Sexual Offenders (Rapists): A General Profile
It is clear that blaming uncontrolled, intense sexual lust as a cause for rape is too simplistic. Evidence suggests that sexual deprivation is not an essential component for rape (Howitt, 1991 a). Moreover, in many rape cases, there is violence involved. According to Loyd and Walmsley (1989), rape cases in the UK are typically accompanied by violence. One victim in eight requires hospital care post victimisation. Thus, the motives behind rape are far more complex than the classic libidinous needs alone.
Offender profiler, Hazelwood (1987) suggested that rape can manifest in a variety of forms and the following types of rapists should be considered:
1. The power-assurance rapist aka ‘‘opportunity rapist or gentleman rapist’’:
This is the most common type of rapist. The rapist is engaging in the offence in an attempt to manage or deal with his insecurities regarding his masculinity. In most cases, the offence will not help with the deep insecurities experienced by the rapist, therefore he will offend again after a short period of time (7–15 day cycle — biological clock). He is insecure and needs a confirmation of his manhood (believes that the victim enjoyed the rape), feels deeply inadequate with women (self-doubt). Moreover, he wants to possess, not harm, and restore his self-confidence.
He will pre-select his victims (peeping Tom) and plan the attack beforehand. The victim lives or works in close proximity with the offender and he will claim that they know each other even if that is not true on the victim’s part.
M.O. (Modus Operandi): This rapist is unorganised, his attacks are non-lethal and usually short, longer with compliance from the victim. He will not cause unnecessary harm and will only use threats for compliance. His attacks are mainly verbal, will threaten with a weapon but often without having one. This rapist will constantly reassure the victim’s safety, compliment, and apologise to the victim. i.e.:
‘’ I won’t hurt you, I just want sex”
“I want you to enjoy this, I’m sorry, I want anal sex, grab the lubricant because I don’t want to hurt you too much”
“I’m sorry I don’t know why but I had to do this, tell me if I hurt you but do as I say because if you don’t it might hurt”
“If you cooperate, I will be your boyfriend, you are beautiful”
Moreover, this rapist will instigate the victim to talk dirty to him but will not engage in returning the obscene talk. Will attempt foreplay, ask the victim to undress herself (relationship like), will involve the victim in the sexual activity and will not engage in alternate practices, and if so, he will apologise. He is unselfish and wont exhibit aggression in the process. In addition, if the victim is passive enough to allow it, the rapists will express his sexual fantasies during intercourse (National Centre for Women and Policing, 2001).
His signature comprises the taking of ‘trophies’ from the victims, such as clothing, underwear, etc. Will often record the rape and believe that the experience was pleasurable for the victim as well. He believes that the victim has shown, at some point, some sexual interest in him and by the use of force, he will persuade the victim to like him (Craissati, 2005). This rapist will often contact the victim post attack.
The average Education level for this rapist is the 10th grade. Low or average intelligence with a menial occupation: steady job. It is most often single and living with one or both of parents, specifically an aggressive and seductive mother. Few or no friends at all and no sex partner. Nonathletic, socially awkward and isolated, shy, and insecure with interests in pornography, voyeurism, and fetishes.
2. The power-assertive rapist:
This type of rapist is most common in date-rape. This rapist is insecure but presents himself confident and as the ‘macho’ man. The motivation behind the rape is to express his virility, sexuality, and power over women. The rape serves as a confirmation of manhood (he is a man; therefore, he is entitled to rape). Presents an overactive ego and feels inadequate with women. The offence will start off in a friendly manner but will quickly change. The frequency of offending might be scattered and irregular in occurrence. His threats are mainly verbal but will use force to ensure cooperation. He likes to control and humiliate the victims. This rapist is very competent socially and will demand victim interaction: the rapist’s pleasure in the primary.
Moreover, he will use dirty, obscene language and will be explicit and demanding with the victims. i.e.:
“I want you on top, play with yourself”
“I can give you the wildest sex of your life”
“You have sex written all over your face”
His goal is to conquer and control and will often attack single victims. In addition, he will sexually punish the victims by biting, pulling, and pinching. Bondage is a part of his MO and, similar with the anger retaliatory rapist, his main goal is to humiliate the victim. He will use moderate to high aggression, will rip the victim’s clothes to intimidate and will gain compliance by force. Although, his attack is not meant to be lethal, sometimes the violence might be extreme, especially in the later stages and death can occur.
M.O.: unorganised behaviour as he cannot control his impulses, but the presence of a weapon can show organisation. The victim selection is mostly opportunistic but, at times, he will select his victims in advance. This rapist will select a safe location where he will transport the victim for the assault. He will hold the victim captured during the rape and will show zero respect for the victim. Further on, he desires to control the victim sexually and, unlike the power-assurance rapist, he wants to traumatise her physically and emotionally.
In 69% of the cases, the power-assertive rapist is raised by a single-parent and in 74% of the cases, he was abused as a child. A high school dropout, divorced multiple times but has a sex partner constantly. Presents domestic problems, violence, and assault as a means to validate his macho image. Quite often, this rapist has a military background but was dishonourably discharged due to bad behaviour.
This rapist frequents single bars, appears to be very confident with a masculine type of job such as construction worker or police officer. Often good looking and athletic.
