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No Safe Place
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
Interview: C.Y. Roby, Ph.D.

Director, Intermountain Specialized Abuse Treatment Center

Transcript of Interview

Q: What do you do with the Intermountain Specialized Abuse Treatment Center?

Well, I set standards for Intermountain Specialized Abuse Treatment Center and we began actually in 1983 providing treatment at the time primarily for sexual abuse -- both victims and perpetrators. Since that time, we've actually started treating domestic violence as well. Part of the reason is because the two of them are actually very closely related. Oftentimes, you're seeing domestic violence that leads to some kind of sexual abuse. And it's very seldom that you see sexual abuse actually against adult females that there hasn't also been domestic violence involved, physical abuse without the sexual.

Q: How are violence and sex connected?

I think that there's a real escalation that goes on with the vast majority of behaviors that we see in a society involved with sexuality. Oftentimes you'll see frustration leading to physical violence but then eventually an attempt to, at times, degrade or humiliate the victim by basically attaining ultimate control over a person through sexual means.

I think you have actually several types of offenders. You have those who are obviously the predominant ones and those who are involved primarily in a need to control or have power over their victim. But you do have those that are fairly sadistic in their sexual habits. In other words, they derive sexual pleasure out of inflicting pain or harm on others. And you have those who suddenly, in a kind of rage or an outburst of anger, will end up doing some things sexually and it's an extension actually of the anger rather than existing solely for sexual purposes. In other words, the two of them are very very closely linked.

Q: There's some controversy as to whether rape is a crime of violene or a crime of sex. What's your view?

When we're talking about a rape, committed by males against females, I don't think that it's solely a sexual crime. I think that there's also a lot of a desire to dominate or control others and to a certain degree it's something I think that we've learned socially. Males often grow up and realize that the way to get what they want when they're younger is through aggressive means. There's very few who actually do stand up against the local neighborhood bully. They may view that kind of behavior taking place within their own family.

When their mother starts to do things that their father doesn't like, the father will try to convince his wife, usually through a fairly quiet means, but escalate finally to yelling or arguing and if the confrontation still continues finally it may end up with the father ultimately striking the child's mother. The child witnesses this and basically realizes this is one way to eventually end up on top in some kind of an argument. So I think there's a combination of the two. I don't think that aggression is purely done for biological means. I think that we promote it socially. There's so much violence, and so much violence that we're noting on TV right now and in the media. You improve your ratings as long as you've got violence in the various things you're depicting and trying to sell through the media. Sot it's something that actually we talk negatively about. But we quietly, I think, condone it and actually seem to promote it.

Q: Is there a profile of a typical sex offender?

I don't think there's really a profile of an individual who rapes. I think by profiling what we really do, we really kind of do society a bit of a disservice. The vast majority of rapes are actually committed in situations that most people would rather not think are going to take place. In other words, date rapes. By far we have more date rapes than we do what we call blitz rapes, in which the individual is actually out there breaking into homes or attacking women in parks or in dark alleys.

By saying that we have a profile of a rapist, that makes people feel a false sense of security. It's though if this individual doesn't have hair growing on his palms, then he's not going to end up being a rapist. And that's just simply not the case. Like I say, most rape is committed by those who individuals do enjoy being with from time to time. They've accepted a date with the individual and then the individual ends up escalating the behavior, indoor rape situation.

I think that anyone is capable of rape and I think frankly anyone is capable of being a victim. I don't think that there's anything you can do to ultimately thwart being victimized, possibly with the exception of locking yourself in a room and you're the only one with a key.

Q: There's also some controversy surrounding what a woman should do if she is attacked. Should see fight back?

