As discussed earlier, rape seldom fits the stereotype in a fictional book or movie. Rapists are very rarely strangers jumping from the bushes or from dark alleys and assaulting females they do not know. Furthermore, rape, contrary to popular opinion, is not motivated solely by sexual desire. These misunderstandings of rape, and the offenders and victims, have resulted in two common rapist stereotypes that are still dominant in the U.S. (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, 2009). Note how these two stereotypes reflect the attitudinal rape myths discussed previously:

  • (1) Misunderstood Offender: An offender becomes involved in an allegation of coerced sex because of circumstances beyond his control, misunderstandings, or defective communication.
  • (2) Sex-Starved Offender: An offender's insatiable sexual needs drive him to commit acts that could provide sexual gratification. These offenders are often portrayed as sex fiends, sex maniacs, or sex psychopaths.

Knowing the numerous myths and stereotypes regarding rape and rapists, we now focus our attention on offenders' risk factors, which are observed characteristics and/or behaviors of people who commit rape/sexual assault. Risk factors are determined from research examining large samples (hundreds, or potentially thousands) of offenders. Although there are numerous risk factors for committing rape, we focus on five that have been well-documented in the clinical and social science literature. They are:

  • (1) Hostile masculinity.
  • (2) Aggressive sexual beliefs.
  • (3) Physical and psychological aggression
  • (4) History of violence.
  • (5) Alcohol use and abuse.

These risk factors do not operate independently of each other, but are often strongly interrelated. A challenge in providing treatment and rehabilitation for rapists (and sex offenders, generally) is that in many cases, all of these risk factors may be present, and determining their relationship to rape/sexual assault is not easy. Details of this are discussed in Chapter 10.

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