Following the reading of an article in the newspaper about the brutal rape of a woman by a stranger, or the long-standing sexual abuse of a young boy by his step-father, most people have a strong visceral reaction which is a mix of anger, fear, and incomprehension. Apart from these aversive reactions, several questions come to people’s minds: Was this offender crazy or sexually obsessed? What is the purpose of such outrageous acts? What happened in these aggressors’ lives that pushed them to have such a lack of concern for others? What pushed them so far away from the normal bounds of civil society? To answer these questions, we review theoretical and empirical models of the processes that lead men to sexually assault children or women. In addition, we present new results and models on this topic. Our results, like those of previous studies, demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, only a few of these aggressors have major mental health problems such as psychosis. However, a majority of them have personality disorders. Furthermore, only a small proportion of rapists (i.e., the sadists) and a significant proportion of child molesters (i.e., the fixated pedophiles) have a sexual preference for sexual aggression. In fact, for a majority of sexual aggressors, the processes that lead to sexual crime are rooted in a criminal lifestyle characterized by a lack of concern for others, impulsivity, violence, selfishness, and substance abuse. For some, sex crimes are only one predatory act among others. If they want a car, they steal it. If they want money, they rob a bank. And if they want sex-they take it. For others, sex crimes are an outlet for their frustration and anger. Our book questions common preconceptions concerning sexual assaults, and extends scientific models of pathways in the offending processes that lead to sexual aggression. Previous models have taken into account modus operandi and the offender’s state of mind in the hours and days preceding his offense. However, we argue that a full understanding of the offending process of a sexual aggressor must also include a detailed description of the life events in the months preceding his crime (e.g., divorce, job termination), and of his sexual and general lifestyles. Additionally, we argue, inspired by Beck and Freeman’s personality disorder theory, that enduring cognitive schemata about self and others also influence
sexual aggressors’ offending processes. Consequently, personality profiles associated with specific offending processes are presented. These personality profiles permit clarification of the meaning of life events and modus operandi for sexual aggressors. In this book, we detail the personality and lifestyle characteristics that pave the way for sexual aggression, as well as life events and situational factors that precipitate these crimes. Consider a child molester with an avoidant personality disorder and therefore low self-esteem. This in turn leads him to avoid adults, whom he perceives as rejecting and critical, and to seek out the company of children, whom he perceives as loving and understanding. After months of social isolation, such an aggressor develops a strong drive to meet a child in order to establish a relationship that permits fulfillment of his emotional and sexual needs. This book is intended for both researchers and practitioners in the field of sexual aggression. Researchers will find a detailed description of previous theoretical models and empirical studies of sexual aggression. In addition, they will find new empirical studies and new theoretical developments about the pathways to sexual offending. Practitioners involved in the treatment of sexual aggressors or in the follow-up of these offenders in the community will find detailed information about the meaning of the sexual crime for the aggressor, as well as the sequence of factors that culminates in recidivism in some offenders. Finally, practitioners in police organizations will find information which may prove useful in securing a confession during interrogation or permit the establishment of a profile of an unknown aggressor. In Part I of this book-Theoretical and empirical bases-we present a detailed review of theoretical models of, and empirical studies on, the pathways in the offending processes of sexual aggressors. The starting point is Pithers’ Relapse Prevention Model, a conceptualization of the sequence of cognitions, emotions, and behaviors that culminate in a sexual assault (Chapter 1). The components of this sequence are negative affect, deviant sexual fantasies, cognitive distortions, implicit planning, and coercive sexual acts. Although this model has been partially supported by empirical studies, its universality has been questioned: does one size really fit all? To answer this question, Ward and Hudson carried out a series of empirical studies that demonstrated that while the Relapse Prevention Model is a common pathway to sexual offending, there are also other pathways. Ward and Hudson developed the Self-Regulation Model of the offending processes of sexual aggressors (Chapter 2). In this elegant model, they linked predisposing factors (e.g., self-regulation styles) and precipitating factors (e.g., negative life events, such as divorce) to components of the modus operandi (e.g., type of planning, level of coercion). They also discussed the variety of motivations (e.g., retaliation, satisfaction of deviant sexual fantasies) of sexual aggressors in the course of the offending process. While several empirical studies have demonstrated the reliability and content validity of the Self-Regulation Model, some of the aspects of this model need further investigation. For example, the
