U.N. Study Finds High Rates Of Rape In Asian Countries

A new study finds extremely high rates of rape in six Asian and Pacific countries.

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In a new U.N. study from Asia, a quarter of men surveyed, out of more than 10,000, say they have raped a woman. Published in the journal Lancet Global Health, it's one of the largest studies ever commissioned on the perpetration of rape.

As NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, the study explores the rates of sexual violence and the factors that contribute to it.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The men were not asked questions directly by a researcher. Instead, the men sat alone and answered questions on an iPod touch. The survey also didn't use the word rape. The men responded to questions about whether they'd ever forced someone to have sex or whether they'd ever had intercourse with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to give her consent.

The survey was conducted in six different countries. Rates of rape varied widely. For instance, in Bangladesh, 11 percent of men said they'd forced someone to have sex at some point in time. In Papua New Guinea, 61 percent of men confessed to having done so.

James Lang, one of the authors of the report, says many other studies of sexual violence gathered information from the victims. But his team really wanted to understand what was driving the perpetrators.

JAMES LANG: We asked them why they did it. And the most common answer by far was this sense of sexual entitlement; that men felt entitled to women's bodies regardless of consent.

BEAUBIEN: Lang says these men had, in his words, narrow views about the roles of women in society. He says the men also tended to have very narrow, idealized visions of men.

LANG: You know, men who believed that men must be in control; that men must be tough and able to use violence, and that men should be sexually dominant. Those men that held those kinds of visions of manhood were much, much more likely to use violence.

BEAUBIEN: Another finding from the survey was that more than half of the men who said they had raped a woman, said they'd first done so while they were still teenagers.

Lang says these types of details from the survey offer hope because, combined with data that show low rates of rape in some other communities, this information can help point out where anti-violence messages should be targeted.

Professor Michele Decker, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, calls this new study groundbreaking.

MICHELE DECKER: I think the numbers are shocking. The prevalence is shocking because we don't like to think that this is happening.

BEAUBIEN: Decker, who's studied rape and domestic violence around the world, says however that people shouldn't be all that shocked by this study because its simply confirming what women have been saying for years. She says it's now generally accepted that globally, 1 out of every 3 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.

DECKER: So when you consider the data that, the evidence that we have about victimization among women, the prevalence of perpetration is not at all surprising. We know that somebody has to be perpetrating this abuse. And that this study is telling us what are the factors that would make somebody more likely to perpetrate.

BEAUBIEN: She says the study is most relevant to the six Asian Pacific countries where it was conducted. But she adds that it also offers insight into what drives men to rape here in the United States.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Washington.

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