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Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?
Myths and Facts
Rapist methodology
Profiles of rapists
Surviving an attack


  • Sexual assault continues to represent the most rapidly growing violent crime in America.
  • Over 700,000 women are sexually assaulted each year.
  • It is estimated that fewer than 50% of rapes are reported.
  • Approximately 20% of sexual assaults against women are perpetrated by assailants unknown to the victim. The remainder are committed by friends, acquaintances, intimates, and family members. Acquaintance rape is particularly common among adolescent victims.
  • Male victims represent five percent of reported sexual assaults.
  • Among female rape victims 61% are under 18.
  • At least 20% of adult women, 15% of college women and 12% of adolescent women have experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault during their lifetimes.
  • Over 50% of the attacks occur in the home, and most of these are planned.
  • In 85% of the cases, some type of direct force is used, whether it is choking, beating or plain physical force. A weapon is used one-third of the time.
  • Over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by an aggressor that is known to their victims
  • Rapists rarely attack once. They have one of the highest repeat rates of all criminals. More that 70% of those arrested for the crime are re-arrested within seven years.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual Assault can be defined as any type of intentional sexual touching that occurs without consent.

Rape is a violent crime, an invasion, a frightening experience. Rape affects all women, no matter what their age, race or economic status. All women are potential victims of sexual assault. By being aware, a woman can reduce the likelihood of becoming a rape victim. This does not mean all rapes can be prevented. Rapists commit rape -- NOT VICTIMS.
Psychological Preparedness

  • Accept the fact that you are a potential rape victim. Many women operate under the illusion "it will never happen to me." It may.
  • Educate yourself concerning rape prevention tactics.
  • Become familiar with community rape prevention and counseling.
  • Become aware of locations and situations where rape is more likely to occur and avoid them, or take precautions.

Myths and Facts

MYTH: Sexual assault is a crime of passion and lust.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence. Assailants seek to dominate, humiliate and punish their victims.

MYTH: You cannot be assaulted against your will.

Assailants overpower their victim with the threat of violence or with actual violence. In cases of acquaintance rape or incest, an assailant often uses the victim's trust in assailant to isolate the victim.

MYTH: A person who has really been assaulted will be hysterical.

Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to the assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, guilt, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.

MYTH: Sexual assault is an impulsive act.

Seventy-five percent of all assaults are planned in advance. When three or more assailants are involved, 90% are planned. If two assailants are involved, 83%. With one assailant, 58% are planned.

MYTH: Assailants are usually crazed psychopaths who do not know their victims.

As many as 80% of all assaults involve either a known acquaintance, or someone the victim has had contact with, but does not know personally.

MYTH: Gang rape is rare
In 43% of all reported cases, more that one assailant was involved.

MYTH: Many women claim they have been sexually assaulted because they want revenge upon the man they accuse.
Only 4-6% of sexual assault cases are based on false accusations. This percentage of unsubstantiated cases is the same as with many other reported crimes.

MYTH: Persons who dress or act in a sexy way are asking to be sexually assaulted.
Many convicted sexual assault assailants are unable to remember what their victims looked like or were wearing.

MYTH: All women secretly want to be raped.
While women and men may fantasize about being overpowered during sexual relations it is usually with a person of their choosing, who they trust. They are in control of the fantasy. No one wants the physical and emotional pain caused by a sexual assault.

MYTH: Only young, pretty women are assaulted.
There is no such thing as a "typical victim." Both men and women are assaulted by both male and female assailants. Victims have ranged in age from newborns to 100 years old.

MYTH: It is impossible to sexually assault a man.
Men fall victim for the same reasons as women: they are overwhelmed by threats or acts of physical and emotional violence. Also, most sexual assaults that involve a male victim are gang assaults, by other males.

MYTH: If you do not struggle or use physical force to resist you have not been sexually assaulted.
If you are forced to have sex without your consent, you have been assaulted whether or not a struggle was involved.

