Friday, March 18, 2011

Group rape: Spotlight on shadowy terrain

Seminar series, online forum kick off international initiative

Scene from Casualties of War, based on a true story
about U.S. soldiers in Vietnam
Sexual violence is a hot topic, with myriad books, articles, and even entire journals devoted to its study. But despite their frequency, there is very little study of rapes committed by multiple offenders. Group rapists are often lumped together with other types of offenders, including solo rapists and pedophiles. This is unfortunate, because multi-offender rape is a different beast, often less about sex than about male peer group dynamics. I think of it as a form of cultural theater, in which the victim becomes a dramatic prop through which men publicly demonstrate their heterosexual masculinity to each other.


Two British researchers aim to change the current climate of neglect. Jessica Woodhams of the University of Birmingham and Miranda Horvath or Middlesex University have an ambitious goal of developing an international network and research agenda focused on understanding and preventing multiple-perpetrator rape.

They have secured funding from the British Psychological Society for a seminar series at Middlesex University in London this fall. Gearing up, they have just launched a month-long public forum at the international Sexual Violence Research Institute’s site.

To kick off the discussion, they tossed out the following intriguing questions:
  1. Are all perpetrators of multiple perpetrator rape equally responsible for their actions?
  2. Is multiple perpetrator rape only a significant problem in certain populations/social groups?
  3. How can we best tackle multiple perpetrator rape in terms of prevention, interventions with perpetrators, supporting victims, and improving investigation and prosecution?

I'm sure many of you who have done treatment, evaluation, and/or research with violent offenders have some thoughts on these questions. If so, join the online discussion. You do have to register (giving yourself a screen name and a password), but that is quick and easy (and free). Check it out HERE.

Of related interest:

Dr. L'Heureux Dumi Lewis, a professor of sociology and Black studies at the City College of New York, talks about race and community reactions to the high-profile multiple-perpetrator rape in Cleveland, Texas at his blog, Uptown Notes.

Additional resources are listed on my web page on multiple-perpetrator rape, HERE

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