TUCoPS :: Truly Miscellaneous :: srrapist.txt

The Criminal Behavior of the Serial Rapist

        THE CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR OF THE SERIAL RAPIST                        

                 Robert R. Hazelwood, M.S.                                     
                      Special Agent                                            
        Behavioral Science Instruction/Research Unit                      
                      Quantico, VA


                    Janet Warren, D.S.W.
               Institute of Psychiatry and Law
                  University of Virginia                        
                    Charlottesville, VA
     From 1984 to 1986, FBI Special Agents assigned to the 
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) 
interviewed 41 men who were responsible for raping 837 victims. 
Previous issues of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin provided an 
introduction to this research (1) and the characteristics of the 
rapists and their  victims. (2)  This article, however, describes 
the behavior of these serial rapists during and following the 
commission of their sexual assaults.  The information presented 
is applicable only to the men interviewed; it is not intended to 
be generalized to all men who rape.                               

     The majority of the sexual attacks (55-61%) committed by 
these men were premeditated across their first, middle, and last 
rapes, while fewer rapists reported their crimes as being 
impulsive (15-22%) or opportunistic (22-24%).  Although no 
comparable data on serial rape are available, it is probable that 
the premeditation involved in these crimes is particularly 
characteristic of these serial rapists.  It is also probable that 
this premeditation is reflective of their preferential interest 
in this type of crime and largely accounts for their ability to 
avoid detection.                                                  

METHODS OF APPROACH                                               

     There are three different styles of approach rapists 
frequently use:  The ``con,'' the ``blitz,'' and the 
``surprise.'' (3)  Each reflects a different means of selecting, 
approaching and subduing a chosen victim.
     The ``Con'' Approach
     Case Number 1                                                     

     John, a man who raped more than 20 women, told the 
interviewers that he stopped one of his victims late at night and 
identified himself as a plainclothes police officer.  He asked 
for her driver's license and registration, walked back to his car 
and sat there for a few moments.  He then returned to the victim, 
advised her that her registration had expired and asked her to 
accompany him to his car.  She did so, and upon entering the car, 
he handcuffed her and drove to an isolated location where he 
raped and sodomized the victim.                                   

     As in the above case account, the con approach involves 
subterfuge and is predicated on the rapist's ability to interact 
with women.  With this technique, the rapist openly approaches 
the victim and requests or offers some type of assistance or 
direction.  However, once the victim is within his control, the 
offender may suddenly become more aggressive.        
     The con approach was used in 8 (24%) of the first rapes, 12 
(35%) of the middle rapes, and 14 (41%) of the last rapes. 
Various ploys used by the offenders included impersonating a 
police officer, providing transportation for a hitchhiking 
victim, and picking women up in singles bars.  Obviously, this 
style of initiating contact with victims requires an ability to 
interact with women.                                              

     The ``Blitz'' Approach                                            
     Case Number 2                                                     

     Phil, a 28-year-old male, approached a woman loading 
groceries in her car, struck her in the face, threw her in the 
vehicle and raped her.  On another occasion, he entered a women's 
restroom in a hospital, struck his victim, and raped her in a 
stall.  Exiting the restroom with the victim in his grasp, he 
threatened her as though they were involved in a lover's quarrel, 
and thus precluded interference from concerned onlookers who had 
gathered when she screamed.                                       

     In a blitz approach, the rapist uses a direct, injurious 
physical assault which subdues and physically injures the victim. 
The attacker may also use chemicals or gases but most frequently 
makes use of his ability to physically overpower a woman.  
Interestingly, despite its simplicity, this approach was used in 
23% of the first rapes, 20% of the middle rapes, and 17% of the 
last rapes. Even though it is used less often than the con 
approach, the blitz approach results in more extensive physical 
injury and inhibits certain fantasy components of the rape that 
may be arousing to the rapist.                                    

     The ``Surprise'' Approach                                         
     Case Number 3                                                     

     Sam, a 24-year-old male, would preselect his victims through 
``peeping tom'' activities.  He would then watch the victim's 
residence to establish her patterns.  After deciding to rape the 
woman, he would wait until she had gone to sleep, enter the home, 
and place his hand over her mouth.  He would advise the victim 
that he did not intend to harm her if she cooperated with the 
assault. He raped more than 20 women before he was apprehended.   

