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No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
Abusive Men Need to Get Help

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Why does a man rape?

Since the 1970s when Susan Brown-Miller published her ground-breaking book, Against Our Will, rape has been viewed as a crime of control and violence, not as a sexual crime. Psychologists who work with sex offenders see several kinds of offenders, including those for whom rape is a desire to dominate or control, those for whom it is an extension of anger, and those who seem to have been motivated by sex. Psychologists who work with rapists say many men view forcing sex with a woman as a validation of their manhood. Some experts, including feminists, now say that in our culture sex is so interfused with violence that powerlessness and power themselves have become eroticized. Getting at the real motives of rapists is difficult since they typically do not admit their crimes. Experts say rapists are notoriously manipulative and don't always tell the truth.

Is there a profile of rapists?
The majority of convicted sex offenders are young men who cut across all racial, economic, and social lines. While there is no one profile, they do have some things in common. Generally, they're assertive and aggressive and have problems controlling their anger and their impulses. They also have what psychologists call criminal thinking patterns and thinking errors.

In addition, rapists tend to have distorted views about sex and see women as objects. Most rapists are never caught, and conviction rates for those who are apprehended are notoriously low. According to Department of Justice Statistics, about half of accused rapists were released before trial. Of those tried, only half were sentenced to prison. The average sex offender may commit hundreds of crimes in his lifetime, which means that most rapes not only go undetected, but unpunished. Many rapists begin as voyeurs, peeking into windows, before actually breaking into homes. Their fantasies about rape eventually escalate to planning and committing rape.

Can sex offenders be treated?
Sex offenders tend to be compulsive and repetitive, the kind of criminals that are hardest to treat. A 1989 study by the American Psychological Association found no evidence that the rate of recidivism for treated offenders was any lower than it was for offenders who received no treatment. Psychologists who work with sex offenders stress that society must be realistic about what therapy can do. They say that while it is crucial to provide treatment to any man who is sexually abusive, one of the most important functions of therapy is to identify sex offenders who are not likely to change so they remain separated from society.

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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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