nature of predisposing and precipitating factors associated with each modus operandi has not been empirically examined. Furthermore, the Self-Regulation Model of the offending process was initially developed for child molesters, and describes the offending processes of some other types of sexual aggressors less satisfactorily. While Chapters 1 and 2 examined psychological models and theories of the offending processes of sexual aggressors, Chapter 3 reviews criminological models and theories of these processes. Specifically, the Rational Choice Perspective and Routine Activities Theory shed new light on sexual aggressors’ offending processes. The principles of the Rational Choice Perspective dictate that although sexual assaults often seem to be irrational and impulsive acts, they may involve some decisional processes. The aggressor decides whether or not to commit a crime-he weighs the efforts, rewards, and costs involved in alternative courses of action. His rationality, however, is constrained by limits of time, cognitive skill, and availability of relevant information. Furthermore, Beauregard and Leclerc suggest that the aggressor’s lifestyle and routine activities influence the choices and strategies he utilizes during the commission of his crime. According to the Routine Activities Theory, a crime results from the convergence in time and space of three essential elements: a motivated offender, a suitable victim, the absence of a guardian capable of interfering with the crime. These contributions from a criminological perspective complement those from a psychological perspective, and permit the development of a more complete picture of the components involved in the pathways to sexual aggression. These two complementary perspectives are the foundation for the research strategy and the story line of our empirical studies of the pathways to sexual offending (Chapters 4-9). In Part II of this book (Chapters 4-9)—Pathways in the offending process of sexual aggressors: a research program-we analyze the pathways to sexual offending in six types of aggressors: extrafamilial sexual aggressors against women, marital rapists, extrafamilial sexual aggressors against children, incest offenders, hebephilic offenders, and polymorphic sexual aggressors. We analyzed the offending processes of these types of aggressors independently of each other because they comprise different psychological (e.g., motivations, dominant goals) and criminological (e.g., routine activities, victim resistance) components. For example, the motivation, lifestyle, and criminal career of an incest offender are very different from those of a sadistic sexual aggressor against women. Each chapter of this part of the book presents the pathways we found for a single type of sexual aggressor. The nature of the modus operandi (aggressor behavior during the crime, and victim reactions) is conceptualized as the end product of a pathway that includes predisposing factors (enduring interpersonal scripts, general and sexual lifestyles during adulthood), precipitating factors (life events), and situational disinhibitors (e.g., alcohol intoxication, pornography). For example, a marital rapist with an antisocial narcissistic personality profile and a lifestyle characterized by a continuous selfish pursuit of the satisfaction of his
immediate needs may use a high level of physical coercion with his wife at any sign of independence or rebellion on her part. For him, rape is a way to punish his wife for what he perceives to be a lack of respect for him every time she does not behave according to his expectations. In this case, the precipitating life event is marital conflict and the situational disinhibitor is anger. Similarly, an extrafamilial sexual aggressor against women having the same personality profile and the same lifestyle may use instrumental violence (the minimal level of coercion necessary to achieve victim compliance) to force a woman he meets in a bar to have sexual relations with him. In this case, there is no specific precipitating factor, only situational disinhibitors (alcohol intoxication, sexual arousal, and cognitive distortions-“she consented”). These two examples illustrate how personality profile and lifestyle interact with precipitating and disinhibitory factors to shape the modus operandi. Part III of the book-Criminal career and recidivism in sexual aggressorsconsists of two chapters (10, 11) by Lussier and Cale on the links between pathways to sexual aggression and the criminal career of offenders. In Chapter 10, they investigate how some pathways to sexual aggression are rooted in a violent and general criminality that begins during adolescence and continues during adulthood. In Chapter 11, they analyze the relationship between recidivism and pathways to sexual aggression. For example, the criminal career of a child molester with no previous record is clearly different from that of a sexual aggressor who not only has sexually victimized a number of children and women, but also has an extensive criminal record for violent and property crimes. Thus, an aggressor’s specific pathway to sexual crime is related to his criminal career. In Part IV of the book-Pathways in the offending process of sexual aggressors: additional studies-(Chapters 12-14), we present complementary studies on the pathways to sexual offending. Vettor (Chapter 12) and Carter (Chapter 13) carried out analyses of the pathways to sexual aggression in two samples of offenders from the United Kingdom. The main goal of their studies was to assess the validity of the models developed in Part II. Consequently, they conducted similar analyses of the pathways to sexual aggression in their samples. Their results are similar to those of our multifactorial study. Finally, Kingston and Yates (Chapter 14) present their empirical work on the validity of the SelfRegulation Model. Their study replicates and extends the original model developed by Ward and Hudson, and highlights the diversity of offending pathways to sexual aggression. In this book, we have drawn on both forensic psychology and criminology to develop a new theory about the pathways to sexual aggression. This theory, which avoids disciplinary boundaries, clarifies the role of predisposing and precipitating factors, routine activities of offenders, and characteristics of victims in the various processes that lead some men to commit sexual assaults. These crimes may seem illogical or crazy, but they have their own internal logic, and are rooted in a criminal career that may include sexual, violent, and property crimes. For some aggressors, a sexual crime is only one predatory act among
others in a criminal lifestyle, whereas for some others, sexual crimes are their raison d’être and their main source of emotional and sexual gratification. Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists, criminologists, and social workers who manage sexual aggressors must move beyond the repulsion that sexual crimes provoke in most people, and focus on the way these aggressors come to commit their crimes. Such knowledge is a prerequisite for effective crime prevention and offender treatment.