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Home » Criminal Law, Psychology

Psychology, rape and the attribution of responsibility

Submitted by on March 9, 2010 – 3:33 pmNo Comment

If a crime has been committed against a person should the victim be blamed or held responsible in any way? Will the answer to the question be influenced by the type of crime? If the answer is in the affirmative, will (should) the punishment inflected on the perpetrator be of a lesser degree than if it was otherwise?

Last month ‘Wake Up To Rape’ report by Havens rape centres in London found ‘that more than half of women believe victims share the blame for what happens’. Over at the psychology eye blog, Matthew Hall looks at some of the (social) psychological reasons why more than half of the subjects (women) said that they should share some of the blame.

‘’This provides an alarming example of the self-serving attributional phenomenon – attribution of responsibility (Weiner, 1995). In short, some social psychologists believe that people hold on to the notion of a ‘just world’ (Lerner, 1977). That is, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. In this view of the world, sits the ‘illusion of control’ (Langer, 1975). In other words, people believe they and others are in control of their own lives and destinies. What happens to them therefore, is to a large extent their own doing. Unfortunately, this belief also extends to victims of crimes in which people frequently hold them accountable for their own misfortunes. Miller and Porter (1983) also suggest that victims draw on the notion of the ‘just world’ to account for their victimization. Havens rape centres report provides some evidence of a ‘gendered’ self-blame. Of those women questioned, over 50% suggested the victim should ‘share the blame’. The reasons women cited for this were, ‘wearing provocative clothes’ and ‘engaging in conversation in a bar or accepting a drink’. Ironically, by victims attributing some responsibility on themselves, they reinstate the ‘illusion of control’ (Hogg and Vaughan, 2005).’’

From an Islamic perspective we are certain that there are some situations where if the crime or disobedience committed against the Law giver the perpetrator is not held responsible. The following report is used by the scholars to substantiate this claim: Sayyidunah Ali said: ‘’Have you not learnt that the pen is raised from three: from the mad until he recovers, from the infant until he comes to discern, and from the sleeper until he wakes up?’’ (Bukhari).  Also, “Allah has pardoned my people for the acts they do by mistake, due to forgetfulness, and what they are coerced into doing” (Ibn Majah)

Rape is considered one of the most heinous crimes in Islam.  Shaykh Sami al Majid (islamtoday.com) says: ‘’If it is confirmed that a man engaged in sexual intercourse with a woman by threatening to kill her or by using some kind of drug or anaesthetic, then his crime will be more serious than that of consentual sex. The punishment thereto is death by execution. He will not be entitled to any pardon or reprieve whatsoever, regardless of whether he was single or married. The one who forces sex upon someone else under threat of death is an evil and vile member of the society and should be purged. He is involved in an act of open violence and transgression against others and the spread of mischief throughout the land.’’

The punishment prescribed by the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) for the rapist is death by execution: His is the fate of bandits and highway robbers: Allah says: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” [Surah al-Maidah: 33].

In Islam, the woman (victim) is not held responsible in any way. A woman will not be punished if  she was forced into the act.

Even if the woman dresses inappropriately or in a provocative manner the Shari’ah  does not in any way blame her for the crime committed against her. There is no verse in the Qur’an or in authentic traditions of the Prophet which suggests or elicits blame on the victim. All women, including all men, are responsible to carry out their responsibilities and part of the responsibilities of women is that they dress modestly (hijab). Therefore, there is no justification, in Islam, to say that ‘she is asking for it’ or anything like that. Psychologically, if people follow this line of thinking then they will be opening to doors to whole array of problems.

Wallahu ‘alam

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