WEBBS Article 3 – Profile of Rapists

In the last series, rape resistance strategies were covered including environmental considerations as well as factors such as the victim’s personality. In this article, the profiles of rapists will serve to illustrate why blanket self defense strategies may not be sufficient for protecting potential victims.

Profiles of Rapists

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) classifies rapists in four distinct categories. The Power Reassurance offender, according to Keesee (2003:16) assaults victims in order to establish a sense of masculinity. Ressler (1988:202) uses the term compensatory rapist, observing the offender’s propensity for sexual perversions, voyeurism, exhibitionism, obscene phone calls, fetishism and cross-dressing. His motive is derived from a belief that he is inadequate and therefore compensates for his perceived inadequacies.
The Power Assertive or exploitative rapist has a need to dominate and seeks out victims opportunistically (Keesee 2003:16). He is less driven by fantasy and acts on predatory impulsivity, determined by situation and context. It is his intent to force the victim to submit sexually and has no concern for her welfare (Ressler 1988:202).
The Anger Retaliation offender is motivated by rage and is spontaneous in his attacks (2003:16). Also known as the displaced rapist, his sexual behavior is an expression of rage. Although often motivated by perceived injustices against him by others, there is little evidence to support this claim. He is a misogynist and seeks to aggress against the more vulnerable and may span in extremes from verbal abuse to murder (1988:202).
The least common but most dangerous is one classified as Anger Excitation, or sadistic rapist, whereby physical violence has become eroticized (2003:17). Paul Bernardo was one of Canada’s most prolific examples of this type of sadistic killer.
Smith (1986:48-50) cites some of the major attack styles used for rape attempts. ‘Power rape’ is used most frequently by both known and unknown assailants and is often the hallmark of the Power Reassurance rapist. The offender’s objective is sexual conquest and he uses only the amount of force necessary to accomplish his goal. Lena and Howard suggest that this offender has fears of sexual inadequacy, which requires reassurance of his manhood. Of the various profiles, this rapist is more likely to be apprehended as he manifests guilt or sorrow and often is driven to confess (Lena 1990:34). FBI Special Agent Robert Hazelwood (1990) notes that the power rape or ‘surprise’ approach is also most frequently utilized by serial rapists and is one that usually involves pre-selection of the victim. The rapist either lies in wait or approaches while the woman is asleep. This method may involve a weapon and is used by men who lack confidence in their ability to physically threaten the victim.
The Anger Retaliation rapist is characterized by physical brutality and he will often use a ‘blitz attack’. According to Lena (1990:35) this attacker is likely to be under the effects of drugs or alcohol and blames his frustrations on women. His style of attack is to subdue the victim and use direct physical assault to overpower her. The language he uses is vile and abusive, and he will grab and tear at the victim’s clothing and will often strike her repeatedly. Whatever misfortunes befall this man; he is inclined to seek out a victim to vent his anger upon. For this reason, his attacks are spontaneous, ill planned and opportunistic. In data collected by the FBI, Hazelwood (1990) reports that despite the simplicity of the blitz attack, serial rapists use this approach less frequently than the con method, and similarly decreased their tendency to select this attack style as the number of rapes they committed increased.
As previously noted the Anger Excitation rapist is one that manifests “a sexual transformation of anger and power so that aggression itself becomes eroticized”. This attacker often employs a blitz approach ending in sadistic rape. This is often the domain of the serial murderer (Smith:48-50). He enjoys inflicting mental and physical pain and may dismember or mutilate his victims. Although the victim’s suffering sexually gratifies him, his motivation, like the other profiles is to dominate. He does not seek out a victim for the purpose of sex; instead, he uses the sexual realm and its deviant variations as a means to control (Lena 1990:36).
Hazelwood (1990) expands on the approach methods used by serial rapists. The “con” approach is used to initiate contact with potential victims and involves requests or offers of assistance or direction or alternately, impersonating persons of authority such as police officers. According to research, this approach is often favoured as the rapist gains confidence and increases in frequency. This method requires an ability to interact well with women and effectively gain trust. Psychopathic serial killers such as Clifford Olsen and Ted Bundy utilized this method to secure victims, chillingly characterizing the Anger Excitation profile. Due to the level of organization and planning involved, victims rarely survive.
Media reported that the killer of an Ontario university graduate in August of 2003 had approached many women in the days and weeks prior to her murder, attempting to lure them into conversation (Ottawa Citizen, Aug 15, 2004,:F3). His approach reputedly falls under the con method wherein friendly dialogue is initiated with an appeal for assistance, such as requesting directions. One may surmise that he engaged his potential victims in discussion to test their responses. To date, the killer has succeeded but once in the region, however, he has not yet been identified.

The efficacy of physical defense against these various types of rapists will be the final series in the next WEBBS newsletter.

Bibliographic References

Hazelwood, Robert R & Harpold, Joseph A., 1986 “RAPE: The Dangers of Providing Confrontational Advice” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, June 1986

Hazelwood, Robert R. & Warren, Janet, 1989 “The Criminal Behavior of the Serial Rapist” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1990

Keesee, Edie 2003 The P.O.W.E.R. Self-Defense Lifestyle
Bloomington: 1st Books Library

Lena, Dan & Howard, Marie 1990 Sexual Assault: How to Defend Yourself Ontario: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Ottawa Citizen, August 15th, 2004

Ressler, Robert 1988 Sexual Homicide Patterns and Motives
New York: Lexington Books
Smith, Susan E. 1986 Fear or Freedom, A Woman’s Options in Social Survival and Physical Defense Racine: Mother Courage Press