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Qualitative Social Research

In her article, “A Glimpse Inside”, the author explains that the goal of her project was to determine from their perspective, why rapists commit their sexual violence against women, because prior to the 1970’s feminist movement, there was no research on the issue as the male dominated field had not considered it as a serious problem.

The focus of the article is a description of the difficulties in methodology, and the only conclusion offered is that the sampling can be divided into three groups, that is, the “admitters” who acknowledge their rape but down play its’ brutality and sensitive details such as the victim being a relative, the “deniers” who admit sexual contact but deny or excuse the rape saying for example “she led me on”, and the “outright deniers” who deny any sexual contact claiming for example mistaken identity.

The author explains that she used interviews rather than other techniques such as questionnaires, because this method better enables her to judge whether sensitive information provided is truthful. However she points out a number of problems and limitations, resulting from a low reporting and even lower conviction rate. Rapes committed by relatives in particular tend to be under reported because of family shame and other reasons, and of course researches cant interview this kind of undetected group.

The men incarcerated are more likely to be strangers to the victim, use severe violence, have also committed other crimes and are from low income minorities. She describes the need to make inmates participation confidential and voluntary, and to gain their trust resulting in a greter likelihood of getting accurate information. She also admits she initially had some concern as a female in the very male macho prison environment, but in the end felt it was an advantage as men are more likely to express their true feelings to a woman as they are less likely to consider her as a rival or threat.

Also as a researcher, she is more likely to gain trust than the authoritarian guard or other prison official. On the other hand she points out the dangers of too much rapport, as inmates then expect favors which the researcher should not deliver. Finally she states that she is constrained by the restrictions of the National Research Act which provides protection for subjects, from other things for inappropriate use of the data obtained. Thus prisoners are protected from repercussions because of confessing previously unreported crimes unless they are planned future events and therefore pose a danger to prospective victims.

If one reads this article with the expectation that it will provide insight into why men rape, they will be disappointed. However if it is read simply as an explanation of the methodology involved, the problems encountered with this and the steps taken to reduce them as much as possible, I believe it shows that the author attempted to be as scientific as possible. Reference Scully, Diana (1990) “Understanding Sexual Violence. A Study of Convicted Rapists” New York, Routledge. Ch. 1 “A Glimpse Inside pp. 1-31.

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