Over the past 35 years, Dr Rajat Mitra has studied over 2,000 child rapists and sex offenders. A clinical psychologist, he has interacted closely and consistently with prison inmates at the Tihar Jail in Delhi since the 1990s to understand their mindsets and motivation. A leaf from his field notes:
Manju Mehta, clinical psychologist and former head of child and adolescent psychology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. The classic profile of child rapists are men who were exposed to violence growing up, brought up with anger, negativity, beatings and rejections. For them, sexual gratification is not the core issue, it’s hostility, anger and control. They look for a sex object which is defenceless, so they can do what they want in terms of violence and domination. The victim ceases to be a “person” and becomes an ‘object’ and nothing more. The offenders often knock a child unconscious, or kill, before having sex with them. Research suggests that violence, more than sexual gratification, is what drives a child rapist’s behaviour. Many are victims of childhood sexual abuse. The more men are abused as children, the more likely they are to rape as adults; although not everyone who has been abused as a child becomes a potential rapist.
Of the various types of child rapists, the “opportunist” type—for whom rapes are part of a larger pattern of impulsive crimes—gets away with it the most. They also display no anger, don’t use unnecessary force, except in response to the victim’s resistance. There are also those preoccupied with sexual fantasies, which they try to act out in the rape. Far more violent are those classified as the ‘vindictive’ type—men who are physically harmful to their victims as well as those driven by anger at the world. These individuals usually have a long history of violent crimes and inflict the most physical damage on their victims.
Mehta recalls Surinder Koli of the Nithari case, now serving life-term for murdering 18 children, as a sadist, who lacked social skills to develop relationships with adults and had persistent preoccupations about sex with children. For sadists, the victim’s fear is the sexual stimulus.
In her 2011 study of child rape convicts (Sexual Abuse of Children: A Sociological Study in Delhi Metropolis), criminologist Hunny Matiyani interviewed 100 convicts, 38 per cent of whom claimed to have planned the crime beforehand. Out of them, most— 53 per cent—said that they did it to satisfy sexual desires, 40 per cent said their motive was revenge, about 5 per cent said it was money and the rest (3 per cent) attributed their crimes to a ‘fascination’ with the victim’s beauty. But 62 per cent of the convicts said they had not planned the act. Out of them, 27 per cent apparently claimed an uncontrollable sexual urge when they found the victim alone, 21 per cent claimed the victim seduced them, 15 per cent cited neighbourhood enmity, 13 per cent said the rape happened because the victim was living with them and 6 per cent said it was because they were drunk. Why choose a child? About 34 per cent said the victim was a soft target because of her age and availability, and 15 per cent said it was because a child could be dealt with easily (threat and coercion).
Cases of child rape and assault are usually brutal, says Mitra: “They are also the most difficult to solve. There are usually no witnesses and the victim often succumbs to injuries. Unlike homicide, the crime scene is the child’s body, from which the crime and the criminal will have to be investigated. We don’t have that level of forensic professional excellence in this country.” To Vaya, child rape and assault becomes inherently brutal because of the very different mindset of the perpetrators. “When they start doing it, they don’t think it’s brutal,” she says, “but when the victim is not in a position to accept the way she is being handled, and puts up resistance in
*The rest of the percentage is indeterminate; current study conducted under the aegis of Swanchetan Society for Mental Health with the support of Ajay Aggarwal, former DG Prisons and Sunil Gupta, former Law Officer, Tihar