Community Psychology is an issue that surpasses an individual’s focus and encompasses socio-cultural, ecological, economic, and political influences and further how such factors contribute to change both at individual and universal levels. Sexual assault is a massive phenomenon in India; statistics on rape have increased over the past decade and in every 20 minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in India (Videka & Lieberman, 2005).
The statistics on women’s rape in India are staggering especially owing to the fact that cases are alarmingly underreported; this is a topic of interest to me since there is seemingly an inclination towards overlooking this horrific human rights violation yet it’s an epidemic that affects the public universally. Even more striking is the revelation that legislation in India is sympathetic to the criminals; in rural areas, victims of rape are prejudiced, humiliated and often portrayed as undeserving in marriages (Videka & Lieberman, 2005).
Relevance of the topic to community Psychology: among other things, Community psychology places emphasis on ecological thinking which tries to place importance on means of improving how individuals and communities interact over and above changing the behaviour of the society’s members. Community Psychology tries to explain the relationships between individuals in the community and systems that govern formal and informal connections; rape therefore relates to community psychology since it explores the interrelated interactions between the society and individuals and how this affects the very individuals (Wandersman & Florin, 2000).
Justifying the need for a solution: Rape as a crime is commonplace in India, in fact, it ranks 4th among the common crimes against women in the country (Nardos, 2003). Almost 98% of rape cases are committed by a person well known to the target, even more striking is the fact that majority of these crimes are unreported hence perpetrators go unpunished. Statistics show that over the past decade, an increasing number of women are now reporting rape incidences, sadly though, the number of reported cases only account for a meager 1% of the sexual assault cases in the entire country. The legal response is alarmingly low: conviction rates have reduced from 44.7% to 26.4% over the past 40 years (Albee & Joffe, 2008). Introducing a prevention/intervention program or social change intermediation in India is paramount.
A person’s growth is affected by five stages influenced by the environment as emphasized by Urie Bronfenbrenner .This Ecological Systems Theory divides an individual’s surrounding into: mesosystems, exosystem, macrosystem, microsystem, and chronosystem. The rationale behind the theory is that the development of a child is affected by the environment and everything around it and is therefore crucial in analyzing the influences in an individual’s life (Videka & Lieberman, 2005).
- The microsystem – This is the first level of the analysis and the most substantial of the theory; it comprises the system that is closest to the individual and includes family, peers and the home setting. Naturally, how a person reacts to the microsystem dictates how the system treats then in exchange.
- The Mesosystem–This is the second level and is made up of the system with an indirect impact on the individual’s behaviour; it involves interactions within the microsystem.
- The Exosystems –This level doesn’t affect the individual actively but does due to his passive involvement; for instance, the child is not directly involved in matters such as his parent getting an employment promotion but is still equally affected (Wharf & McKenzie, 2008).
- Macrosystems –Encompasses the cultural customs and values of the country. For instance, political, cultural and economic environments have an impact on a person’s development.
Using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model: Macrosystems-Rape, sexual harassment in general, molestation among crimes of such nature are interconnected with the nature of cultural norms and values of the Indian society (Montero, 2008).
Domestic Violence is widely acceptable in Indian society: India is widely considered to have disgraceful conditions for women. Wife battering is considered deserving: a report by UNICEF in 2012 revealed that 57% and 53% of Indian boys and girls respectively believe that wife battering is justifiable; even shocking is the revelation that the very women believe that they merit such beatings (Montero, 2008). The Indian woman is generally vulnerable outside the confines of her home, a fact admitted even by the authorities; this explains gang rapes even in public transport vehicles. The overall low status of the Indian women is a stinging fact; women are overburdened by the requirement to pay dowry, the Indian boy is often positioned to better educational/career prospects as compared to their female counterparts. Outstandingly, the court system is sluggish that it’s a silent mockery of justice.