3. The anger-retaliatory rapist:
This type of rapist presents extremely high levels of anger towards females or towards a woman in particular (mother, partner, etc). He will often misdirect the hatred impulses towards a random victim. His goal is to blame and hurt women for his unfortunate life. He will use torture and humiliate the victim as much as possible. Believes that self-importance is crucial and presents himself as socially competent. He is athletic and very masculine. His attacks will be short and intense (blitz) and will be brutal and violent, using sex as a weapon. He will re-offend on a 6 months, one-year cycle, dependable on the build-up anger.
Very selfish, no foreplay, will not negotiate and will display anger onto the victim. In addition, he will rip the victim’s clothes and will force acts in order to humiliate her. Will use obscene language. i.e.:
“This is what is going to happen if you ever think about leaving me”
“I will kill your new boyfriend”
“Where is your boyfriend now?”
M.O.: In preparation for the offence, he will dress in military or police uniforms and although he tends to be unorganised, he will be organised in the process. His attacks are often lethal, involving excessive brutality and injury. The victim will be chosen based on its resemblance with the women he has a grudge on. Further on, the victim is the same race as him, and same age, sometimes older. He will use weaponry (explosives) and the more organised, the more extensive the weaponry will be. After he discharged the anger, he often leaves the body at the scene.
The average Education level for this type of rapist is the 9th grade. He comes from an unhealthy home, abused by parents. 80% of the anger-retaliatory rapists come from divorced homes and more than 40% spent time in foster care. Subsequently, he is often a drug or alcohol abuser and commits adultery on a daily basis. He is married but does not abuse or assault his wife.
He will always induce physical harm before sexual harm.
4. The anger-excitement rapist/sadistic rapist:
This rapist gains sexual gratification from the victim’s suffering. He presents sexual-aggressive fantasies and will seek to control, torture, and assault his victims. Moreover, he wants to inflict physical and psychological pain on the victim, but his final goal is to KILL.
He chooses his victims based on the things he wants to destroy. If a victim reflects that thing, he will not hesitate to offend. Will use physical force and weapons (rape kit). It is hard to predict the re-offending time span, but his rapist presents a pattern of a 30-day cycle.
He appears charming and intelligent and will gain the victim’s trust. The longer the encounter, the more extreme the mood swings of the perpetrator. Will use a hostile language rather than obscene and will demand the victim to call him certain names to establish dominance. He will use torture and considered that the victim is meaningless. I.e.:
“Keep your voice down or I will kill you”
“You’re going to earn it you bitch, stop your whining, if you don’t shut up I’ve got a knife”
“Shut up bitch, don’t move and it will not hurt”
“Do you like that, bitch?”
He usually blindfolds or ties his victims in order to terrify them. Will prolong the pain over a long period of time and mutilate body parts (necrophilia).
M.O.: killing the victim. He is an organised offender but will be opportunistic in his victim selection. He plans every detail and kills methodically but his murders are highly ritualistic. His victims are usually vulnerable with low self-esteem, non-aggressive and easily seducible and always a stranger. Disposes the body of the victim, will most likely hide it or burry it in a secluded place. This rapist’s aggression increases with each attack.
He is usually mildly intoxicated or drugged during the offence that will take hours or even days. He uses special instruments to attack with a sexually predominant aspect expressed through eroticised sex and violence.
This rapist often leads a secret life. He is a married man, middle-classed with a white-collar or corporate occupation. Usually has a college education and a good job but he presents aggressive behaviours at the workplace and tends to be obsessive-compulsive. Presents a antisocial personality.
More than 50% of the sadistic rapists/murderers were raised in a single parent house with divorced parents. More than 70% were physically abused and raised in a sexually deviant home.
The use of denial is very common between sex offenders (Abel et al., 1987). Rapists that deny their offence attribute the blame and responsibility on the victim and the ones that admit their crimes attribute the cause to their substance abuse or emotional problems. This can be highly problematic due to the likelihood of re-offending. Individuals that deny a behaviour as an offence, will not stop from adopting the same behaviour in the future.
Do sex offenders deserve our empathy and understanding, or they are just deviant human beings acting on their hedonistic, criminal impulses?!
Stay tuned for the next article!
Craissati, J., South, R., and Bierer, K. (2009) ‘Exploring the effectiveness of community sex offender treatment in relation to risk and re-offending’ Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology 20(6), 769–784
Craissati, J. and McClurg, G. (1997) ‘The Challenge Project: a treatment program evaluation for perpetrators of child abuse’ Child Abuse and Neglect 21 (7), 637–48.
Cramer, D. and Howitt, D. (1998) ‘Romantic love and the psychology of sexual behaviour: open and closed secrets’ in V.C. de Munck (ed.) Romantic Love and Sexual Behaviour: Perspectives from Social Sciences. Westport, CT: Praeger, pp. 113–32
Hazelwood, R. R. (1987) ‘Analyzing the rape and profiling the offender’ in R. R. Hazelwood and A. W. Burgees (eds) Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation: A Multidisciplinary Approach. New York: Elsevier. pp.16–24.
Howitt, D. (1991a) ‘Britain’s ‘’substance abuse policy’’: realities and regulation in the United Kingdom’. International Journal of the Addictions 3, 1087–111.
Loyd, C. and Walmsley, R. (1989) ‘Changes in rape offences and sentencing’ Home Office Study №105. London:HMSO.
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