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FEBRUARY 1990                                                     

        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) 
nterviewed 41 men who were responsible for raping 837 victims.
ntroduction to this research (1) and the characteristics of the
the behavior of these serial rapists during and following the 
commission of their sexual assaults.  The information presented 
s 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 
mpulsive (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 
n 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 
nterviewers that he stopped one of his victims late at night and
dentified 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, 

     As in the above case account, the con approach involves 
the victim and requests or offers some type of assistance or 
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 
victim, and picking women up in singles bars.  Obviously, this 
nteract with women.

     The ``Blitz'' Approach                                            
     Case Number 2                                                     

     Phil, a 28-year-old male, approached a woman loading 
vehicle and raped her.  On another occasion, he entered a women's 
threatened her as though they were involved in a lover's quarrel, 
and thus precluded interference from concerned onlookers who had 

     In a blitz approach, the rapist uses a direct, injurious 
The attacker may also use chemicals or gases but most frequently 
makes use of his ability to physically overpower a woman.  
last rapes. Even though it is used less often than the con 
approach, the blitz approach results in more extensive physical 
njury 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 
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, 
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 
s 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 
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 
methods are frequently used in various combinations during a 
a weapon; and 4) the use of physical force. (4)
     The men in this study predominantly used a threatening 
control their victims.  Substantially less often they displayed a 
When a weapon was displayed, it was most often a sharp 
nstrument, such as a knife (27-42%).

     One rapist explained that he chose a knife because he 
less frequently (14-20%).  Surprisingly, all but a few of the 
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 
nsight 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 
ntimidate than to punish. (7)
     Case Number 4                                                     

     John began raping at 24 years of age and estimated that he 
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 
to kill somebody after raping them, it just makes me mad.''       

     Force resulting in bruises and lacerations or extensive 
ncreased from 5% of the first rapes, 8% of the middle rapes, to
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 
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 
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 
coupled with progressive interest in anal intercourse among the 
ncreasers, 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 
(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  

     In previous research, it was found that there was no 
amount of injury sustained by the victim. (10)  Interestingly, 
the rape did increase when the victim resisted.
     In this study, the offenders' most common reaction to 
threaten the victim (50-41%).  Compromise or negotiation took 
third rapes.  The rapists also reported 6 incidents in which they 
left when the victim resisted; however, it is not clear at what 

SEXUAL DYNAMICS OF THE RAPE                                       

     The sexual acts that the victim was forced to engage in 
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. 
n 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 
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 
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 
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 
to threaten them.  Much less frequently, their conversations were 
(23-37%).  In a minority of instances throughout the assaults, 
the rapist reported being inquisitive (15-20%), abusive/ 
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 
may provide valuable information about the unidentified 
     The data on these serial rapists are strikingly similar. In 
the first rape, 38% of the subjects reported a sexual 
assault.  This type of information can prove helpful to the 
nvestigator 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 
s surprising to note that very few of the serial rapists
employed specific behaviors designed to preclude identification. 
     In addition, the majority of rapists (61-68%) did not report 
that other means of evading detection were used by these 

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 
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 
these figures reflect the offender's typical consumption pattern 
and not an unusual increase in substance abuse.                

    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 
n alcohol/drug consumption (20-27%).  Investigators should also
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
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. 

(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-
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-
(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.