The Psychology Behind Sexual Assault

The Psychology Behind Sexual Assault

"She gave me the 'I'd f*** you' look."

One of the requirements to attend Indiana University was to take this course called "My Student Body" prior to welcome week. My Student Body courses are designed to reduce risky student behavior using strategies that research has shown are most effective—motivational, attitudinal, and skill-training interventions; such as doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and being involved in sexual violence. I thought the course was unnecessary and unproductive. However, I was proven wrong this week.

A few days ago, on September 11, 2017, a student has reported that he or she was sexually assaulted during Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity's party on the fraternity's property around 11:30 PM Saturday night. The suspect was identified, and the IUPD is working on this case to further study what happened that night. Not only was this case bad for the fraternity's image, but it has also jeopardized both parties' future. Although the university has made the My Student Body course mandatory for all new incoming students, it was clear that the online course was not taken seriously by the perpetrator of this incident. My condolences go out to the party that was affected and I thank him or her for their bravery to come out and seek help.

This case marks the fourth sexual assault case that has happened since the start of the school year. As horrifying as these cases are, I wanted an explanation; what was their motivation. If these perpetrators, after taking the My Student Body course, should have realized that consent was important and what kind of punishment they would face if they are arrested. But why did they do it? Even if they thought the course was pretty stupid, like many people did, they should have at least learned some of the consequences of such offenses. Why would they do it?

There are many excuses and motives to why the perpetrators commit such crimes. According to the case study done by Jaydip Sarkar of Institute of Mental Health of Singapore, the perpetrators rationalize their actions by stating that the other party was triggering the perpetrator to display molesting behavior. Sarkar states that upon evaluation of the rape offenders, they used the five theories to rationalize their past behaviors, which Sarkar refers to them as cognitive distortion:

  1. Women are unknowable: Rapists believe that women are fundamentally different from me and, therefore, cannot be understood. Encounters with women will, therefore, be adversarial and women will be deceptive about what they really want. An example of such a CD might be ”…she is dressed in hot pants and her cleavage is visible. This means she wants sex and it is okay for me to have sex with her” when she says “no” she actually wants to turn me on further.” (Sarkar 2013)
  2. Women are sex objects: The CD is that women are constantly receptive to men's sexual needs but are not necessarily always conscious of this. Their body language is more important than what they say and women cannot be hurt by sexual activity unless they are physically harmed, that is being beaten or punched. An example of this might be ”…when she looks furtively at me when I make lewd comments, she is actually interested in me. So when she says “no” she is actually playing with me to turn me on further. (Sarkar 2013)
  3. Male sex drive is uncontrollable: Men's sexual energies can build up to dangerous levels if women do not provide them with sexual opportunities and once they are aroused it is difficult not to progress to orgasm. In India, with its culture-bound syndromes of “male sexual weakness” or dhat syndrome, one manifestation of such a CD might be “… I am going to become weak if my “dhat” (semen) flows out (premature ejaculation while molesting or sexually harassing a woman) and a woman does not offer herself to me.” (Sarkar 2013)
  4. Entitlement: Men's needs, which include sexual needs, should be met on demand by women. In a nation like India with major gender-based inequalities, such CDs of male entitlement, especially if the victim is from lower status for whatever reason (socioeconomics, caste, etc.) can lead to marital rape (recommended to be considered a crime in the Verma Commission report). (Sarkar 2013)
  5. Dangerous world: The world is a hostile and threatening place and people need to be on their guard, but there is no safe haven. An example is “…. I have been wronged in many ways, and so it is not wrong for me to do wrong to others." (Sarkar 2013)

Although this case study was primarily focusing on the population and culture of India, different studies have shown that similar triggers were found to be motivating perpetrators to engage in sexual assault.

"Tested 3 explanations of findings that sexually aggressive men perceive women's communications differently than less aggressive men. The 1st suggests that aggressors are incompetent in decoding women's negative emotions. The 2nd posits that they fail to make subtle distinctions between women's friendliness and seductiveness and between assertiveness and hostility. The 3rd explanation contends that sexual aggressors use a suspicious schema and therefore discount the veridicality of women's communications" (Malamuth 1994).

Both studies highlighted one crucial point: lack of clear communication made rape cases more prevalent. Such point is obvious because the way men and women communicate is quite different, as we experience every day. For example, the couples with communication problems end up splitting if they cannot overcome that obstacle. These couples and the sexual assault case victims have one thing in common: they are not clear about their message. Couples with communication problems often fight because the way one person delivers their message is not clearly understood by the other party, thus emotionally disturbing the other. Similarly, the victims of rape may have said no, but to the other party, whether they have the intention of sexually harassing or hurting the victim or not, they might convey it as a playful, thus engaging in the activity. Therefore, without worrying about killing the mood or the vibe, if one person doesn't want to engage in such activity and the other partner is not clearly understanding the message, the person that doesn't want to engage has to put their foot down and make a statement to stop the sexual activity. If that does not work, they have to seek help by leaving the place or calling for help.

