What is Gang Rape?
Gang rape is when two or more offenders act together to rape the same victim. The offenders include those who actually obtain sexual relations with the victim as well as those who threaten or use force to make the victim submit but do not themselves have sexual relations.
Dynamics of Gang Rape
Gang rape is very different from individual acquaintance rape. Foremost among those differences is the use of the rape as a reinforcing mechanism for membership in the group of men. Perpetrators have a physical advantage of their position when gang rape occurs as it is conquest of multitudes over an individual.
Men who rape in groups might never commit rape alone. As they participate in gang rape, they experience a special bonding with each other, a unity of purpose that comes from the pride they feel in reducing their victim to nothing. Through the rape, they also prove their sexual ability to other group members and underscore their status. Often, the group’s leader is the first person to rape the victim with the underlings to follow. Sometimes two people will have consensual sex first and afterwards one party will invite others to take turns without the other’s consent.
According to Helen Benedict in her book Recover: How to Survive Sexual Assault for Women, Men, Teenagers, and Their Friends and Families, “Group rape has traditionally been considered less perverted than solitary rape because of the assumption that gang-raping someone is some kind of proof of masculinity, a sort of rite of passage.” Refusing to join in a gang rape might cause a group member to become excluded from the group or have their sexuality questioned.
Gang rape tends to have added humiliation to the victim, beyond that experienced by a single-assailant acquaintance rapes. There are many individuals who watched, participated, or were in the other room knowing what was going on and doing nothing to stop it. The humiliation grows after the attack as the persons involved in the gang rape brag about their conquest. The victim may also feel very betrayed by people that are seen in everyday life.
Characteristics that are twice as likely to occur in gang rape than in individual rape include:
- Forced fellatio
- Pulling, biting, and burning the breast
- Urination on the victim
- Putting semen on her body and demanding manual masturbation or masturbating in her presence
- Amount of aggression and degradation increases as each person takes “their turn”
More often than not in gang acquaintance rapes, the group has carefully selected its victim. Sometimes the victim is chosen because of one or more of these factors:
- Has already been sexual with a group member
- A newly arrived student who may have few friends
- Naïve and therefore easily flattered by the attention suddenly lavished on them before the attack begins
- Drunk or high on drugs—in many cases, is nearly or totally incapacitated and unable to understand or voice consent or resistance
In the Koss study at Kent State, it was found that 16% of the male students admitted rape, and 10% of those who admitted attempting a rape, took part in episodes involving more than one attacker. In 1985 Julie Ehrhart and Bernice Sandler wrote a report for the Associate of American Colleges describing these events. They found a common pattern. When a vulnerable young woman is high on drugs, drunk, or too weak to protest, she becomes a target for a train rape. In some cases her drinks might have been spiked with alcohol without her knowledge. When she is approached by several men in a locked room, she reacts with confusion and panic. As many as two to eleven or more men might have sex with her. In a survey of twenty-four documented cases of alleged college gang rape reported during the 1980’s, psychologist Chris O’Sullivan found that 13 were perpetrated by fraternity men, nine by groups of athletes, and two by men unaffiliated with any group.
Mary Koss and Mary Harvey. The Rape Victim P. 5 1991.
Sanday, Peggy Reeves. A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial P. 194 1996.
Robin Warshaw. I Never Called It Rape P.103 (1994)