Serial rapist

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A serial rapist is someone who commits multiple rapes, whether with multiple victims or a single victim repeatedly over a period of time.[1] Some serial rapists target children.[2][3][4] The terms sexual predator, repeat rape and multiple offending can also be used to describe the activities of those who commit a number of consecutive rapes, but remain unprosecuted when self-reported in research.[5][6] Others will commit their assaults in prisons.[7] In some instances, a group of serial rapists will work together.[8] These rapists can have a pattern of behavior that is sometimes used to predict their activities and aid in their arrest and conviction.[9] Serial rapists also differ from one time offenders because "serial rapists more often involved kidnapping, verbally and physically threatening the victims, and using or threatening the use of weapons."[10]

Law enforcement[edit]

Many times, the evidence that is collected from the physical examinations and testimony of those who were raped is in the possession of numerous law enforcement agencies and may impede the recognition that the rapist has committed the crime over a period of time. Conviction of the rapist can be delayed when victims do not cooperate in the investigation.[11] Evidence can consist of DNA, saliva and fingerprints, hair, vaginal swabs, fingernail scrapings, and bed linens.[12] Those investigating serial rapes often identify the rapist with a 'nickname' before an arrest is made by characterizing the tactics or patterns of the rapes.[13]

Serial rapists are more likely to be convicted than a rapist who is known by the victim.[14] Unlike those convicted for a single case of rape, serial rapists often go unrecognized due to the slow process of analyzing the backlog of rape kits.[10][15] It may take many years for a past rape to be identified as being committed by one person.[16]

Case Western Reserve University has identified the tendency of sexual offenders of being previously arrested. 26% percent had previously been arrested for sexual assault. 60% were arrested for at least one other sexual assault unrelated to the first one.[10]

In order to curb and catch such offenders, the FBI created its Behavioral Science Unit in 1974.[17]


A serial rapist can use online dating sites to identify potential victims.[18] Threatening harm to the victim and their family is another tactic used.[19][20] Drugging the victim is sometimes employed.[1] Some serial rapists are specific in identifying their targets and their schedules.[21] A serial rapist may describe their activities on websites, describing the tactics they use to commit the sexual assault.[22] In 2014, an 18-year-old individual accused of serial rapes had used cell phone messaging apps Facebook, Kik, and Snapchat to establish a relationship with girls. Some serial rapists drive victims to remote locations.[19]

Personality traits[edit]

Perpetrators can be described as "highly manipulative, very charismatic and charming."[19] Serial rapists differ from single-victim rapists. The distance traveled before the rape occurs was found to be further with the single-victim rapists. Single-victim rapists use a 'capture' method, sometimes using the tactic of being a hitch hiker, or a 'con' method by meeting at a bar or party and engaging in social interaction. Conversely, serial rapists have a tendency to ambush or use a 'blitz' approach of a victim. A serial rapist is more likely to target a stranger than a single-victim rapist.[23]

"The Rape" by Degas, Intérieur Philadelphia Museum of Art 1986-26-10

A serial rapist is more prone to exhibit "criminally sophisticated behaviors" such as using a condom and gloves. Serial rapists are more likely to control physical resistance by gagging, binding, blindfolding, and smothering. They are more likely to question the victim. Awareness of investigative, forensic methodology characterizes a serial rapist rather than a single-victim rapist and may be used by law enforcement as an investigative aid.[23][24] Serial rapists are more likely to target sex workers than are single-victim rapists.[25] Serial rapists have been described as being able to improve their ability and expertise to commit their assault through 'study' of serial rape. This includes rehearsal by viewing films, pornography, and reading relevant literature, using sexual fantasies, growth in knowledge in assault-related skills, learning from the examples of other serial rapists, and their own past experiences of physical or sexual abuse.[5][26]


Rachel Lovell, Case Western University describes her research: "Our findings suggest it is very likely that a sexual offender has either previously sexually assaulted or will offend again in the future...Investigating each sexual assault as possibly perpetrated by a serial offender has the potential to reduce the number of sexual assaults if investigations focus more on the offender than on single incidents."[10]

Investigation of the offender instead of the crime has been proposed to prevent serial rapes. The backlog of analyzing rape kits impedes the identification of serial rapists. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested across the US. Most law enforcement agencies do not track or count them. The process is complicated, invasive, time-consuming and may re-traumatize victims.[10] The FBI maintains a DNA database and comparisons between cases can be made. Unfortunately, the backlog of analyzing rape kits can allow the perpetrator to continue their crime before being identified with other assaults.[1]