Rape Methodology

Methodology for the serial rapist

Method of Approach
con type approach

The ‘ con” type of approach involves some type of prior interaction between the aggressor and the target. The rapist openly approaches the target and requests or offers some type of assistance or direction. However, once to victim is within his control, the offender may suddenly become more aggressive. Various ploys used by the offender include the following:
Impersonation a police officer
Offering a ride to a hitch hiker
Door to door sales person
Asking for directions

blitz” type of approach
The rapists engages in a direct and physical attack on the victim.

surprise” type of approach
The surprise type of approach involves an aggressor waiting for the victim, or approaching her while she is sleeping. This is the most common approach for stranger rape assaults accounting for nearly half of all reported cases in the US.

Methods of Control

Rapists maintain control over their victims in different way according to their motivation for the attack and the passivity of the victim

Most common control methods (in various combinations)
Mere physical presence of the rapist
Verbal threats
Display of weapon (knife most often)
Use of physical force

Basic Findings
-Majority of stranger rapes are 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 cases

-The victims physically, passively, or verbally resisted the rapists in slightly over 50 per cent of the cases

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

-Rapists tended not to be concerned with precautionary measures to protect their identities

-25% of rapists had consumed alcohol prior to the crime and slightly less reported using some other drug

Methodology for the acquaintance rapist
Most victims of date rape report the following components:
- Alcohol consumption by the victim and the aggressor (impairing the judgement of both parties)

- Isolation from others

- Targeted victim placed in a dependent relationship to the aggressor ( he paid for the date, she relied on him for a ride)

- The aggressor used a testing type of behavior. Testing how close he could get into the personal space of the intended target. Many victims can get de-sensitized to this “testing’ and compromise their personal space comfort zone after a period of time

- Most victims felt that there were many indicators that made them feel uncomfortable about their date, but many women did not act on their instincts because they did not want to be embarrassed and cause a scene. Most feared that they would over – react at the time.

Profiles of Rapists

The FBI has established four personality characteristics profiles for rapists. While most rapists will fit into one of the profiles, due to the fact that there are a variety of personalities, there is no one correct characteristic for a profile. Suspects may exhibit characteristics from one or more of the profiles.

Power Reassurance Rapist - 81% Motivation:
To resolve self-doubts by reassuring himself of his masculinity with no real intent to further harm his victim.


  • Surprise Approach with force.
  • Strikes between midnight and 5 am, usually at the victim's residence.
  • Selects victims through voyeurism.
  • Attacks victims who are alone or with small children.
  • Negotiates with the victim.
  • Does whatever the victim allows him to do.
  • Attacks in his own residence or work area.
  • Commits single assault.
  • May keep a diary.
    Social Interaction:
  • Few friends
  • Self-concept as a loser
  • Menial job with little public contact
Power Assertive Rapist - 12% Motivation:

To resolve self-doubts by reassuring himself of his masculinity with no real intent to further harm his victim.

  • Exploits opportunity after one or two dates
  • Slaps, hits, curses, tears rather than removes clothes
  • Waits 20-25 days between assaults
  • Performs multiple assaults
  • Disrobes victim
  • Doesn't use mask or disguise
    Social Interaction:
  • Flashy car
  • Frequents singles bars
  • "Hard hat" act
  • "Macho" type
Anger Retaliatory Rapist - 5% Motivation:

To punish or degrade women by getting even; uses sex as a weapon for real or perceived injustices placed on him by women.

  • Acts spontaneously
  • Commits assaults in his own area
    Social Interaction:
  • Loner
  • Minimal contact with others
  • Works at "Action jobs"
Anger Excitation Rapist - 2% Motivation:

Infliction of pain or erotic aggression

  • Uses premeditated con-style approach
  • Immobilizes victim
  • Assaults away from his area
  • Uses weapon and/or tools of choice
  • Usually records his assaults
  • Learns quickly by experience
  • Does not experience remorse
    Social Interaction:
  • Family man
  • "Good marriage"
  • Compulsive
  • Middle class

Surviving a Sexual Assault

Fear, guilt and embarrassment may make it difficult to report the crime and tell those closest to you. After a severe emotional trauma, one needs the understanding and support of family and friends to help get through this difficult time. It is important to realize however, that loved ones do not always know what to say or do to help. Well meaning advice or criticism about what happened is obviously painful. Keep in mind that their reactions can be the result of their own reluctance to accept the reality of everyone's vulnerability to crime. They can only do their best. It sometimes helps if you can let them know what you need.

