Psychotherapy Off the Wall

Chapter 1
Rape! The Delight of the Media
Of course, the most sensational subject to talk about is rape. Most people seem to have the idea that rape is a sexual act which just happens to involve violence in order to achieve the sexual purpose. In fact, it looks more as though rape is a violent act which just happens to involve the genitals to achieve its angry or aggressive purpose. But even this is not always true. Oh dear, now we are going to get confused if we aren’t careful. Actually, of course, nothing is quite as simple as we often try to make it out to be. And remember, one of the purposes of this discourse on psychotherapy is to try to make some sense out of the things that happen in people and the things which make life go badly for some people — in this case, particularly the victims.
So what is rape about? Well, that depends on who is doing the rape, and to whom. For example, rape by a convict on a fellow prisoner is likely partly a sexual act, though it is likely also (more) motivated by a need to dominate another. Date rape is also usually motivated partly by sex, but it is also (possibly more so) motivated by anger over frustrated wishes and/or a self-righteous sense of ‘rights’ or ‘possession’ over the other. Rape of a stranger is likely motivated by sexual wishes and fantasies, but it seems commonly to be also (more) a product of such issues as anger about too strong guilt feelings, sadistic fantasies of the other’s helplessness, the wish to punish another as perceived retribution for a sense of personal injury, the felt need to control another, or just plain violent rage due to other events in the rapist’s life. There are several possible factors involved in rape. It is for this reason that several stories are concocted in this chapter to address some of the imagined reasons why rape occurs.
Before telling these stories, however, a couple of things need to be said and understood. First, there is risk that talking about rape and rapists will lead one to imagine that rape is as common an event as the media seem to suggest. That can increase people’s fears about being raped. Rape is still a relatively very rare event, and the media have done us a real disservice by barraging us with accounts of it and other sensational events, and thus making it seem that such events are commonplace. Second, some people will be offended by the consideration which may seem to be afforded in these stories to the perpetrator and his feelings. It needs to be understood that Felicity never met these perpetrator’s victims, so he has been protected from direct exposure to the pains which they suffered. Also, he had to treat the perpetrators in order to try to prevent victimization of other people in the future. In order to be able to do that he has had to prevent himself from critical or hostile attitudes toward these people and, in fact, to foster in himself positive feelings toward them. It took me quite a while to be able to adjust to this fact in listening to his stories about this kind of criminal offence. Third, Felicity has to present the perpetrators as fairly ordinary people (which, if fact, they are) since, when he succeeded in the work he did with them, they returned to the community as ordinary people with an ordinary and decent concern with the well-being of others — and not in any sense more dangerous than anybody else. So, while understanding that we too feel horror about their crimes, please try to bear with the way in which we may talk about these offenders.

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