What We Can Learn From The Largest International Study On Rape That's Been Conducted So Far
What We Can Learn From The Largest International Study On Rape That's Been Conducted So Far
By Tara Culp-Ressler / thinkprogress.org

United Nations researchers just published a sweeping study on the roots of sexual violence, spanning six countries and two years. The survey, which they say represents the world’s largest scientific project into the subject so far, aimed to investigate the “under-researched” area of male-perpetrated rape. On average, about one in ten men living in the region included in the study said they had raped someone at some point in their lives.

The UN study included over 10,000 men from Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. The researchers caution that some regional attitudes about sexuality in Southeastern Asia may contribute to the results that they gathered across those six countries. Still, though, there are some big takeaways from their findings. Here’s what the new research can tell us about the landscape of sexual violence as a whole:

Many people have the wrong idea about what “rape” actually is. The researchers intentionally didn’t use the word “rape” in any of their questionnaires about Asian men’s sexual histories. Instead, they asked menwhether they had ever “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex,” or if they had ever “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it.” That likely helped researchers gather more accurate information about the nonconsensual sexual acts that men had engaged in. Since many people don’t learn the lines of consent, many sexually active adults may not understand when they’re violating someone else — and they may not believe they have actually raped someone. “Rape doesn’t just involve someone with a gun to a woman’s head,” Michele Decker, a public health professor who co-wrote the commentary that accompanied the new study, pointed out to CBS News. “People tend to think of rape as something someone else would do.”

Rape occurs within marriages, too. Along those lines, many people think about rape as something that occurs between strangers, when women are accosted by criminals in dark alleyways. But that’s not the reality of sexual assault. The UN survey found that rape between married partners was more prevalent than rape among people who were not in a romantic relationship. Studies conducted within the United States have revealed similar results about the prevalence ofintimate partner violence in this country. When it comes to educating people about sexual assault, it’s important to emphasize that consent never carries over — that is, even when it comes to spouses who have had consensual sex many times before, neither of them have consented to every instance of sexual contact their partner may demand in the future.

Repeat offenses are very high among rapists. Nearly half of the respondents who said they had raped at least once went on to rape multiple victims. Nearly 23 percent said they had raped two to three people, 12 percent say they had raped four to ten people, and about 4 percent said they had raped more than ten people. Here in the United States, some research has drawn similar conclusions about repeat rapists at the college level. A Harvard University studyfound that the young men who commit a rape in college are likely to become serial offenders — and many of them do, since lenient sexual assault policies on college campuses often allow them to evade punishment.

Unhealthy attitudes about sexuality take root at a young age. More than half of the study’s respondents who admitted they had violated someone’s consent were teenagers when they first raped someone. Most sexual crimes recorded in the study occurred when men were between the ages of 15 and 19. The authors point out this finding “reinforces the need for early rape prevention.” Sexual violence prevention advocates in the U.S. say that this type of education can begin with comprehensive sex ed. Teaching kids about the bodies from an early age helps instill a sense of self-confidence and ownership in them. Then, they’re more likely to avoid violating another person’s consent, or be more willing to speak up when someone tries to violate theirs.

Men rape because they have been taught that they have a right to claim women’s bodies. One of the fundamental concepts at the heart of “rape culture” is the idea that rape in inevitable, men can’t help themselves, and women must therefore work to protect themselves against it. Within the context of rape culture, the idea that men are entitled to sexual experiences is deeply entrenched. The UN researchers found that this attitude is pervasive among the rapists they surveyed. Among the men who acknowledged they had sexually assaulted someone else, more than 70 percent of them said they did it because of “sexual entitlement.” Forty percent said they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. About half of the men said they did not feel guilty.

Rape typically goes unpunished in Southeast Asia. Just 23 percent of the men who said they had raped someone had actually been imprisoned for their crimes. That trend holds true outside of the Southeast Asian countries that were included in the study. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that, after factoring in the extremely high number of rape cases that go unreported to the police, about three percent of U.S. rapists end up serving jail time. This has been a particularly contentious issue on college campuses lately, where many rapists receive extremely light punishments, like being assigned essays and placed on social probation, instead of being expelled.




“It’s clear violence against women is far more widespread in the general population than we thought,” Rachel Jewkes, a member of South Africa’s Medical Research Council and the leader of the new study, said in a statementabout her results. Previous research that Jewkes also oversaw found that one in three women worldwide has experienced some type of intimate partner violence, prompting the World Heath Organization to declare it an “epidemic” global health problem.

Jewkes and her fellow researchers hope that their new study — one of the first to focus on male perpetrators of sexual assault, rather than female victims — will help encourage concrete policy changes to reverse some of the dynamics that contribute to rape culture. “Prevention of rape is essential,” they conclude. “Interventions must focus on childhood and adolescence, and address culturally rooted male gender socialization and power relations, abuse in childhood, and poverty.”

2.5 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,827 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 8,564 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 7,670 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 5,246 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 5,141 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 3,049 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,652 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Who I'm Voting For...
3 min · 2,349 views today · Prince Ea announces who he's voting for. It's probably not who you think.
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 2,131 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 1,797 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 1,769 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 1,597 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,570 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 1,539 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 1,186 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
'Maritime Graveyard': 2016 Deadliest Year Ever for Refugees Crossing Mediterranean
Deirdre Fulton · 739 views today · "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88," says UNHCR spokesman
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 619 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 612 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 573 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 474 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
What We Can Learn From The Largest International Study On Rape That's Been Conducted So Far