Conversations with myself: Has the world gone mad?

Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others. Anonymous.

Since the brutal rape and disembowelment of a teenager recently and subsequent incidents of rape that have come to light, what have I been thinking? While most people have had knee-jerk reactions to finding solutions to rape i.e. castration, death penalty, to educate young men about sex, review childhood socialisation, anger management and conflict resolution skills for young people etc.

 I have done some more thinking around trying to understand the reasons behind the behaviour of the perpetrator. Can a rapist’s behaviour be explained – especially those who brutally disembowel or maim the victim? If so, what could be the possible reasons for such violent behaviour?

 Some people have suggested that:

  • Men felt emasculated because they could not fulfil the traditional role of breadwinner due to extreme poverty
  • Men are angry about the empowerment of women – angry that their jobs are being taken away by women
  • There a no male role models – most rapists are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers
  • Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) would not make a man rape but would make him more violent
  • Own childhood abuse

 Last weekend I attended a Trauma and Recovery workshop hosted by Families SA (Famsa) Western Cape, facilitated by the Transactional Analysis Association (TA Association) and presented by Joanna Beazley Richards – a registered trauma specialist from the Wealdon Insistute in the U.K. A profound statement made by Joanna has stuck in my head – she said: when it comes to trauma “the body remembers”. Joanna said it does not matter what the source or cause of the trauma is “the body remembers.” She also made reference to a book called “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild which she encouraged us to read. This book speaks of how your body remembers trauma no matter how long ago it experienced the trauma or what the source or cause of the trauma was.

This got me thinking about the perpetrators of these extremely violent and brutal rapes. I started to wonder whether there could possibly be a connection between childhood trauma (such as detachment by parents) and adult psychopathology.

Now why would I think this? Allow me to generalise throughout this blog post. In most of the cases involving brutal, violent rape, the perpetrator would usually have come from very poor socio-economic circumstances, usually raised by a single mother or grandparent mostly because of an absent father who disappeared the minute he heard the mother was pregnant. Or maybe the father stayed but resented the fact the mother got pregnant and beat her everyday of her life since finding out that she was pregnant. Very often these children would have been subjected to neglect and/or sexual abuse (childhood trauma) which could cause them to develop deep-rooted feelings of helplessness escaping into a world of sexual fantasy which can provide refuge from reality. This fantasy could be fuelled by the child’s own experience of early (premature) exposure to sexual activity, combined with pornographic material (magazines and/or movies), and assuming these children have been exposed to deviant sexuality probably since infancy, it is through modelling and conditioning that they develop their own deviant sexual fantasies. Themes such as power and anger – rather than sexual gratification are central to these fantasies and are believed to be the underlying motivation for rapists to commit their crimes (Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom, 1977). 

Sexual sadism and other paraphilia can cause rapists to engage in bizarre sexual behaviour, such as mutilation, bondage etc. There is even a rapist type (anger-excitation) dedicated to the sadistic rapist in Hazelwood and Burgess’ Rapist- Typology (1987). This means that there COULD be a connection between childhood trauma and psychopathology, however, a closer examination of the facts would be necessary to reach a definite conclusion.  [Thanks to Alexander Becker (Psychologist) for the references and some of the wording used here.]

So how do we deal with correcting this deviant behaviour in a pro-active way rather than being reactive?

Our department of Basic Education has a wonderful curriculum on Sex Education for children from grade 3 to grade 12. The problem here is, those who rape have either dropped out of school or have not gone to school at all. Also, the department curriculum focuses on teaching girls and boys to keep their bodies safe, not to trust strangers, to avoid peer pressure and how peer pressure and the choices they make could affect their lives. What protection does this offer me from being brutally raped and murdered and how does it stop boys from becoming brutal rapists?

Some people have come up with wonderful solutions of what various sectors of society (including Government) can do about the scourge of rape but these are, again, reactive as opposed to proactive solutions. It also still does not stop brutal rapes and murders taking place.

How then do we stop the scourge sweeping through our country? We need to look at the parenting skills and socialising of our children but how do we do this when (again I’m going to generalise), most of these rapists and murderers come from single parent homes where the primary caregiver is usually using alcohol or drugs (or both), mostly unemployed or living off a social grant of some kind or earning so little money they can barely afford the necessities. They often live in squalor (overcrowded houses), sometimes even homeless. How do we teach them parenting skills (new ways of parenting)? Their way of parenting is the way they were raised and because it is the only way they know, they don’t see what the problem is.

Also, how do we approach these parents? We cannot just knock on their door or walk up to them and say “please come to our parenting classes or parenting workshop”. Can you just imagine what sort of reaction we would get? I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction would be to get defensive (with a few superlatives thrown in for good measure).

 We could also start with those who have just started school and offer parenting skills classes from around grade 8 onwards but that excludes a whole bunch of children growing up and becoming parents in the meantime.

So what do we do? Mmmmmm . . . ???

Facebook (group) : Women Demand Dignity (WDD)

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