You know, it's all very difficult. A lot of times I'll have, when I make presentations, women come up and say: "This is what happened to me" and "This is what I did, but I was raped...What did I do that was right?" "What did I do that was wrong?" Really the only response that you can give somebody who's been victimized that was is, "If you're still alive, you probably made correct choices." There is research that points out that many individuals with some kind of a very, very physical or verbal aggressive response on the part of the victim, they may back off and not escalate the behavoir. But you've got individuals also who are in there because they do not want that kind of an escalation. They want to show ultimate power. So you may have an individual who, after you've confronted him very vigorously (either verbally or physically), the individual continues in that kind of behavior. In those kinds of situations, frankly, I'd rather see somebody live through it by not continuing to try to fight, rather than end up being a statistic of mortality afterwards. So it's difficult to say I don't want people to feel that there's a right and a wrong response. It depends on the situation. But the important thing I think is to live through the assault.

Q: Is the incidence of rape increasing?

There's some indicators that rape is on the increase. There's other indicators that rape may not be on the increase. The problem that we have with rape statistics is it's been so drastically under-reported in the past. I believe that probably date rap and most of the forms of rape that we're seeing now have been occurring for generations. But people weren't willing to deal with it as such in the past. So I don't know if there's really more rape occurring or more rape being reported. You're more likely to report a rape for example if in fact there's some physical evidence that you've been brutalized.

If you're beaten up, if you're gashed, if you're cut, if you're hurt and you can't explain away these injuries, you're much more likely to report the rape. Unfortunately, many women, if not most women, who go through situations of date rape, do not report it, at least not in a timely fashion. There's nothing done as far as investigating and unfortunately an individual who rapes once is fairly likely to go ahead and commit that kind of offense again, unless there's some interruption of that cycle by legal authorities.

Q: Inroads have been made, but it seems that the stigma against victims of sex crimes continues to linger. Why do you think that is?

Well, I think that the situation exists that in our society we have a tendency to value those who haven't been involved sexually with more than one partner, regardless of whether or not it was a rape situation or another situation. We have a tendency to promote the idea of being a virgin essentially, and if you had nothing to do with the fact that you were sexually assaulted, many women feel that they've been tainted and, in fact, I believe that many families feel that their family members were somehow tainted. That they are then less-than-perfect because they have gone through that kind of a situation.

I think also that from the time a child is very, very small, we're teaching that they're responsible for the things that happen in their life both positive and negative. So when a rape situation occurs, usually what I see going through a victim's mind is, "What did I do that was wrong?" You may have done absolutely nothing wrong, other than been alive at that particular time. You have have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but essentially what we're finding out is almost any place can be a wrong place. There's many rapes that occur in homes, where you feel like you should be safe. So essentially, I think that we have a tendency as far as our society goes to devalue individuals who have gone through that kind of experience. And that's kind of a sad state of affairs for our society.

Q: What about the politics of rape?

I don't know that if I'd say that it's a political crime. I definitely would say that it's a crime, but I'd almost hate to politicize it in terms of stating that this supports or does not support some particular idea or, for example, a feminist position. I mean, in the past, we did have a tendency to deal with women more as chattel. But it's definitely as if you're taking away from someone their right to have decisions regarding their sexuality. And that constitutes abuse, that constitutes a very, very forcible event that should not be taking place. I think that we need to get away from really politicizing or trying to use that for political gains as understanding that it's wrong, regardless of the context in which it occurs. We've learned enough over the generations that people should have the right to their own individual expressions of sexuality, when they do and do not want to have sex.

Q: Is there more sex crime in America, and if so, why do you think that is?

Well, a lot of data suggests that we have more sexual violence in this country than you do in many other nations. But again, it's difficult to compare our statistics with other nations' statistics because we probably have better reporting going on in this nation than you do in other nations. In many nations it's definitely not reported because it's even more stigmatized there than it is here. So you may not have as many women willing to come forward and even talk about it. So I'm always hesitent to discuss what's going on between one nation and another, in terms of the direction the society is headed.

Q: Since Susan Brown-Miller's book, rape has been considered a crime of violence? Is it just a crime of violence?

I don't think that it's just Susan Brown-Miller alone. I think there were a number of feminist authors back in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s who talked about rape being a means to humiliate or degrade females. Rapists don't have an intent when they go out and commit rape, essentially of trying to argue in one political direction, some statement by their behavior rather than another.

