THE CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR OF THE SERIAL RAPIST
Robert R. Hazelwood, M.S.
Behavioral Science Instruction/Research Unit
Janet Warren, D.S.W.
Institute of Psychiatry and Law
University of Virginia
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
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 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.''
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.
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.
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
* 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.