12 Sep 2013

A quarter of rapists in Bougainville committed rape as youngsters

4:59 pm on 12 September 2013

A quarter of Bougainvillean men who have admitted to rape were fourteen years or younger when they first committed the crime.

That is one finding of a United Nations study which surveyed 10,000 men on violence against women in the Asia Pacific region.

The Partners for Prevention programme covered nine sites including the autonomous Papua New Guinea region.

The programme co-ordinator, James Lang, says Bougainville shows the highest rates of physical and sexual violence, with violent men reporting high rates of childhood neglect or emotional abuse.

JAMES LANG: We know that the experiences of conflict in the two sites where we studied where there had been ongoing conflict the rates of violence are quite high. These are contexts where violence has been normalised and many individuals - men, women and children - have been traumatised, which points to a cycle of violence - violence against women and girls being connected to violence that's experienced by men. This is borne out in non-conflict sites, as well, where we see a very strong association between men's experiences of trauma as children and their use of violence later in life. Witnessing their mother being abused or experiencing physical sexual violence or even neglect and emotional abuse as children is strongly associated with violence. So I think it's this normalisation and this trauma that we really have to look at in places like Bougainville.

SALLY ROUND: Yes, because you found that more than 65% of men in Bougainville reported experiencing emotional abuse or neglect as children and they were twice as likely to use violence against a female partner.

JL: That's right. I think it calls for much greater attention to psycho-social approaches that are essentially helping people heal from violence that has been so prevalent in their community as part of a strategy to end violence against women and girls. We cannot neglect the experiences of violence that men have had themselves.

SR: So how do you practically implement a programme that focuses on those issues?

JL: There's a number of ways just to start. The context is very dependant on what kind of services are available already, what kind of social services. But I think that working with communities and being able to bring out the experiences of trauma to help deal with them, to work on individual levels with men and women who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and then working on some of the other factors that we saw that were associated with rape and physical or partner violence in some of the sites. But in the medium term I think it's the healing from trauma that's really the priority.

SR: You say focusing on boys and adolescents?

JL: Yeah, particularly for the longer-term prevention. What the lower age of rape perpetration has led us to believe is that we need interventions that help build healthy visions of manhood for young men, help young men understand healthy relationships and consent, particularly. We're advocating for many more of these programmes, some of which have been shown to work to change practices later in life. But this is a longer-term approach for prevention.