     The surprise approach, which involves the assailant waiting 
for the victim or approaching her after she is sleeping, 
presupposes that the rapist has targeted or preselected his 
victim through unobserved contact and knowledge of when the 
victim would be alone.  Threats and/or the presence of a weapon 
are often associated with this type of approach; however, there 
is no actual injurious force applied.                             

     The surprise approach was used by the serial rapists in 19 
(54%) of the first rapes, 16 (46%) of the middle rapes, and 16 
(44%) of the last rapes (percentages vary due to the number of 
rapes).  This represents the most frequently used means of 
approach and is used most often by men who lack confidence in 
their ability to subdue the victim through physical threats or 

CONTROLLING THE VICTIM                                            

     How rapists maintain control over a victim is dependent upon 
two factors:  Their motivation for the sexual attack and/or the 
passivity of the victim.  Within this context, four control 
methods are frequently used in various combinations during a 
rape: 1) Mere physical presence; 2) verbal threats; 3) display of 
a weapon; and 4) the use of physical force. (4)
     The men in this study predominantly used a threatening 
physical presence (82-92%) and/or verbal threats (65-80%) to 
control their victims.  Substantially less often they displayed a 
weapon (44-49%) or physically assaulted the victim (27-32%).  
When a weapon was displayed, it was most often a sharp 
instrument, such as a knife (27-42%).                             

     One rapist explained that he chose a knife because he 
perceived it to be the most intimidating weapon to use against 
women in view of their fear of disfigurement.  Firearms were used 
less frequently (14-20%).  Surprisingly, all but a few of the 
rapists used binding located at the scene of the rape. One 
exception was an individual who brought pre-cut lengths of rope, 
adhesive tape and handcuffs along with him.                       

THE USE OF FORCE                                                  

     The amount of force used during a rape provides valuable 
insight into the motivations of the rapist and, hence, must be 
analyzed by those investigating the offense or evaluating the 
offender. (5)  The majority of these men (75-84%) used minimal or 
no physical force across all three rapes. (6)  This degree of 
minimal force is defined as non-injurious force employed more to 
intimidate than to punish. (7)
     Case Number 4                                                     

     John began raping at 24 years of age and estimated that he 
had illegally entered over 5,000 homes to steal female 
undergarments.  On 18 of those occasions, he also raped.  He 
advised that he had no desire to harm the victims.  He stated, 
``Raping them is one thing.  Beating on them is entirely 
something else. None of my victims were harmed and for a person 
to kill somebody after raping them, it just makes me mad.''       

     Force resulting in bruises and lacerations or extensive 
physical trauma requiring hospitalization or resulting in death 
increased from 5% of the first rapes, 8% of the middle rapes, to 
10% of the last rapes.  Two victims (5%) were murdered during the 
middle rapes and an additional 2 (5%) were killed during the last 

     Case Number 5                                                     

     Phil, an attractive 30-year-old male, described stabbing his 
mother to death when she awoke as he was attempting to remove her 
undergarments in preparation for sexual intercourse.  He had been 
drinking and smoking marihuana with her for a period of time 
prior to the attempted sexual act, and after she fell asleep, he 
began fantasizing about having sex with her.                      

     Most of the rapists in this study did not increase the 
amount of force they used across their first, middle and last 
rapes. (8)  However, 10 of the rapists, termed ``increasers,'' did 
use progressively greater force over successive rapes and raped 
twice as many women on the average (40 victims as opposed to 22 
victims) in half the amount of time (i.e., raping every 19 days 
as opposed to 55 days).  By the time of the last assault, they 
were inflicting moderate to fatal injuries. These factors, 
coupled with progressive interest in anal intercourse among the 
increasers, suggest that for these individuals, sexual sadism may 
be a motive for their assaultive behavior.                        

VICTIM RESISTANCE                                                 

     Victim resistance may be defined as any action or inaction 
on the part of the victim which precludes or delays the 
offender's attack.  These behaviors may be described as passive, 
verbal, or physical in nature. (9)
     The rapists reported that their victims verbally resisted 
them in 53% of the first assaults, 54% of the middle attacks, and 
43% of the last attacks.  Physical resistance occurred in only 
19%, 32% and 28% of the first, middle, and last rapes 
respectively.  The relatively low incidence of passive resistance 
(i.e., 28% in the first rape, 17% of the middle  rape, and 9% of 
the last rape) most likely reflects the rapists' inability to  
discern this type of resistance.                                  