Most of the individuals that I've worked with saw having sex with a woman as basically their final validation of them being a man. So they would decide prior to the time they went out and actually committed the rape that they were going to be sexually involved with some woman, and the woman no longer had a choice to make in that kind of a relationship. But the vast majority of them wouldn't suddenly leap out of the bushes. They would approach a woman in a fairly nice, congenial way; they would basically attempt to have some kind of a dialogue with the woman, and try to get her to go out and want to have a date, hoping that it would eventually lead to their own sexual fulfillment. And when that didn't work, then they would become frustrated, they would become angry, really with their own ability no to be able to some how magically convince this person that they wanted to have that kind of a relationship with them. So they would then escalate the behavior to some kind of verbal violence, if that didn't work then possibly even some physical threat, and then physical violence.

I don't think that they started out saying what I want to do is degrade or humiliate some individual. I think there certainly are those individuals, but the vast majority of them are saying, "Am I going to get validated through this interaction with a woman?" and "The best validation I could possibly have is through sex." You no longer have a choice, really, in the matter. It really is more power and control than an attempt to humiliate or degrade. I think that to say it's an attempt to humiliate and degrade is too simplistic a way of looking at it.

Q: When most people think of rape, they think of a stranger attacking an unknown woman. But how common is that scenario? And what can a woman do to be safe?

I think that we have a tendency to promote that kind of a stereotype, especially through the media. You know, you see a picture or a scene of a park and then some individual leaps out, or it's a dark alley kind of thing. That's is so much less common than other forms of rape, that we have a tendency to look on it and then say, "Well, in order to keep safe, what I need to do then is stay out of the park at night, stay out of the dark alleys at night, and I won't end up being raped." And yet the vast majority of the rapists are known to the victim. It typically is in the context of a date situation, and there usually is some kind of an acquaintanceship relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. It's those situations that we probably need to try to concentrate our efforts on as far as being safe.

For many of the individuals that I worked with, once an individual accepted a date, the way they looked at it, she was also accepting to go to bed with them. And again, you don't have much choice in that matter. They would talk to me about the fact that, "Well, she agreed to go out with me, so wasn't she really agreeing to have a sexual relationship with me?" I think that we need to focus our efforts on understanding date rape more than spending a great deal of time with the more dramatic or sensational blitz rape because it's not nearly as common as the date rape.

Can sex offenders be cured? A lot has been written about the high recidivism rates.

I don't know if you should use the term "cured," because we still have yet to find really a pathogens still to find some kind of disease or an entity that creates biologically a desire in men to go out and rape. Certainly there is probably a biological desire to go out and have a sexual relationship, but not a violent sexual relationship. So I refrain from talking about a cure. I think there are individuals who can learn to avoid acting out inappropriately sexually in the future. But again, we should never end up risking the safety of society to provide simple for treatment for an individual. In other words, rapists pretty much need to be locked up during the time that they're receiving some kind of treatment or therapy. To try and treat those individuals out on the street kind of situation is probably taking on too much of a risk that they're going to present to other individuals.

Q: What advice would you give women?

Well, I think that women need to be safe as far as they can; I think that they need to understand though and not be naive about the fact that there are many individuals who are out there that are going to want to have a sexual relationship with them that don't have any particular characteristics that look scary. They don't have a particular scar on their forehead or on their cheek that they can look out for. The individuals who you meet at work, the individuals who you meet at church, the individuals who you meet casually in a restaurant may very well be more likely to rape you than problems that might be presented walking down some dark alley or down through a park. So I think that women need to recognize the fact that any kind of a situation where somebody could exert power or control over them is a situation that could be some risk for a woman.

Q: What do we do as a society to curb rape?

Well, I think number one we need to recognize it. We need to really admit that it is occurring. You see a lot of arguments going on about whether or not it's rape if it occurs within a marital situation. I believe that individuals, regardless of their marital status, have the right to say what they will and will not do sexually, when they will and will not do it, and where they will and will not do it. Simply because you're married to an individual doesn't mean to use that position of trust to violate that person. I think that we've got to recognize rape for the far-reaching ramifications and implications that it asks.

