Why rape only some men

Sexual violence: "Rapists are not strong men"

Why do thousands of women become victims of sexual assault every year? Who are the perpetrators? What's going on in their minds? Forensic psychiatrist Nahlah Saimeh on the psyche of sex offenders

GEO KNOWLEDGE: Dr. Saimeh, many women sometimes feel sexually harassed by men - at work or in their free time. When do we speak of a sexual offense?

DR. NAHLAH SAIMEH: Our sexual criminal law is based on the maxim of sexual self-determination. A corresponding criminal offense exists if you are forced to engage in sexual acts against your will or if you are involved in the sexual acts of others against your will - in whatever way. Whether a person is capable of giving consent at all also depends on their level of maturity, which is why we speak of “sexual abuse” with children; and in the case of other persons incapable of giving consent, for example people with advanced dementia, of “sexual abuse of those incapable of resistance”.

Does the perpetrator inevitably have to become violent?

No. So-called “hands-off offenses”, in which the perpetrator does not touch another person at all, are also sometimes a sexual offense. Exhibitionism, for example. Because here the perpetrator forces his victim to look at his genitals against his will or to watch him during a sexual act - for example while masturbating. Naturally, such hands-off offenses are significantly less violent than “hands-on offenses” such as rape.

Is there one overriding primary motive for sexual violence?

Many people believe that rapists are driven by an excessive sex drive and simply cannot pull themselves together. This is how some sex offenders justify themselves - according to the motto: The woman was so sexually arousing that I couldn't control myself. In fact, sex offenders are a very heterogeneous group. There is no such thing as the rapist, you are dealing with many different types of perpetrators.

There are, for example, those men for whom the attraction of rape lies primarily in the experience of power and dominance and whose sexuality is largely shaped by the desire to exercise sexual violence. It's about forcing the other person's sexual will to rule. In our everyday world there are hardly any comparable experiences of direct power.

Unless you're the boss of a company.

Even then, you are limited. There is the staff council or other bodies and institutions with which you have to consult. Even as a boss, you can't really tell where you're headed. In the case of rape, on the other hand, you are in an exclusive situation in which it is entirely up to your own will - at least that is how the perpetrators experience it.

What type of perpetrator is still common?

In addition to the dominance type, there is the anger or revenge type. These are perpetrators who use sexual aggressiveness against women to punish them across the board. So for them it is less about a specific victim than about women in general - about 50 percent of humanity who, in their eyes, are lying, exploit and take advantage of men. Such perpetrators often project their own misfortunes in life onto the female sex, which must be punished. The woman as such is the cause of all evil.
And sexuality is used as a weapon, so to speak.

Yes, as an instrument of conscious humiliation. I also know rape perpetrators who tend to abuse partners if, in the perpetrator's view, they have the audacity to separate from them. The men say to themselves: If anyone ends the relationship, then that's me. But I won't let myself be abandoned. And if it does, I'll give my partner a rub. These perpetrators know very well that the use of sexual violence is particularly humiliating for the victim.

So it's about setting a brand?

Yes. After all, rape is always associated with a particularly serious violation of physical and emotional integrity. This is how the calculation works to sanction someone by means of sexual violence.

The revenge and anger type also includes some of those rapists who always go on the stalk at night when they are very angry or have suffered a particular frustration in life. And see if they can attack any woman in order to stabilize the hurt self-worth again in this way. At least in the short term.

Do these perpetrators choose their victims at random?

First of all, it should be noted that most of the rape victims are not strangers. As a rule, the perpetrator and the victim know each other. In contrast, the rapist who jumps out from behind a dark corner as a stranger is rather rare. But if we are already talking about this group of perpetrators: The women are actually mostly random victims. It's about just going out and seeing what's going on. Someone will be found.

Some of these perpetrators are characterized by a deeply "antisocial" nature, as we say. They just take what they want. If I need money, I'll take someone else's. If I need a cell phone, I'll use someone else's. If I need a car, I'll take someone else's. And if I want sex, I'll take the woman who happens to cross my path. These perpetrators often also have a criminal record for numerous completely different offenses such as bodily harm, damage to property or robbery.

What other types of sex offenders are there?

For example, the pronounced sadist, which fortunately is rather rare. These are men who plan their deeds for a long time, sometimes spying on the victims and torturing, frightening, mistreating and humiliating them more than would be “necessary” for pure sexual intercourse. Here, too, there are random victims, and only the course of the crime is very well designed and well planned in advance in the fantasy. The attraction for the perpetrator lies in the superiority of knowing what will happen to the woman later, although she does not yet suspect anything. Rapists, for whom torture is an integral part of sexual gratification, are a high risk group and, as we say, there is a real "paraphilic script" behind it.

You have to explain that.

Paraphilia means that there is a disorder of sexual preference, i.e. a disorder of what is sexually experienced as pleasurable. Sexologists differentiate between three dimensions in sexuality: lust, relationship and procreation. In paraphilia, the pleasure and relationship dimensions of sexuality are basically disturbed. The person concerned is, for example, oriented towards people who are too young in terms of age, i.e. children or adolescents, or they have a deviating orientation with regard to sexual violence, i.e. a disposition to rape. Pleasure and excitement only arise with him when sexual violence is involved.

Can a characteristic trait be found in all types of offenders?

You can find different personality traits. These are mainly anti-social and narcissistic people, but also self-insecure people. Quite often these are men whose self-esteem is low. The supposed strength that the perpetrator shows in a rape situation is ultimately a weakness of character. Rapists are not strong men.

This is an abridged version. You can read the entire interview in "GEO WISSEN - The Psychology of Evil" - order here in the GEO Shop.