Anuja Kapur is a renowned criminal psychologist and the founder of ‘Nirbhiya – Ek Shakti’, a center for assistance for sexual rape survivors which provides assistance to victims in the form of counseling, legal aid, vocational courses, and rehabilitation. She was recently felicitated by the IARDO for her work in the field of Indian Criminal Psychology.
In 2011, The Center for Disease Control in the USA published 31 risk factors for the perpetration of youth violence. It also listed that the adoption of certain protective factors shields the at-risk youth. What’s your take on them?
In India, we are not actively scanning people. We do have the Juvenile Justice Act and the POCSO Act; If a minor is raped, it comes under the POCSO Acts. But if a minor is committing the act of rape, it is covered under the Juvenile Justice Act. The question arises that how do we figure if a juvenile is capable of committing a crime. Here, we first have to look into their history and parental involvement: Is it a hereditary issue? Do the parents share the criminality somehow, in case the child is adopted? And similarly in the case of biological parents.
Secondly, we examine the genetic aspects of the child, where we talk about the pre-frontal cortex and the medulla. We figure out the brain mapping, how the neurons are being triggered, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and how low or high it goes in situations when they face aggression, violence, sympathy, apathy, and empathy.
Thirdly, we consider the social-stigma, socio-environment, and socio-psychological aspects, wherein we talk about the environment they were brought up in, the nature of the nurturer, peer group, etc. We also consider if the minor was a victim of sexual or domestic violence at a young age, their home dynamic, or if they were bullied at school because all these are factors contribute to the holistic development of the child, and demonstrate how a child growing up in these circumstances can grow into a victimized adult, and later on turn to criminal activity, having developed sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies as a result of the trauma. Other times, they grow up to depressed and commit suicide.
With no power over the genetic temperament of a child, how much do you believe effective parenting – in terms of how they shape the child to respond to a situation, can have an impact on a criminal personality?
25% of a child’s make up of the mind is derived from the parental aspect. If a child is adopted, and the parents do not possess any criminal history, there still are chances of the child developing criminal tendencies. In case there are 2 siblings: one is notorious and the other is not, where the parents have loved and nurtured both equally, here, we have to look into the personality of each child.
Society and schooling also play an important role in shaping the mind. From hereditary behaviors to the environment and peer group, all these dictate whether a child gets into alcohol, drugs, porn, and other destructive habits.
Sometimes, good parenting and self-discipline suppress these, but trauma can undo the good work and bring out what was buried deep within the subconscious.
What type of behavioral therapy programs would you like to inculcate into our penalty systems, especially for juveniles in the correctional centers?
We call these correctional centers foster homes. I believe, that we first have to create rehabilitation centers before we create any laws. Because if laws are being created and implemented, then the children have to be rehabilitated in a parallel time frame, and rehabilitation can only be successful if proper centers with good capacity exist. We must reverse engineer the whole process. The mental makeup of a child who might resort to criminal activities can be checked up at a very young age(2-5 years), in case, the parents have a criminal history or are currently in jail, and proper intervention should be undertaken by psychiatrists, counselors, and psychologists. Shock therapies, neuron settling medicines can be very effective if treatment is started at a young age.
When we talk about juvenile centers, we hardly see any psychologists on-call, and if by chance they are any, they are also traumatized to the extent that they need counseling. The government does not believe in reformation, just the retributive theory: an eye for an eye. But the times call for restorative justice and transitional justice.
Who do you think poses a greater threat to society – a sociopath or a psychopath?
That is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. A psychopath shows socially irresponsible behavior because they believe they can get away with anything. A psychopath’s pre-frontal cortex’s activity lacks any hint of empathy and thus, they are irreformable. They are the ones who should be put behind bars and never be allowed to venture outside. Sociopaths are hot-blooded criminals who are victims of societal aggression. They harbor empathy and remorse and are capable of reform.
There has been a steady increase in crime at home, especially rape, during the lockdown. What could be the reason behind this?