The solutions: Establishing Rape Crisis Centers
Establishing Community violence Solutions centers is a pragmatic approach to reducing rape in India: the strategy would entail having well trained members of staff and volunteers who will solely offer 24/7 support both one on one and even for victims who call in. Other involved parties would be counselors who take victims through counseling sessions, hospital staff to attend to victims accompanied to such facilities and the police and law enforcers to instigate legal suits against perpetrators (Gottlieb, 2005). Specific healthcare providers coupled with qualified personnel on Sexual Assault will be responsible for coaching volunteers and law enforcers. They will make up the first personnel to respond to victims while pursuing legal redress.
This intervention program can be improved by incorporating societal education: awareness is at the heartbeat of therapy, hence educating the Indian society on sexual assault, improving the social standing of women in the society and avoiding discrimination against women would be of paramount importance.
The Legal solution
The Indian Society needs more stringent/punitive legal solutions; what started as student protests has led to an outcry by the entire populace. The authority must take sexual offense with utmost importance, this must involve reforms in the court system that would include redefining rape even to include marital rape and that involving homosexuals. The current definition is not all inclusive hence elusive. Those involved in facilitating this would be government authorities even to the grassroots levels and local leaders who encourage rape victims to compromise with culprits. Legal processes must be shortened and Conviction rates increased. In this strategy, women must be supported as most of them fear intimidation by the police. Improvement: the social stigma that comes with sexual assault has to be addressed in the society; this will take sensitization supported by the Indian government (Albee & Joffe, 2008).
Community Psychology Principles and Values
The prevention of problems and the promotion of well-being
One of the principle concerns of Community Psychology is the manner in which social systems interact and their resultant effects on the well-being of an individual within the community. Therefore, in both private and public quarters, community psychologists are often involved in solving both social and mental health issues.The emphasis of community psychology goes beyond theoretical solutions and broadens to applications; further from the psychological composition of an individual to groups and communities at large.
Empowerment of members within a community and appreciation of diversity
Most members of the society will appreciate a sense of belonging and appreciation of diversity; community psychology appreciates these principles in harnessing adequate influence in groups or the society. A member’s needs and motivations are important in empowering them, people want a sense of involvement and to feel like their contributions are making a difference in the society (Gottlieb, 2005).
Establishing Rape Crisis Centers
Strengths: These are community based organizations that offer advocacy, community outreach as well as educative programs to victims and the society; they are likely to be very convenient and effective. Secondly, the services they offer even seek to change societal beliefs, cultures, traditions that are detrimental to the fight against rape; this makes it an all-inclusive approach.
Limitations: Retaliation and intimidation might still discourage women from reporting rape cases hence they may fail to take advantage of this advocacy. Moreover, sexual prevalence in marriage is high yet not defined as sexual assault; this makes the fight more frustrating.
The legal Solution:
Strengths: This intervention will lead to better legal protection that favors women, secondly, reforming the justice system and redefining it is just a step in the right direction as far as the fight against sexual assault is concerned.
Limitations: There are legal inefficiencies in the Indian society which makes the achievement of this solution uncertain. Secondly, more punitive measures will just make the court systems lengthier.
Albee, G.W., & Joffe, J.M. (2008). Prevention, powerlessness and politics: Readings on social change. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Gottlieb, B. H. (2005). Social support strategies: guidelines for mental health practice. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Montero, M. (2008). Dialectic between active minorities and majorities: A study of social influence in the community. Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 281-289.
Nardos, R (2003). Overcoming Violence against Women and Girls: The International Campaign to Eradicate a Worldwide Problem. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 54–55.
Videka, S, L. & Lieberman, M. (2005). The effects of self-help and psychotherapy on child loss: The limits of recovery. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55, 70-82.
Wandersman, A., & Florin, P. (2000). Citizen participation, voluntary organizations and community development: Insights for empowerment through research (Special Section). American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 41-177.
Wharf, B., & McKenzie, B. (2008). Connecting policy to practice in the human services. Toronto: Oxford University Press.