Though no victim of a serial rapist can be blamed for the crime, reducing the risk of becoming raped by a serial rapist is possible, according to law enforcement organizations.[21]

College officials are developing strategies that target men with education on rape prevention and the responsibility to step in to prevent risky circumstances for their friends who may have impaired judgement after drinking.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Perrusquia, Marc (21 March 2014). "CA Investigation: Failure to test DNA let Cordova serial rapist continue attacks for decade". The Commercial Appeal, US Today Network. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  2. ^ "New York Serial Rapist". Unsolved Mysteries. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  3. ^ "Northern Minnesota Serial Child Rapist Sentenced to Life in Prison". KSTP TV - Minneapolis and St. Paul. Archived from the original on 2019-10-18. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  4. ^ "Serial Child Rapist Sentenced to Life in Prison". United States Department of Justice. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  5. ^ a b Lisak, David; Miller, Paul M (February 2002). "Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists" (PDF). Violence and Victims. 17 (1): 73–84. doi:10.1891/vivi. PMID 11991158. S2CID 8401679. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Pittsburgh Police Arrest Accused Serial Rapist". CBS Pittsburgh. 2016-11-24. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  7. ^ "'Serial rapist' NM prison captain sentenced to less than a year". New Mexico In Depth. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  8. ^ "Three attacks on West Side said to be linked to trio of serial rapists". The Columbus Dispatch. 20 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  9. ^ Tust, Amanda (June 2011). "How Serial Rapists Target Their Victims - How To Protect Yourself Against Rape". Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  10. ^ a b c d e Rothkopf, Joanna. "Analysis of Untested Rape Kits Reveals Serial Rapists Are 'Far More Common' Than We Thought". Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  11. ^ Ove, Torsten (15 July 2016). "Old evidence turns up in contested rape conviction". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  12. ^ "Man convicted of 1987 rapes in Homestead seeks evidence". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  13. ^ Haddock, Vicki (1996-01-16). "Four types of serial rapists - what makes them tick". SFGate, Hearst. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  14. ^ James L. LeBeau, Patterns of Stranger and Serial Rape Offending: Factors Distinguishing Apprehended and at Large Offenders, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 78, Issue 2 (Summer 1987).
  15. ^ Egan, Paul (2 September 2015). "With most rape kits tested, focus turns to prosecutions". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  16. ^ "Serial rapist in Ohio prison linked to cold case in Richmond". Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  17. ^ Lea Winerman (July–August 2004). "Psychological sleuths--Criminal profiling: the reality behind the myth". Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Florence Police: Serial rapist behind bars". 14 July 2016. Archived from the original on 8 November 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  19. ^ a b c Dave, Paresh (May 2, 2014). "Arizona teen a 'serial rapist' who victimized 18 girls, sheriff says". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ "Serial Rapist Who Preyed On Teenage Girls Sentenced Up to 196 Years in Prison". NBC 10, Philadelphia. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  21. ^ a b "Reduce the Risk of Becoming a Rape Victim". University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-18.
  22. ^ "Confessions Of A Serial Rapist". Thought Catalog. 2015-01-20. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  23. ^ a b Corovic, Jelena; Christianson, Sven Å.; Bergman, Lars R. (2012). "From Crime Scene Actions in Stranger Rape to Prediction of Rapist Type: Single-Victim or Serial Rapist?". Behavioral Sciences & the Law. 30 (6): 764–781. doi:10.1002/bsl.2026. ISSN 0735-3936. PMID 22829437; Access provided by the University of PittsburghCS1 maint: postscript (link) closed access
  24. ^ de Heer, B. (2014). "A Snapshot of Serial Rape: An Investigation of Criminal Sophistication and Use of Force on Victim Injury and Severity of the Assault". Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 31 (4): 598–619. doi:10.1177/0886260514556110. ISSN 0886-2605. PMID 25466982. S2CID 145106875.
  25. ^ Slater, Chelsea; Woodhams, Jessica; Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine (2014). "Can Serial Rapists be Distinguished from One-off Rapists?" (PDF). Behavioral Sciences & the Law. 32 (2): 220–239. doi:10.1002/bsl.2096. ISSN 0735-3936. PMID 24723507.
  26. ^ Ó Ciardha, Caoilte (2015). "Experts in rape: Evaluating the evidence for a novice-to-expert continuum in the offense behavior and cognition of sexual offenders" (PDF). Aggression and Violent Behavior. 20: 26–32. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2014.12.003. ISSN 1359-1789.
  27. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (26 February 2013). "Beyond vomiting, how to prevent rape". CNN. Retrieved 2016-07-27.