Rape Types


Nearly one out of every five women in the U.S., 22 million women, is estimated to have been the victim of rape or attempted rape at one point in her life. In 2010, 1.27 million U.S. women were raped; one every 29 seconds.

In college campus settings, rape is particularly common and under reported. In 2006, an estimated 673,000 (11.5%) of nearly 6 million women attending American colleges were raped (compared to about 1% in the general population). Only 12% were reported to law enforcement. Alcohol was involved in many of these cases, with 7.8% of them occurring when the woman was incapacitated due to voluntary alcohol use.


Of female victims of rape, 28.8% were raped by more than one perpetrator. In instances of sexual violence other than rape, 54.2% reported more than one perpetrator. The psychology of gang rape is one of group dynamics. Often, these are instances when the opportunity for rape is presented and are not premeditated. Just like a person being more likely to help a person when they see others doing it, when one person in a group suggests an act of sexual violence others are more likely to follow.

This most often is perpetrated by young adults in setting such as college campuses and fraternities. Alcohol is often involved. The group identity discourages moral self-scrutiny, making the members more likely to partake in the violent act then if they were alone. The normal profiles of individual rapists do not apply, and often the participants would be viewed as normal in an outside setting. Consequently, often the perpetrators have no prior criminal history.


The rarest type of rape, it is divided into three major categories: Blitz sexual assault, contact sexual assault, and home invasion sexual assault. Blitz sexual assaults are the images most commonly brought to mind by rape. They usually occur at night in a public place and the perpetrator rapidly and brutally assaults the victim with no prior contact. In contact sexual assault, the perpetrator first tries to establish trust with the victim before assaulting him or her. They pick up victims in bars and try to coerce the person into sexual situations. Home invasion sexual assault is when a stranger breaks into a victim’s home to commit the assault. Often, this is a crime of convenience. They may have another reason for breaking and entering, such as robbery. These instances also qualify as burglary.

There are four psychological profiles of serial rapists, which may or may not be strangers. The first is the reassurance-seeking rapist. They are compelled to rape by a deep seeded feeling of inadequacy, but not necessarily sexual inadequacy. This person seeks to achieve an illusion of control through the act of rape. They will fantasize that the sex is consensual and the victim will enjoy it. This is believed to be the most common type of serial rapist.

The power seeking rapist operates on the assumption that women owe them sex. This person may use a weapon, but only to ensure a victim’s compliance. Extreme machismo is exhibited to mask doubts.

Another type of serial rapist is the erotic-aggression rapist. This person uses rituals and sadism and wants the victims to be hurt. Most murder/rapes are committed by this type of rapist. They are aroused by the victim’s suffering, particularly if they struggle to escape. The erotic-aggression rapist will select victims that are vulnerable and can be controlled. This is the image of a serial killer commonly depicted in horror movies, and while sensational, it is the rarest type of rapist.

The last type of serial rapist is the retaliatory rapist, who is angry at the world, particularly women. A perceived wrong usually spurs an attack within 24 hours. This person acts on impulse and does not, generally, premeditate their crime. They often use debilitating force.

Person You Know

This is the most common form of rape. In 91.9% of female rape cases, the perpetrator was someone the woman knew. The majority of rapes, 51.1%, are committed by an intimate partner and 40.8% are committed by an acquaintance.  More than one out of three (35.6%) women in the U.S. has experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime. As of 1993, all states have laws against spousal rape, although until that time it was often not considered a crime.

Situations where the rapist is a person the woman knows range from spousal rape to date rape. If a person is intoxicated, they cannot legally consent to sex, making the act rape. Some states (20) have an exception to this rule for married couples, indicating that sex with a spouse is not rape when the spouse is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious or asleep.

Additional Resources

CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

The Jane Dough, California’s “Spouse Impersonation” Statute Is Not the Only Legal Rape Loophole: http://www.thejanedough.com/rape-statutes-states-fraud-impersonation/

Significance, Rape More Common Than Smoking in the U.S.: http://www.significancemagazine.org/details/webexclusive/1424839/Rape-more-common-than-smoking-in-the-US.html

U.S. Census Bureau, Forcible Rape: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0314.pdf

Extending the Vision, Crime Victimization in the United State: http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw2012/pdf/StatisticalOverviews.pdf

The New York Times, Why DO Groups of Men Attack Lone Women? http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/understanding-the-psychology-of-gang-rape/

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