Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lara Logan: Gang Rape

A brutal sexual assault on February 11, the day President Hosni Mubarak steps down.  Lara Logan, covering the story for 60 Minutes,  is separated from the camera crew in the melee of celebration.  A group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers save her.

It takes twenty soldiers.

What happened there? How does what could have been a gang rape happen in the middle of a celebration?  In the middle of all this feel good, Hurray for democracy! suddenly, there is a very, very

feel bad.

We want to know who attacked Lara Logan (we assume, could be wrong, raped, if it is a brutal sexual assault) , but her nemesis is a faceless mob-- faceless to us, not to her, for Ms. Logan will remember faces.  To the world they will be anonymous, like-minded men, unknowns, who made her into a symbol, a something that needs to be stamped out, hurt, taught a lesson. Why?

Reporters tell us that the journalists in Cairo were intimidated, thought to be spies for the West, for Israel.  The police rounded up the members of the foreign press and jailed them, interrogated and harassed them before finally letting them go.  Go get your story now.  See what happens. 

Intimidation, jail, one thing.  Rape, or sexual assault, quite another, a special type of intimidation, a different type of violence, one that symbolizes dominion.  But there are different types of rape, different motives, and this is as good a time as any to discuss them.

Mental health professionals used to think of rape as a generic angry act, an act of defiance.  But ignorance and power underscore acquaintance and date rape, acts associated with rape myths.  One such myth might be believing that nice girls say no when they mean yes. A man thinking this way might force sex, thinking he has permission-- when really, he doesn't. Rape, if it's forced.  No means No, in all fifty of the United States of America.

Acquaintance and date rapes can also be about anger, coercion, blackmail, harassment-- wielding power with sexual aggression.  None of it benign.  And alcohol is usually in the picture, yes usually, when it comes to acquaintance and  date rape. A victim is incapacitated, incapable of fighting, sometimes unconscious.

Jailed rapists, perpetrators of individual stranger rapes, have a different modus operandi, and are diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder.  These individuals are considered sociopaths, people who defy authority, who take what they want, who want to hurt others.

Gang rape differs in that it is a crime of passion, but all about the need to bond, to be a part of a group. If there is anger, it is difficult to determine who is angry.  Weaved into the psychology of gang rape is  group think, a need to find favor from a leader, a person who is influential, charismatic, encourages the crime.  The group believes, or wants to believe, what the leader believes, and each member likes the feeling, being a part of something bigger than himself, and follows along.

Gang rape is of one mind, a group cognitive process of coercion. Participants deny their own sense of right and wrong, their own individuality, to do what the rest of the group tells them to do.

Men convicted of gang rape tell us they were afraid not to join in.  They were afraid of being left out, afraid of losing status. Sometimes the rape is an initiation into the gang, or the club, the fraternity, even the team-- a way to become a part of something.  If you're not with us, you're against us.  Becoming one of the gang, male or female bonding, feels good.

In Cairo last week, becoming a part of something, pleasing someone, needing to attach to other men, impressing a leader, enjoying the feeling of power-- all of this mixed into the psychopathology, the sick thinking of every man in that fringe group.  And the subsequent conclusion, the sexual assault of Lara Logan.

The politics are unclear, do not matter.  What matters is need: the individual need for validation and a universal need for power and control.  And unfortunately, one way to achieve that validation is to join in, even when the group corrupts, behaves in ways that are psychologically, physically, and sexually abusive.  

One way to power is to show others how vulnerable they are.

Surely, had the Egyptian women who intervened not been there, Ms. Logan would be dead. And we would be watching funeral services on TV.

Linda Freedman, PhD, LCSW, LMFT


  1. I think my first comment was lost when I tried to post (if not, please delete this one!):

    I think this is very interesting and thought-provoking, particularly concerning different types of rapists. However, I wonder if these distinctions minimize the shared experiences of rape victims. That is, whether acquaintance, stranger, or gang rape, there may be shared after effects - PTSD, etc. This sense of camaraderie may be important for healing. If we segregate victims based on the specifics of the crime itself, do we do them a disservice?
    However, I really like how you have drawn attention to the perpetrators when so many discussions of rape focus on the victim (if she had...then she wouldn't have been raped).
    Thank you for framing it differently.

  2. This is by far one the most terrifying aspects of group behavior. Sadly, it reminds me of the prom gang rape in 2009 that went on for two and a half hours. Gang rape combined with with bystander effect is just devastating -- how does anyone recover from that?

    I'm glad you pointed out at the end that a group of women did not just stand aside and let it continue.

  3. @ Sarah - as someone who's been raped, one of the things that was EASIER for me to deal with was I did not know my attacker. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I have been in verbally and emotionally abusive relationships that were MUCH worse than being raped. I think the psychological experience varies in every instance, depending on if there is also physical damage, an STD, an unplanned pregnancy, and depending on the belief system of the rape victim person about sex and sexuality. Somebody who is a virgin or believes that sex is immoral outside a monogamous marriage might have a very, very hard time.

    For me, the thought that the violence came from somebody who is supposed to be AT LEAST a friend in cases of date or spousal rape, would be harder to handle, because it would seem more personal.

    However - ain't no "good way" to be raped. Sometimes I wonder why we let men vote.

  4. @ The Writing Goddess - it's not only men that rape.

    As a survivor of gang rape, one of the few things I'll ever forget is their laughter.

    There are different dynamics to any form of abuse. The impact the event(s) have on the survivor is what is important. Having options for assistance and validation is what is important.

    Take care,

  5. I tend to boil it all down to power and control, that basically, they all participated in holding power and control over another. Not okay. Ever. So horrible. And the group mentality just makes it much easier for them to justify (at the time, and later, for whatever reason). Thanks for posting this.


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