     In previous research, it was found that there was no 
relationship between both verbal and physical resistance and the 
amount of injury sustained by the victim. (10)  Interestingly, 
however, the degree of the rapists' pleasure and the duration of 
the rape did increase when the victim resisted.
     In this study, the offenders' most common reaction to 
resistance for the first, middle and last rapes was to verbally 
threaten the victim (50-41%).  Compromise or negotiation took 
place in 11-12% across the rapes, and physical force was used in 
22% of the first rapes, 38% of the second rapes and 18% of the 
third rapes.  The rapists also reported 6 incidents in which they 
left when the victim resisted; however, it is not clear at what 
point in the attack the resistance occurred.                      

SEXUAL DYNAMICS OF THE RAPE                                       

     The sexual acts that the victim was forced to engage in 
remained relatively constant across all three rapes.  The most 
common acts were vaginal intercourse (54-67%), oral sex (29-44%), 
kissing (8-13%) and fondling (10-18%). Anal intercourse (5-10%) 
and foreign object penetration (3-8%) were reported less often. 
In assessing changes in behavior over the first, middle and last 
rapes, there appears to be a trend wherein the rapists' interest 
in oral sex increases while his interest in vaginal contact 

     The amount of pleasure that the rapist experienced during 
the three assaults was measured with the statement: ``Think back 
to the penetration during the rape. Assuming `0' equals your 
worst sexual experience and `10' your absolutely best sexual 
experience, rate the amount of pleasure you experienced.''  The 
majority of rapists reported surprisingly low levels of pleasure 
(3.7). However, the type of contact that resulted in higher 
scores differed widely. (11)  One rapist reported appreciation for 
his victims' passivity and acquiescence, while another referred 
to the pleasure experienced in the rape-murder of two young boys 
as being ``off the scale.'  
     Case Number 6
     Paul had raped adult women, adolescent and preadolescent 
girls and brought his criminal career to an end with the rape and 
murder of two 10-year-old boys.  When asked to rate the sexual 
experiences, he advised that he would rate the adult and 
adolescent females as ``0'' and the preadolescent girls as ``3.'' 
He then stated, "When you're talking about sex with 10-year-old 
boys, your scale doesn't go high enough.''                        

VERBAL ACTIVITY                                                   

     Across the first, middle and last rapes, the majority of 
serial rapists (78-85%) usually only conversed with the victims 
to threaten them.  Much less frequently, their conversations were 
polite or friendly (30-34%), manipulative (23-37%), or personal 
(23-37%).  In a minority of instances throughout the assaults, 
the rapist reported being inquisitive (15-20%), abusive/ 
degrading (5-13%), or silent (8-13%).  It appears that serial 
rapists use verbal threats to subdue the victim, and only after 
they believe they have gained control over the victim do they 
move on to various other modes of conversing or interacting.      

SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION                                                

     In a study of 170 rapists, it was determined that 34% 
experiencedsome type of sexual dysfunction during the rape. (12)  In 
fact, it has been noted that ``the occurrence of offender sexual 
dysfunction and an investigatory understanding of the dysfunction 
may provide valuable information about the unidentified 
rapist.'' (13)
     The data on these serial rapists are strikingly similar. In 
the first rape, 38% of the subjects reported a sexual 
dysfunction, 39% in the middle rape, and 35% during the last 
assault.  This type of information can prove helpful to the 
investigator in associating different offenses with a single 
offender, because the nature of the dysfunction and the means the 
offender uses to overcome it are likely to remain constant over a 
number of rapes.                                                  

EVADING DETECTION                                                 

     Considering the rapists' aptitude for avoiding detection, it 
is surprising to note that very few of the serial rapists 
employed specific behaviors designed to preclude identification. 
In fact, offenders tend to rape their victims in the victim's own 
home, thereby contributing to their ability to avoid detection. (14)
     In addition, the majority of rapists (61-68%) did not report 
dressing in any special way for the offenses.  Surprisingly, 
disguises were reported in only 7-12% of the offenses, suggesting 
that other means of evading detection were used by these 
particular offenders.                                             

ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS                                           

     Alcohol is commonly associated with rape, but other drugs, 
to a lesser degree, are also used at the time of the rape. (15)  The 
data on these rapists suggest a somewhat different relationship 
between alcohol/drugs and serial rape.  Approximately one-third 
of the rapists were drinking alcoholic beverages at the time of 
the first, middle and last offenses, and 17-24% of the 
respondents reported using drugs.  In a majority of these cases, 
these figures reflect the offender's typical consumption pattern 
and not an unusual increase in substance abuse.                
POST-OFFENSE BEHAVIOR                                             

    The serial rapists were also asked about changes in their 
behavior following their assaults.  The most frequent changes  
after each of the crimes included feeling remorseful and guilty 
(44-51%), following the case in the media (28%) and an increase 
in alcohol/drug consumption (20-27%).  Investigators should also 
particularly note that 12-15% of rapists reported revisiting the 
crime scene and 8-13% communicated with the victim after the 


     The research concerning serial rapists' behavior during and 
following the commission of the crimes has determined that:       

     *  The majority of the rapes were premeditated                  

     *  The ``con'' approach was used most often in initiating 
        contact with the victim                                           

     *  A threatening presence and verbal threats were used to 
        maintain control over the victim                                  

     *  Minimal or no force was used in the majority of instances    

     *  The victims physically, passively or verbally resisted the 
        rapists in slightly over 50% of the offenses                      

     *  The most common offender reaction to resistance was to 
        verbally threaten the victim                                      

     *  Slightly over one-third of the offenders experienced a 
        sexual dysfunction, and the preferred sexual acts were vaginal 
        rape and forced fellatio                                          

     *  Low levels of pleasure were reported by the rapists from the 
        sexual acts                                                       

     *  The rapists tended not to be concerned with precautionary 
        measures to protect their identities                              

     *  Approximately one-third of the rapists had consumed    
        alcohol prior to the crime and slightly less reported using 
        some other drug. 

     The most common post-offense behavior reported by the reapists
were feelings of remorse and guilt, following the case in the media
and an increase in alcohol and drug consumption.

     These characteristics, although not generally applicable to 
every rapist, can be helpful in learning more about offenders, their
behaviors and the heinnous crime of rape.


(1) Robert R. Hazelwood & Ann w. Burgess, "An Introduction to the
Serial Rapist," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, vol. 56, No. 9,
September 1987, pp. 16-24.

(2) Robert R. Hazelwood & Janet Warren, "The Serial Rapist: His 
Characteristics and Victims,: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, vol. 
58, Nos. 1 and 2, January and February 1989, pp. 10-17 and 11-18.

(3) Supra note 1.

(4) Supra note 1.

(5) Supra note 1.

(6) Robert R. Hazelwood, R. Reboussin & J. Warren, "Serial Rape:
Correlates of Increased Aggression and the Relationship of Offen-
der Pleasure to Victim Resistance," Journal of Interpersonal 
Violence, March 1989, pp. 65-78.

(7) Supra note 1.

(8) Supra note 5.

(9) Supra note 1.

(10) Supra note 5.

(11) Supra note 5.

(12) N.A. Groth & A. W. Burgess, "Sexual Dysfunction During Rape,"
New England Journal of Medicine, October 6, 1977, pp. 764-766.

(13) Robert R. Hazelwood, "Analyzing the Rape and Profiling the
Offender," Practical Aspects of Rape Investigations: A Multi-
disciplinary Approach, R.R. Hazelwood & A.W. Burgess (Eds.)
(New York: Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc., 1987), pp. 169-

(14) Robert R. Hazelwood & J. Warren, "The Serial Rapist: His
Characteristics and Victims," Part II, FBI Law Enforcement Bulle-
tin, February 1989, pp. 11-18.

(15) R. Rada, "Psychological Factors in Rapist Behavior," American
Journal of Psychiatry, vo. 132, pp. 444-446, 1975 and R. Rada, 
"Psychological Factors in Rapist Behavior," Clinical Aspects of
the Rapist, R. Rada (Ed.)(New York: Grune and Stratton Publishing
Co., Inc., 1978), pp. 21-85.

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