Mental Health Assessment of Rape Offenders

By Sarkar, Jaydip | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July-September 2013 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Assessment of Rape Offenders


Sarkar, Jaydip, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Jaydip. Sarkar

There is an urgent need for development of methods of assessment and management of sex offenders (rapists, child sex offenders, other sexual offenders, and murderers) to mount a society-wide battle against the scourge of sexual offences in India. This paper provides an overview of theories, models, and assessment methods of rapists. It draws upon literature from psychiatry, psychology, criminology, probation, and ethics to provide a framework for understanding reasons behind rape, how mental health issues are implicated, what mental health professionals can do to contribute to crime management, and why this is ethically right and proper.

Introduction

India has a major problem with sexual crimes against women, which is on the rise rapidly (NCRB 2013) [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

It ranks in the bottom five nations globally when it comes to safety of women according to a recent Gallup poll (www.gallup.com). Much soul searching has occurred following the horrific sexual homicide of a woman in New Delhi that focusses the spotlight on sexual offences generally and rape in particular. The Verma commission, created swiftly to address deficits in the management of rape and other sexual offences, recommended widespread changes. Sadly, it focussed only on criminal justice issues of defining laws, enhancing processes, and increasing punishments but remained silent on the slew of health approaches that have been used in the west and increasingly closer to home (e.g., Singapore) in the management of sex offenders. This article would aim to provide a brief overview of mental health literature relevant to theories, taxonomy, assessment, and diagnosis for the complex set of thoughts, feelings, attitude, and behaviours that lead to the offence of rape.

This article focusses only on gender-specific rape (crimes committed by males on adult females; its understanding, assessment, and diagnosis. It does not address other factors-criminological, societal, and cultural-that facilitate and maintain the commission of this offence. Neither does it deal with other sexual offences such as exhibitionism, paedophilia, and others, nor does it discuss treatment options and strategies due to constraints of space. Finally, victim issues such as trauma and other psychiatric morbidity are not dealt with as trauma services exist in India. The paper focuses squarely on perpetrators of the offence of rape and makes the argument that while anguish at their actions; it does nothing to address what are often serious mental health issues that underpin such offendces. It ends with a section on the ethical issues relevant to this area of practice.

Defining Rape

In law, rape is defined as vaginal or anal penetration in the absence of lawful consent. However, the source of penetration (e.g., penis, finger, or objects), object of penetration (e.g., vagina, anal, or oral), gender of perpetrator, and victim and definition of consent varies greatly across jurisdictions. Rape is considered to have occurred when her consent has been obtained by (i) putting her (or any person in whom she is interested, e.g., children, close relatives) in fear of death or of hurt, (ii) the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance (so-called ''date-rape''), or (iii) when the age of the victim is below 16 years. Moreover, Indian law (section 375 of Indian Penal Code) specifically states that if a woman consents to sex, that consent is invalid and rape is still considered to have taken place if the woman is suffering from "unsoundness of mind or intoxication" so that she is unable to understand the nature and consequence of that to which she gives consent.

There are several types of rape that exist in law

*Penetrative rape: The vagina is penetrated by penis, finger, or other objects *Statutory rape: The penis is touched on vagina but no penetration takes place. …

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