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The experiences and social factors influencing the behavior of incarcerated rapists in a male prison in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Introduction: South Africa is amongst the leading countries in the world to record high rate of sexual violence against women and children. South Africa has been labelled “the rape capital of the world” with 116 rape cases reported daily. Sexual violence against women and children is a global pandemic with severe health problems, economic burden and a major violation of women’s / children’s human right. The overwhelming majority of sexual offences against women and children is perpetrated by men. However, international and South African research has been largely focused on exploring the victims behaviour and recovery after rape, with scarcely any research investigating factors that influence the behaviour of the rape perpetrator. To fully explore factors that influence the rape perpetrator The Integrated Theory of Sexual Offending approach must be considered. Methods: Men incarcerated for rape were interviewed with a Semi-Structured Interview questions with focal domains of 1) Personal History, 2) Family upbringing and 3) Reason for Incarceration. Questions for domains were drawn from: their personal history and lifepath, childhood history and family history of violence, their perspectives on sexual behaviour, myths or beliefs related to sexual violence and rape, their mentors or role models, perspective on criminal behaviour and cultural contextualization and their religious and spiritual background. Each participant was interviewed privately after voluntary consent. The interview was voice recorded. The data were translated and transcribed. The data were analysed using Thematic and Content analysis methods. Results: Our findings described the experiences of various factors that potentially drive the antisocial and aggressive behaviour on men incarcerated for rape. We found that all participants were exposed to at least one form of childhood trauma. Most participants were exposed to family and/or community violence. The majority of participants avoided taking responsibility for their rape actions and often blamed the victim, and recidivism was common. Conclusion: The study demonstrates a complex personality cycle from being abused to being an abuser. Additionally, the study reveals the need for intervention for children at risk of trauma, neglect and abuse. Finally, the study provides a foundation to explore interlocking biological factors and neuropsychosocial functions and social leaning of the rape perpetrator.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.