I Think: Why shouldn’t we interview a rapist to find out what drove him?

Senior journalist Maya Mirchandani believes there is a need for ‘psychological profiles’ of perpetrators

‘When the media does decide to question [rape culture], they’re regarded as partisan and when they don’t, they’re blamed’. Photo: Aakanksha Jadhav

I read the news multiple times a day. My preferred news sources are newspapers, my Twitter timeline, news apps, mobile alerts and of course, television news in the evening.

I think a lot of us have become extremely brutalised and numb to these stories [of rape], especially as journalists who are in the field. I’m not horrified by most things you may read or see, but I get very shaken when it comes to stories where children are involved and incidents of sexual violence where there is rape with an element of brutality, like a gang-rape or a killing.

Humanising the story is important, we can’t just convert it into a statistic — but then how many do we humanise? I think more empathy is required.

What I think is missing from journalistic interrogation of rape as a crime is the questioning of patriarchy. We’ve heard so often: “The girl’s father or brother has come and spoken to the police, etc.” But where is the mother, the sister or the girlfriend [of the rapist]? Where are these people in the narrative? We don’t know. Beyond the victim/survivor and her immediate family, we don’t know how she is coping psychologically with the trauma or how people around her start viewing her.

Also, why shouldn’t we interview a rapist to find out what drove him to do what he did? Why is that wrong? If you don’t have psychological profiles of these people, how are you going to identify them? No one’s saying we want to find out to justify their crime or as an excuse for what they’re doing.

But, journalists cannot be the only resource for this kind of inquiry. These conversations are not happening enough. You either have the lawyers or the feminists and activists and their perspective. There’s a vast spectrum in between. It will be interesting to see if the media can play a role in highlighting something like this [rape culture] because it’s a catch-22. When the media does decide to question it, they’re regarded as partisan and when they don’t, they’re blamed.

This is part of a series of articles that NewsTracker published from 25 November to 10 December as part of the #16Days activism, aligned with the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence Against Women. This piece was published on Day 5.