New ICRW Findings Provide Insight on Prevalence of Rape

Article Date

09 June 2014

Article Author

Gillian Gaynair

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

It is imperative that global efforts to end violence against women address issues such as power, gender identity and sexism to effectively shift the sense of sexual entitlement among some men that leads them to commit rape, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) researchers recommend in a new report released today at Royal Society in London on the eve of the UK-sponsored Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Programs aimed at preventing violence also should directly engage men on sports teams, in the military and in other settings that can propagate men’s violent attitudes and sense of entitlement, ICRW says.

The evidence-based recommendation is just one of several offered in “The Making of Sexual Violence: How Does a Boy Grow Up to Commit Rape?” which provides insight on how prevalent various forms of rape – marital rape, date rape, gang rape, etc. – are in five survey countries. The report presents data that emerge from seven questions about rape that men in Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda answered as part of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES).

The report is one of several secondary analyses from the groundbreaking IMAGES study, launched in 2008 and co-coordinated by ICRW and Instituto Promundo. The multi-year, multi-country initiative gathers household-level data on men’s attitudes and practices related to gender and violence, along with women’s opinions and reports of men’s behavior. Within that overarching theme, IMAGES also explores a broad range of issues, such as fatherhood, childhood experiences and men’s health. By understanding men’s attitudes and actions – as well what influences each – researchers say violence prevention advocates will be better able to engage men as key allies in the pursuit of gender equality and nonviolence.

“If we leave men out, we’re essentially burdening women and girls with the task of ending this global epidemic of violence alone,” said Brian Heilman, ICRW gender and evaluation specialist and co-author of the report. “Doing so also underutilizes the powerful influence that men who reject violence can have on their friends and peers.”

IMAGES data about rape was collected between 2008 and 2010 among men and women ages 18 to 59. Four to 25 percent of the men surveyed in the five study sites reported perpetrating rape at some point in their lives, ICRW found. Nearly one-quarter of respondents in the India study sites said they had done so at some point, the vast majority against a wife or girlfriend. One in ten men in the Chile, Croatia and Rwanda sites reported raping a woman, as did 4 percent in Mexico.

Across all sites, IMAGES data showed that sexual violence was most commonly perpetrated against an intimate partner. Researchers noted that the rates presented are likely underestimates of the actual prevalence of rape and sexual violence in the five sites, as not all men are likely to report this violence to an interviewer, and the survey questions don’t cover all forms of sexual violence.

In the report, researchers also provide findings on potential influences that increase men’s likelihood to report committing rape, such as childhood neglect, sexual aggression during their youth and alcohol use and/or abuse. Researchers found that among men in Chile and India, any alcohol use was associated with sexual violence, and across all sites, binge drinkers were more likely to rape. Although researchers said alcohol use alone cannot necessarily cause sexual violence, they encourage more violence prevention programs to integrate discussions on harmful alcohol use.

ICRW experts also call for more investment in “gender-transformative” program approaches, upon the IMAGES finding that men who feel a sense of male privilege and sexual entitlement were consistently more likely to rape. Such program approaches address issues of gender, power, and privilege directly through critical conversation, researchers say, and this is proving to be more effective at shifting attitudes among men than approaches that maintain a neutral stance on these issues.

“While there’s a wide range of cultural, institutional and other factors that underpin violence in society, our evidence shows that men’s attitudes drive sexual violence much more than demographics or individual pathologies,” Heilman said.

Read the full report here.

Gillian Gaynair owns Mallett Avenue Media, a Washington, D.C.-based firm specializing in content that shows how foundations, nonprofits and corporations effect change globally.