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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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.

Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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Arab-American Heritage Month Is Not A Well Known Celebration And I'm Pissed About It

I'm an Arab-American and didn't even know this was a thing... That's sad.


The month of April is special for a lot of reasons but this one hits home for me. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the culture, history and amazing people who have helped bring something to this country. So many Arab-Americans have contributed a lot to society yet they don't get the recognition they deserve for it.

In today's society, the Arab community is always being looked down on and degraded. The lack of understanding from those around makes Arab-Americans feel like outsiders in a place they should be able to call home. The inaccurate images and stereotypes that inhabit the word "Arab" are sickening.

It's time to raise awareness. It's time to look beyond the media's portrayal. It's time to see a neighbor, a teacher, a doctor, a scientist, an artist, an athlete, a parent, a child, but most importantly, a human being, NOT a monster.

Arab-Americans encounter and fight racism every day. As a society, we should be better than that. We should want everyone in this country to feel wanted, needed and appreciated. Together, we should use this month as a time to shine light and celebrate the many Arab-Americans who have, and continue making this country great.

While you read this list of just a few famous Arab-Americans keep in mind how much they want this country to be amazing, just as much as anyone else does.

Dr. Michael DeBakey, invented the heart pump

Dr. Elias Corey, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1990 

Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1999

Lucie Salhany, first woman to head a tv network 

Ralph Johns, an active participant in the civil rights movement and encouraged the famous Woolworth sit-in 

Ernest Hamwi, invented the ice cream cone

Pvt. Nathan Badeen, died fighting in the Revolutionary War

Leila Ahmed, the first women's studies professor at Harvard Divinity School 

We should recognize and celebrate these achievements. There are so many things you can learn when you step inside another culture instead of turning your back to it. This April, take time to indulge in the Arab-American heritage.

Instead of pushing away the things you don't understand, dive into diversity and expand your knowledge of the unknown. Together we can raise awareness. #IAmArabAmerican

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