Anyone interviewing 100 convicted rapists would no doubt have a few things to say.
But what Madhumita Pandey, an Indian master’s student, has to say might surprise you.
When Pandey was just 22 she visited Tihar Jail in the Indian city of New Delhi to work on her thesis.
With over 10,000 inmates, it is the largest prison system in South Asia.
It was after the highly publicised and brutal gang rape of a woman referred to as Nirbhaya (meaning “the fearless one”) in 2012 when Pandey was inspired to better understand the attitudes of men that commit rape.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Pandey discussed her findings and how she even felt sorry for some of them.
“After you speak to [the rapists], it shocks you — these men have the power to make you feel sorry for them. As a woman that’s not how you expect to feel. I would almost forget that these men have been convicted of raping a woman. In my experience, a lot of these men don’t realize that what they’ve done is rape. They don’t understand what consent is,” she said.
Not only do the men not understand what consent is, the majority of the prisoners she spoke to were largely uneducated — most hadn’t even completed three years of schooling.
Some were so unaware that what they were doing was wrong that Pandey revealed less than five percent had expressed remorse.
Even when they were remorseful, their attempts at repenting often made matters worse.
One rapist, referred to by Padney as participant 49, particularly stuck in the now-26-year-old’s mind.
After raping a five-year-old girl for “provoking” him, the 23-year-old prisoner told Pandey he would fix the situation by marrying the child when he got out of prison.
It’s only been five years since the rape, meaning the child is only 10. The man is due for release in five years.
Pandey asked the man if he felt bad.
“Yes, I feel bad, I ruined her life. Now she is no longer a virgin, no one would marry her,” he said.
“I would accept her, I will marry her when I come out of jail,” he told her.
After the rape of Nirbhaya in 2012, Pandey, like most of the world, believed the men involved, and rapists in general, were monsters.
“When I went to research, I was convinced these men are monsters. But when you talk to them, you realize these are not extraordinary men, they are really ordinary. What they’ve done because of upbringing and thought process,” she said.
Studies show that in India more than 90 percent of rape cases go unreported meaning that the true number of rapes is far higher than the 35,000 officially reported in 2015.
Just yesterday, a 32-week-old baby removed from the womb of a 13-year-old Indian girl died after she was granted permission by the court to terminate the pregnancy to save her own life.
The girl had been raped by her father’s colleague and the pregnancy only came to light because her parents had taken her to the doctor thinking she was obese.
According to the BBC, a child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes in India while a child under 10 is raped every 13 hours.
“Everyone’s out to make it look like there’s something inherently wrong with [rapists]. But they are a part of our own society. They are not aliens who’ve been brought in from another world,” Pandey said.