Regardless of the controversy around the documentary, “India’s daughter”, as a person supporting law enforcement in their efforts to address the rape epidemic, the documentary was worth its weight in Gold. Why? Well, for the first time I got a rare insight into the mind of a rapist and it helped kick off a lot of useful thought in the direction of how to prevent rape.
I had, a very long time back, written about how our moral construct fuels a culture of rape. But it obtained much more force when I read the concept of “Feedback Filter” in the acclaimed book “Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives”, by Dr. Ann Burgess, John E. Douglas and Robert Kessler. In short, it is the learning curve of an offender, the aim of which is to find the easiest way to commit a crime and to get away without consequences.
To explain this concept in the context of Mukesh Singh, I refer to the work of Brent E. Turvey, one of the authors of “Rape Investigative Handbook”, who opines that offenders are likely to target women who stereotypically fall under the category of “slut”, not because they look like sluts, but because they are less likely to be believed when they report the crime. This tells us that a rapist is a thinking creature and not an impulsive chap who jumps on the first woman who reveals a bit of skin. So when Mukesh Singh and his lawyer, both say that the choice of victim was founded upon the girl being out with a guy late in the night, it is no coincidence. Mukesh Singh was toeing the societal line, not because he genuinely believed in it, but because he felt he could justify his actions and get away scot free.
While he argues that if the girl hadn’t fought back, she would have been let off easier, there is an element of contradiction there as well. On one hand, the entire offence began on the premise that she is not of good character. Should she have resigned herself to the rape, that act of consent under coercion would have been construed as further evidence of her bad character, justifying use of further violence against her. Fact of the matter is that regardless of passivity or aggressive defence on the part of the victim, it ultimately is used as an excuse to commit the crime.
The other thing that caught my attention was Mukesh Singh’s answer to the question about his past sexual experience. He begins by stating that he has never slept with any woman in the past. I find this curious, because it shows that in his mind, the act of rape he committed was not an act of sex. It therefore fortifies conventional wisdom that rape is not about sex and that it is a pseudo sexual act which serves non sexual needs. Thus, the dynamics governing sex, namely sexual attraction (for which attire and appearance do play a role) do not govern the act of rape (in which attire and appearance do not play a role).
But in the very next part, Mukesh Singh confesses to a sexual encounter with a girl at a wedding he attended. This shows that we cannot take a rapist’s word at face value because they tend to lie, a pattern the FBI also vouch for. But what caught my attention was how he thought that the act of kissing was “dirty” and that his first sexual encounter did not involve lip to lip kissing. Mukesh Singh’s distorted perception of foreplay and tender gestures involved in the act of sex reveal that in his mind sex and violence were not separate concepts. Before you challenge my opinion, Mukesh Singh also reveals that all the other accused, especially his elder brother, had a history of violence, often of the sadistic variety. Because sex was dirty and it involved violence, Mukesh Singh and company under the leadership of Ram Singh wanted to inflict sex as a form of violence to punish the girl being out with a guy late in the evening. Personality Dysfunctions couldn’t have manifested themselves in more diabolical fashion.
In my last article titled “Understanding the Uber Taxi Rapist”, someone asked me what is the use of studying the rapist? Well the utility is this: The next time, we have a incident of rape, we will know from the nature of injuries and the nature of dialogue initiated between the victim and her perpetrator, what kind of a rapist we are looking for. Less injuries, expression of romantic interest, etc., during rape reveals a power reassurance rapist who, in the US, was found to be of poor intelligence; unlike a sadist who obliterated the victim through violence and enjoys greater intelligence.
Once we start developing a picture of the guy committing the offence, we will know where to look and who to look for, improving chances of successful offender identification. Such a study could also create a case for the police official to take information about stalking or voyeurism or breaking and entering more seriously, because now studies will show that such offences could escalate into rape.
Plus, this gives us two important lessons, viz., 1. We need to improve the perception of women in the eyes of our boys and 2. We need to improve the perception of sex (starting with the perception of genital organs) among our population. For both these steps to become realities, we need to first reform our attitudes about sex and women. I say this because once you look at sex as dirty, it becomes an instrument for humiliation and hurt rather than means to pleasure and trust. If the lawyer compares a girl to a flower which is spoilt by falling into a gutter (what the hell does that even mean?!), then for those who lack the training in human rights, the situation could be even worse.
So, for all those who are rabidly crying for “appropriate action to be taken under appropriate laws” (I can’t think of any law that can be used to beat down on a well made documentary which is based on good research), there is much this documentary can teach, starting with impressing upon us the need for a profiling program similar to the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI. Therefore, let us abandon our emotions and become professional. It is the least we could do for the Nirbhayas of this world.
By: Ashok G.V.
Advocate & Managing Partner, CorLit Legal