Privacy and Control
their role in sexual assault
The concept of rape victims being "damaged property" has a historical basis dating back to when women were literally owned by a member of their family.
"The origin of rape laws can be traced to the once-widespread belief that women were the property of men. A female was considered first the property of her father. Because her virginity was valued as her principal asset, rape was considered a theft. Once a woman was married, she belonged to her husband. Rape then was treated as a crime against the husband's exclusive sexual rights to her. Because marriage gave these rights to the husband, legally, it was not possible for him to rape his own wife." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
This is what is known as an underlying cultural assumption. They are incredibly difficult to even notice much less change. One way in which society can circumnavigate this 'subconscious' idea is to begin looking at sexual assault as a violation of rights rather than a violation of the flesh. It is a violation of the body but the person inside the body is more important. The physical wounds will heal but the psychological ones will take a lifetime. Women and men both have the right to control who has access to them and their bodies. Privacy is one of the rights of the rape victim which have been violated.
"Though a rape victim may not sustain substantial physical tissue damage, rapists may inflict significant psychological trauma by asserting uninvited domination, control, and power over the unwilling other"(Schneider et. al., 1994)
Women are not property- Crimes against the person v/s crimes against property
"A fundamental categorization of crime is based on criminological theory and is commonly used to detect patterns in the crime rate. This classification divides crime broadly into two categories: crimes against the person and crimes against property. Crimes against the person are predatory in nature: the offender intends, threatens, or commits physical harm against the victim. Such crimes include homicide, rape, and armed robbery. Crimes against property involve no physical threat to the victim and include arson, burglary, larceny, and motor-vehicle theft." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
The correlation between the psychological effects of violation of privacy and the principles of both eating disorders and sexual assault are noteworthy.
One of the key aspects of the definition of privacy according to psychological analysis literature is the following:
Control is a key feature in most definitions of privacy in current literature. It is also a key aspect of sexual assault and the resulting psychological traumas. Many sexual assault survivors suffer from eating dissorders which also center around control issues. This page discusses the concept of rape as a violation of privacy rather than as damage of property.
Some of the key reasons control is important are that it provides what we need for normal psychological functioning, stable interpersonal relationships and personal development.(Pedersen, D. 1997)
It is a boundary issue in that people need to regulate who, how often and what type of contact they have with each other. It is important that individuals be able to regulate contact by both increasing and decreasing contact.(Pedersen, D. 1997) “Schoeman rightly argues that privacy… is not generally in order to isolate people but to enable them to relate intimately.” (Ben-Ze'ev, A. 2003)
Westin determined that privacy provides opportunity for self assessment and experimentation. Privacy is also the basis for development of individuality, protects personal autonomy and supports health by providing opportunities to relax, be one's self, vent, escape stress, and cope with loss, shock and sorrow. (Pedersen, D. 1997)
The negative effects of loss of privacy
-Loss of opportunities due to failure to psychologically control privacy related behaviors in situations in which more powerful people seek to control others. (Margulis, 2003)
-Some theories suggest that loss of privacy results in loss of control and resulting disorders. (Margulis, 2003)
-A potential long term consequence is coming to “believe that certain opportunities for privacy are simply not available.”(Margulis, 2003)
-Learning the limits of autonomy.
-When privacy is violated it is lost. “Invasions occur when initial conditions for privacy are not achieved. Examples include being surreptitiously over heard or being unable to prevent physical access to self.” (Margulis, 2003)
-Failure to meet privacy needs has also been linked to anti social and aggressive behaviors. (Pedersen, D. 1997)
-Stigmas result in the person being devalued, lowered in status, stereotyped and victimized by prejudice and discrimination. (Margulis, 2003) They also result in further breaches of privacy because the unstigmatized treat them as objects of curiosity. If the subject is unable to handle these social interactions they feel embarrassed and unwanted. (Margulis, 2003)
Control and Sexual Assault
Violations of privacy come in many forms. Sexual assault is one of the most explicit forms of invasion of privacy. Control issues are key to current theories on why privacy and its loss have negative effects on humanity. Rape has been regarded since the 1970’s to be a crime of violence and control as well as sex.
"Rape is not about sex to the rapist; it has to do with control and power." “Experts say that rape is an expression of sexual aggression rather than an expression of sexuality. Rape is rooted in nonsexual motivation in the psychology of the offender; it is tied to hostility and anger and the need to exert power and control.” 3
“The more comfortable a person is with talking about invasion of privacy and in insisting that he or she has privacy that deserves respect, the clearer that person’s understanding of rape will be…” It is important to be aware of the approach of this subject through the concept of privacy because of the historical background and the need to bypass certain stigmas.
The word ‘rape’ has
a long history of sexual property implications. Originally the rape of
a woman meant she was damaged property of either the father or the husband
(of whom she was the legal property). No one would want to purchase damaged
It is therefore a valid and useful approach to view the concept of rape as a violation of privacy rather than as damage of property.
"Though a rape victim may not sustain substantial physical tissue damage, rapists may inflict significant psychological trauma by asserting uninvited domination, control, and power over the unwilling other (e.g., Brownsmiller, 1975)."(Schneider et. al., 1994) It is important that society be aware of it’s boundaries regarding privacy. “An environment that tolerates rape will also tolerate a range of invasions of one’s own privacy…” and perhaps the other way around. The feeling of being “soiled” experienced in rape is linked to that of personal disclosures of an unpleasant nature. Rape is a crime of “sex, violence, power, and an invasion of privacy… in a rape, power is asserted by invading privacy through sexual means with violence implied or threatened. All elements are there together.” (Mclean, D. 1995) Violation of privacy is an abuse of power. “Often the motive for invading privacy is to exert power over the person whose privacy is invaded…this is a motive to not merely control another person’s behavior but to also break his or her heart or spirit so that one’s dominator can approach completeness.” (Mclean, D. 1995)
"If she is looking for counsel and letting out her feelings to someone," she said of her granddaughter, "she would hope it would be kept confidential."
Sedney, Mary Anne, "rape (crime)." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (January 6, 2006).
Vito, Gennaro F., "crime." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (January 6, 2006).
Further definitions of control:
Altman’s definition of privacy emphasized “the selective control of access to the self.” 16 The psychological analysis of privacy yields the following definition: “Privacy, as a whole or in part, represents control over the transactions between the person(s) and other(s), the ultimate aim of which is to enhance autonomy and / or to minimize vulnerability… as well as regulation of access to self.” 17 Most concepts concerning privacy are derived from A. F. Westin’s literature on the subject. Altman is another prominent figure in the field. 16 Privacy has also been described as that which is of legitimate concern only to the self (not of others). 5 Privacy is an individual’s claim to determine what information should be known to others as well as when and what uses will be made of it. 29 The difference between privacy and solitude is that the later is the wish to be alone. Privacy involves control over that situation in either direction. 5 Altman had a very large influence on how researchers understand privacy.
The four types (or states) of privacy according
to Westin are:
Resources to research this subject:
Rape, Control and Privacy
1 (2003). What Causes Eating Disorders.
Retrieved Dec. 12, 2003, http://www.pbs.org/perfectillusions/
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