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Rape: Behavioral Aspects - Serial Rape

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Serial rape is a "special" case that is defined in terms of repetitiveness (e.g., three or more known sexual assaults on adult women). There is no single classification that captures serial rape. Serial rapists may be any one of a number of different subtypes. A fantasy-based drive model for serial sexual homicide (cf. Prentky and Burgess) may be helpful in trying to understand serial rape. Simply stated, once the restraints inhibiting the acting out of internally generated, recurrent rape fantasies are no longer present, the individual is likely to engage in a series of progressively more accurate "trial runs" in an attempt to "stage" the fantasies as they were imagined. Because the trial runs can never precisely match the fantasy, the offender must restage the fantasy with a new victim. Although the number of serial rapists appears to be low, these offenders account for a very large number of victims. In one study of forty-one serial rapists, the collective sample of offenders was responsible for 837 rapes, over 400 attempted rapes, and over 5,000 "nuisance" sex offenses (Hazelwood, Reboussin, and Warren).

The theoretical model referred to above makes a number of implicit assumptions. First, the individual has created an inner world (i.e., a fantasy life) that is intended to satisfy, often in disguised or symbolic fashion, needs that cannot be satisfied in the real world. The inner worlds of serial rapists are dominated by a maelstrom of sexual and aggressive thoughts and feelings. Second, the mechanisms that drive the fantasies and the factors that permit the enactment and reenactment of the fantasies are at least as important as, if not more important than, understanding the specific content of the fantasies. This is critical, since it is commonly accepted that many nonoffenders have sexually deviant and coercive fantasies. Third, the content of the sexual fantasy derives from explicit, protracted sexually pathological experiences first sustained at a young age. Fourth, the parameters governing fantasy life in nonoffenders are different from the equivalent parameters in serial rapists. Rape fantasies in nonoffenders are not typically rehearsed and are not preoccupying. The fantasies are usually associated with an exteroceptive stimulus (e.g., movie) and diminish in intensity, or extinguish entirely, after the withdrawl of the stimulus. The rape fantasies of serial rapists, by contrast, are intrusive (distracting and preoccupying), reiterative (persistent and recurrent), and interoceptive (internally generated).

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