I think we have to recognize that when domestic violence is perpetrated in the homes, and those involved refuse to go through a criminal justice kind of a situation, (in other words the witness then denying their willingness to testify) probably teaches the children of that home that there's very little that can be done to those who are going to commit sexual violence. It probably promotes it. I think that we need to criminally charge individuals who have committed domestic violence. Because if they suddenly realize that, "Hey, nothing is going to happen as a result of this," we'll probably have more rape, more domestic violence in the future, rather than less. People don't change simply because they know it's wrong.

Q: Is there a biological predisposition for men to use violence to get sex?

I think we need to be careful about the whole idea that there's a biology that leads to rape. Essentially, we haven't found any genetic components to those who go out and commit sexual violence. There's been an awful lot of research that's been done into it. If in fact we did find a genetic component, that wouldn't argue in favor of the idea that ‘there's nothing that can be done.' What that would argue is the idea that we need to do something in order to probably, in-uterine or biologically, try to control that, and then we'd be looking at more a disease and disease control model. I don't like the idea of people promoting the idea that males have an innate tendency to act out aggressively. I think there's some research that supports that to a limited degree, but certainly we can learn to rise about our biology.

Q: Why is it men who commit these crimes?

We obviously have women who rape, and women who are violent. It has a tendency to go under-reported, just as sexual abuse against children committed by women has a tendency to go drastically under-reported. We know those kinds of offenses are occurring. But again, society doesn't seem to be very willing to deal with that. I've had several individuals who have stated that they were raped when they were young by males, by women, or by several women, and when they tried to report it, the police were very reluctant to take the report. There was no prosecution that ever took place on that, due to the face that, again, we have a stereotype that males are always stronger and tougher and able to defend themselves against females. That's not necessarily the case. So I think over time we'll see more of a willingness to address that. But for this point in time, society really isn't very willing to address the fact that sometimes sexuality is violently perpetrated by females as well as males.

Q: What about the victims of sexual violence? How does it effect them in the long-term?

As far as victims in treatment, one of the problems that ends up taking place is, if a person is victimized sexually, there is a good chance the trauma is just not going to go away through the passage of time. It can be adversely affect the relationships that you have in the future with other males. It can very adversely affect the relationship you have with your own children. So I believe that there is a real need for those individuals to typically get in and get some treatment, realize that there are resources available in virtually every community in the United States to deal with those who were victimized through rape or through domestic violence. And we'd rather see those problems dealt with now, rather than the individual to have struggles throughout his/her life, due to the fact that they've got some unresolved conflicts.

Q: What does treatment involve for rapists?

Well, the rapists I think are treated actually in a very, very humane way. Essentially, I believe that they do not need to be treated within some kind of a residential setting, I would suggest that all rapists typically need to be incarcerated for some period of time. Again, we don't want to take the risk of them acting out in a violent manner, so I'm not typically in favor of a great deal of efforts being placed on out-patient treatment with rapists until after they have actually gone through some residential treatment, for example at a correctional institution. But typically their treatment involves individual therapy, group therapy, and there's oftentimes some work done with their sexual arousal patterns to determine whether or not they are prone to sexual violence, and then learning how to control some of those aggressive impulses that they have, some of that frustration and dealing with frustration in a more appropriate manner than acting out sexually.

Q: What about having the perpetrators understand what the victims go through? Do they understand that?

If you empathize, essentially you can't victimize. There needs to be a great deal of effort during the therapeutic process spent on learning to empathize with those around you. One of the reasons that it often works out very well in a correctional setting is because for once they may not be in a position of control themselves. That may help to sensitize them to what they are really putting their victims through. So a lot of those things may be be learned in some kind of a correctional setting rather than an out-patient basis.

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No Safe Place: Violence Against Women is made possible in part by a grant from the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation and the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation. The documentary is a production of public television station KUED in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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