Before the lockdown, these rapists had a lot of options for instant gratification with women. Now that they have been at home for so long, that channel has closed, so they are forcing their libido on the people at home who are weaker and can’t run or fight back – children and women. These rapists are unable to sexually satisfy themselves as they’re unable to hire a sex-worker or meet with their mistress. They also think that they can get away with it at home.
You have been appointed as a special police officer in the northwest district by the Delhi Police due to your impressive track record. Can you tell us about a case that you identify as an important turning point for yourself?
Every case is a turning point, but when I started investigation, it was because I was there at the scene of the crime. It was a POCSO human trafficking case wherein a child from Pune and a young girl from Delhi were being brutally raped. After intervening, I approached the Bombay High Court where the judge intervened, and in the presence of the advocate general of Maharashtra and the commissioner of police, I submitted the case to the state CID. I stand by, and for acid attack survivors, rape victims and victims of domestic violence, so every case is a turning point for me. The Arushi Talwar case was a major turning point too because it inspired me to take up law. I was intrigued and wanted the understand the legal working of the case and thus, I got a law degree.
There is a theory that the fear of victimization has been identified to be the highest in women and elders in many countries. Do you believe such a model exists in India as well? Do you suspect that this fear accredits the crime?
We have to understand why a certain kind of a perpetrator chooses a certain kind of a victim. This information can come to light by studying the victim’s pattern which landed him/her on the criminal’s platter. If you tell people that you are empowering women by wearing short clothes, then I’m sorry to tell you that things won’t change overnight. A lot of variables are involved in such a situation. These criminals do not care if you are making a statement, they only see that you are wearing a short dress which will be easy for them to take off, the lights are dim, it’ll be easier to corner you, you are slightly tipsy, so you’ll be slow on reflexes. There are cases where onlookers have just done that – look. So how do we protect ourselves? You have to remain practical at all times while venturing outside. Fear is also negative energy, and imagining these negative realities happening to you accredit these crimes, and can lead to a victimological blackout. Fear is not all bad, as it sometimes stops you from doing crazy things, but obsessing over it makes you vulnerable.
Do you believe that the current justice system effectively shields against secondary or re-victimization of victims? What changes would you like to implement in favor of the victims and survivors?
People rarely realize or acknowledge victimization, so secondary victimization comer very late. Firstly, people should understand who is the victim in a given situation, and why they behave in a certain manner, and laws need to be put in place to safeguard the victim’s interests. There must be a compromise, apart from just compensation and the laws should be made compoundable in favor of the victims. Also, the criminal justice system should be rebranded as victim justice system. By naming it the ‘criminal’ justice system, I believe we are unable to understand the very root of it. Secondary victimization refers to behaviors and attitudes of social service providers that are “victim-blaming” and being insensitive which traumatizes victims of violence even more. There needs to be a shift to understanding the crime from a victim’s perspective, rather than that of the perpetrator.
Despite the Supreme Court placing a ban on the ‘two-finger test’ for assessment of rape, it is very much prevalent in the country. Moreover, most of the victims don’t know their rights and the police have not been trained to deal with assault against women. How do you think this can be tackled?
Building on my last answer, secondary victimization comes mostly from the police because they are the first people who should be bridging the gap but are not trained to deal with sensitive situations of such nature. They also belong to communities speaking certain “harsh-sounding” regional languages, and with their close contact with criminals, they often forget how to talk gently and sensitively with people who have come to them to seek aid. There is also the problem of hierarchy, as the senior police officials are unable to understand the problems faced by the constables. In other countries, officers rise through the rank of constables to higher positions thus having a good understanding of the ground issues. But there are different entrance exams and criteria of joining the force for senior officials, which leaves them unable to understand the grassroots reality. The senior officials are more concerned about quashing and compromising, rather than understanding the case. If only they would exercise the precise duties allotted to them, and stop the moral-policing!