A traumatic event like this leaves emotions raw and leaves people feeling vulnerable. It is normal to experience dramatic mood swings, to cry easily, to be irritable, or become upset over small things. You may have a startled response if you see someone who looks similar to your assailant or when you see something that reminds you of the crime. It is helpful to get counseling in order to deal with these feelings and to learn about the normal steps victims tend to go through after an assault.

Victims tend to go through several stages when coping with a sexual assault. General denial comes first, followed by a realization phase and then anger.

The Denial Stage

Initially, there may be denial with the victim shutting others out and avoiding the subject. This is often an attempt to believe that the assault did not happen. Disbelief can be protection from the overwhelming feelings associated with the trauma.

The Realization Stage

Denial is often followed by a realization phase where feelings begin to come out. Victims often lack trust in others. Fear of future assaults may cause you to isolate yourself. The most destructive feeling at this stage is a tendency to blame yourself for the assault. Don't blame yourself.

The Anger Stage

Victims usually move next to a stage of anger. This is healthy when your feelings are directed toward your assailant. Sometimes your anger may be misdirected towards those around you. Let them know that you are not angry with them, but rather with what happened to you. The anger can cleanse because it indicates you are beginning to integrate the event into your life and move on without guilt.

Looking Ahead

Finally, you can begin to look ahead. You accept that it was terrible, but you realize it is over


  • Report the crime and cooperate with the police. Taking positive action against the assailant will help resolve your trauma. You will also be helping your community.
  • It is your personal decision who else should be told about what happened. You have a right to privacy and only those you wish to tell need know about the incident.
  • Express your feelings and needs to those who care. Be clear about what you want them to do or not do.
  • It is very normal for feelings of fear to linger and these are often difficult to overcome. Do whatever you need to do to be safe. Talk to a counselor about ways to feel safe.
  • Return to your normal routine as soon as possible. Everyday routine will help you regain a feeling of control in your life.
Reaction of Others

Your family and friends will also have mixed feelings and confusion over the crime. They may be uncomfortable around you because they may be afraid of making things worse. Common feelings are anger at the assailant, and frustration at not being able to direct that anger at the assailant. Marital relationships can become strained. The victim often feels uncomfortable resuming sexual relations following an assault. Most spouses or partners of the victim can accept these feelings intellectually, but still feel rejected or blamed in some way. Encourage your spouse or partner and other family members to seek help if they are having a hard time adjusting.

The Police Investigation

If an arrest was not made immediately, a detective will be assigned to investigate the case. You will probably be questioned several times in an effort to get as much information as possible about your assailant and the crime. Report any new information on the case to the detective assigned. You may be asked to help with an artist's drawing, take a polygraph or view a lineup. These are investigative tools. Without positive identification of the suspect, prosecution is not possible.

Going To Court

If the suspect is arrested, the suspect may be released from jail on bond or on their own promise to return for court. The judge will order him not to see you or talk to you. You should report any contact by the suspect or by anyone claiming to be the suspect's attorney to the police and county attorney immediately. Your interests will be represented by the County Attorney's Office shortly after an arrest is made and charges are filed.

You may be subpoenaed to testify at a preliminary hearing about what happened. During this hearing the judge listens to the facts to decide if there is "Probable Cause" for the case to go forward to Superior Court. This hearing is not to determine guilt or innocence, and there is no jury. The court process can take many months. This is normal so try not to be frustrated by the delays. Your Victim Assistance case worker is available to give you the information and emotional support necessary to achieve a successful prosecution. Your input and participation will be important at various times to insure a just outcome.