The same principle applies to the party that wants to engage in sexual activity. If the other person is unsure or displays any behavior or action that signals that they don't want to engage in the activity, they have to stop. If the other partner says no or anything similar, stop to talk and make sure that the other partner's statement is what they actually mean or something that they are saying to be playful. If you are the one who wants to engage in such activity, you've got to make sure to understand the other person's actions and words. Asking for consent does not kill the vibe, it makes sure that both parties enjoy the experience. You have to realize that pursuing such activity without consent is like punching, hurting and killing that person you like or even love.

In many cases, perpetrators are someone that the victim knows from their workplace, school, and etc. Today's media and social standards are partially to blame. The media and social standards have made sexual activity something that happens instantly, like lightning, and something that is required to become a cool person, rather than a process that takes time and effort to show how they truly love the other.

It is time to end this. It is time to bring back our civility.

We have to understand, and help others understand, that it is not all about engaging in sexual activities, feeling pleasure and etc, like the movies and tv shows portray. It is about both parties enjoying the same activities. It doesn't have to be sexual. Both parties have to agree to do anything. That is the only way both parties have fun and want to repeat the process. Right?


Malamuth, N. M., & Brown, L. M. (1994). Sexually aggressive men's perceptions of women's communications: Testing three explanations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(4), 699-712.

Sarkar, J. (2013). Mental health assessment of rape offenders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(3), 235–243.

Cover Image Credit: blickpixel

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8 Struggles Of Being 21 And Looking 12

The struggle is real, my friends.

“You'll appreciate it when you're older." Do you know how many times my mom has told me this? Too many to count. Every time I complain about looking young that is the response I get. I know she's right, I will love looking young when I'm in my 40s. However, looking young is a real struggle in your 20s. Here's what we have to deal with:

1. Everyone thinks your younger sister or brother is the older one.

True story: someone actually thought my younger sister was my mom once. I've really gotten used to this but it still sucks.

2. You ALWAYS get carded.

Every. Single. Time. Since I know I look young, I never even bothered with a fake ID my first couple of years of college because I knew it would never work. If I'm being completely honest, I was nervous when I turned 21 that the bartender would think my real driver's license was a fake.

3. People look at your driver's license for an awkward amount of time.

So no one has actually thought my real driver's license is fake but that doesn't stop them from doing a double take and giving me *that look.* The look that says, “Wow, you don't look that old." And sometimes people will just flat out say that. The best part is this doesn't just happen when you're purchasing alcohol. This has happened to me at the movie theater.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things People Who Look 12 Hate Hearing

4. People will give you *that look* when they see you drinking alcohol.

You just want to turn around and scream “I'M 21, IT'S LEGAL. STOP JUDGING ME."

5. People are shocked to find out you're in college.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had a shocked expression on their face after I told them I'm a junior in college I could pay off all of my student loan debt. It's funny because when random people ask me how school is going, I pretty much assume they think I'm in high school and the shocked look on their face when I start to talk about my college classes confirms I'm right.

6. For some reason wearing your hair in a ponytail makes you look younger.

I don't understand this one but it's true. Especially if I don't have any makeup on I could honestly pass for a child.

7. Meeting an actual 12-year-old who looks older than you.

We all know one. That random 12-year-old who looks extremely mature for her age and you get angry because life isn't fair.

8. Being handed a kids' menu.

This is my personal favorite. It happens more often than it should. The best part of this is it's your turn to give someone a look. The look that says, "You've got to be kidding me".

Looking young is a real struggle and I don't think everyone realizes it. However, with all the struggles that come with looking young, we still take advantage of it. Have you ever gone to a museum or event where if you're under a certain age you get in for a discounted price? Yeah? Well, that's when I bet you wish you were us. And kids' meals are way cheaper than regular meals so there have definitely been a couple times when I've kept that kids' menu.

So, all in all, it's not the worst thing in the world but it's definitely a struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Jenna Collins

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How Growing Up In A Culturally Diverse Environment Changed Me

We are all human.


I can proudly say that I am from Montgomery County, Maryland, more specifically from the city of Gaithersburg. According to a 2018 study by WalletHub, three of the top 10 culturally diverse cities in the United States are located in Montgomery County. Those cities include Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Silver Spring.

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Ever since I was a child, I was not only taught to welcome different cultures and ethnic groups, but I was always surrounded by them. From my elementary to high school years, every classroom was filled with racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Coming from someone apart of the Caucasian race, I was often the minority in school. Not everyone is as fortunate to experience such a multicultural society.

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After being in countless culturally diverse situations, I have been provided with many lifelong advantages. I was taught to be inclusive, fair, and understanding. I am able to be comfortable and accepting of all cultures and religions. After growing up in such a culturally diverse environment, I now develop culture shock when I'm not surrounded by diversity.

Our world is filled with numerous different kinds of cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. Being raised in a diverse environment has prepared me for what the real world looks like and taught me exactly what equality means. As I was growing up, I was always taught to be nonjudgemental of others and to embrace all individuals for who they are.

Diversity molds our identities. Every individual is unique, but each of us shares at least one trait — we are all human. Who would rather experience a homogeneous society, when they could constantly be learning about other cultures and building diverse relationships? When growing up, I never realized how impacted and truly thankful I would be to of had the opportunities to experience diversity each day. So here is a long overdue thank you to my parents for choosing to raise me in such an incredibly diverse place all of my life.

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