is a highly uncommon phenomenon and it might mean that somewhere deep down, on a subconscious level, he/she enjoyed it.
One of the biggest, disconcerting and unfortunately common fabrications of the truth that a high number of people believe in is this. In the middle of an act that is normally sadistic and atrocious, how can a survivor experience intense physical pleasure that leads to an orgasm? Research shows that of the rape cases that are reported, survivors who have experienced orgasm(s) fall in the range of 10% to 50%; though most of them are unwilling to accept it to escape condemnatory comments from the society. And hence it is not uncommon after all. And these are just the reported cases.
I would encourage readers to visit the following site to know and retrospect into the mind of a rape victim who had orgasms during the incident and it left her thinking that she is distorted and mentally ill. It is heart-rending to think that unawareness can actually terminate the stability and happiness in a victim’s life and well, ignorance is not always bliss:
The days are gone when people believed that rape cannot lead to pregnancy; but we still need to explore the multi-faceted nature of human psychology. It is possible to experience arousal due to genital manifestations but not feel mentally aroused (as said earlier, the physical and mental dimensions of sexual arousal are not always parallel). It is possible to feel disgusted at the arousal being experienced if the person experiencing it thinks it to be an incongruous response to the sexual stimuli being received. Therapists commonly use the example of being ticked; in plain words, we have all had experiences where we were tickled and most of us burst into bouts of laughter depending on our sensitivity. But that laughter does not indicate that we enjoyed being tickled; in fact it is irksome and laughter is our body’s response to the tickling although our mind tells us we are not enjoying it.
Referring again to the sympathetic nervous system, as I stated in my earlier point, the activation of the fight-or-flight mode results in genital arousal and hence women can get aroused without their knowledge. An article by Psychology Today stated that “ By measuring changes in blood flow to female genitals, several studies have found that subliminal images, images of copulation in other species, and those that women report as disgusting, boring, or not arousing can cause physical arousal.” Hence, it is quite likely that the body of a victim produces lubrication to protect the genitalia from getting damaged and not due to sexual arousal.
The most abhorrent part of this that there are experienced assaulters out there who have learnt the science behind arousal; they know that mixing fear and anxiety in the right manner could enforce arousal leading to climax in a victim, that would leave the victim confused and traumatized thinking that he/she was depraved enough to climax during rape.
Many survivors hence feel ashamed to accept this. Another worry that presses upon them is that police and courtrooms could misconstrue their orgasm as evidence that the survivor was not raped after all. And this brings me to my next point.
- Physical evidence never lies or misleads. Hence, if physical evidence does not establish the authenticity of the victim, it is a case of false allegation and accusation of being raped.
I will not for once deny that physical evidence is a crucial corroboration and there have been cases where the victim has falsely accused an innocent of rape and the innocent has been saved due to lack of physical evidence or proof that evidence has been tampered with. One such unfortunate case was where a Billings woman was charged with producing false evidence to report that her innocent ex-boyfriend had sexually assaulted her on the night of her prom.
While such cases are repugnant and sad, but it is not always true that physical evidence is the ultimate substantiation of the truth. Physical evidence such as fingerprints and bruises and injuries can be easily covered; in fact in situations where the perpetrator drugs his victim or uses other forms of substance abuse to render him/her completely helpless and vulnerable (date rape), the victim cannot discern what is happening to him/her and hence does not fight back. This means that in cases where the victim is drugged before being raped, there is less likelihood of injuries and bruises. This debunks another myth that if a victim was compliant and did not try to hinder the perpetrator, it was probably consensual.
Leave out physical evidence. Scientists and researchers believe that something as accurate as DNA evidence can also be tampered with. Many sexual assault cases lack physical evidence and hence DNA extracted from trace evidence like semen, hair and blood become extremely significant. Although DNA evidence is the invaluable form of evidence that could be a boon to the victim, there have been times when DNA evidence has been contaminated which lead to misleading evidence, confusion, questioning the authenticity of the victim’s testimonial and contamination can impair DNA to such a point that prosecution or exculpation of a particular suspect is no longer possible. The relevance and acceptability of DNA evidence depends on testing, utilization, collection and requires utmost care, technique and funding.
Evidence tampering can be harmful because in many cases, innocents are prosecuted for a crime they did not commit, for example, in the following case:
And many a times, such tampering may result in exoneration of the actual perpetrator, as is seen in this case:
An article by http://www.laws.com sheds light on the different ways that a rape kit (sexual assault evidence collection kit) could be tampered with and hence be seen as unacceptable at court. “There are many ways that a rape kit could be tampered with. For example, the chain of custody of that evidence may not be known. If for example, the individual that collected the evidence did not immediately bring it the lab, the whereabouts of that kit may be unknown for some time. In addition, a rape kit may have had evidence removed from the kit, including DNA or other material. When any evidence is removed, it is likely that the entire kit would be inadmissible in court. In order for evidence to be admissible in court, it must have a valid chain of custody and it must not have been tampered with in any way.”
These are some myths which many of us inherently believe. I think rape victims and people associated with them should research on the various dogmas related to this crime in an articulate fashion, and not just believe what their society and sometimes even their minds try to thrust upon them. Healing is a long and difficult process; acknowledging that there is nothing wrong with a rape victim and it is entirely the fault of the perpetrator is the first step towards it. Stay updated for my next follow-up in which I would discuss and debunk some more myths that have remained as a haunting spectre in our society for too long.
What suggestions do you have for the victims out there who have to deal with the consequences of society believing such myths? How do you think societal thinking can be changed and what other myths do you know that need to be debunked? Please let me know your suggestions.