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Many rapists fake remorse for sympathy: Clinical psychologist
The recent Delhi gang rape case and the subsequent protests organized across the national capital have shifted the focus on the ever-increasing atrocities against women in the country. An industry group, in a recent survey claimed that a woman is raped or molested in Delhi every 40 minutes. To understand the mindset of rapists, I conducted an email interview with Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist at Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (VIMHANS), New Delhi.


One of the accused in Delhi gang rape has gone on record asking to be hanged. Do you think rapists ever develop remorse?

Yes, in some cases, rapists who are impulsive do not reflect on their actions and its consequences when they are committing crime. But once they are away from the scene of crime some of them (but not all) can manage to have some realization or remorse. At the same time there are some who show fake remorse as well to gather sympathy.

The accused in this particular case hail from poor socio-economic background. Do you think lack of proper education and upbringing is also to be blamed for the gang-rape?

Not really, more than education what is need is sensitivity which is lacking. There are quite a few well-educated people who lack sensitivity and treat people as need satisfying objects. Anyone who has a pathological mindset whether educated and non-educated can commit rape.

The six men who committed the gang rape were inebriated. Can drinking be a reason behind rape?

No, although drinking lessens self-control it does not induce brutality and insensitivity. More than drinking it is the person's mindset and personality.

Is the formulation: "The man who committed rape was not in his senses" true of those who commit sexual offenses?

Not really, rapists can be impulsive but they do not lose their sense - they obviously know what they are doing.

Does an impulsive 'nature' become a contributing factor in sexual offenses like rape?

Yes, impulsive nature is a contributing factor. Impulsive people cannot exercise control on their sexual-aggressive drives and do not care for consequences in the moment. But they are in sense, being in-sense and being impulsive can occur together.

Is there any way we can identify early signs in people during counseling and schooling to prevent sexual offenses?

Yes, people who are bullies, lack self-control, get provoked easily, lack concern for others, are self-centered, have no respect for rules and regulations in childhood, have a greater tendency to develop a rapist personality.

India is a male-dominated society. Men control and commodify women. Many consider women being physically weaker and lower down in the social order. Does this mindset contribute to sexual offenses?

Certainly devaluation of women at a societal level is a contributing factor.

Do circumstances of a sexual offender contribute to his crime?

Their circumstances do influence their personality and mindset makeup but have little role in the crime per se.

What about marital rape? Do you think husbands forcing themselves on their wives can be potential threats to other girls in the society?

Yes, they can be threats because they derive power and control and do not take into account the wishes of women.

Research suggests that in many of the rape cases, the victim was known to the rapist. Can one say, then, that rapes are planned and are not acts on impulse?

It is both. Rape can be planned and also can occur spontaneously.

Most rapists are not afraid of the law. They often repeat such sexual offenses. Will stringent laws stop them from committing such crimes?

Stringent laws are needed so that rapists stop living under illusion that escaping is easy. However, only stringent laws will not solve the problem. We need to understand the mindset of the rapist and change it. We also need to equip potential victims to deal better with such threatening situations.

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