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Sexual Predators and Prey: A Comparative Study of the Hunting Behavior of Rapists and Child Molesters

Maria Francisca Rebocho & Rui Abrunhosa Gonçalves.


Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

September 2012, vol. 27, no. 14, 2770-2789.



Although there has been an increase in research on sex offenders' modus operandi, geographic decision making, and hunting behavior, most studies still tend to emphasize criminal motivation while overlooking the role of situational and environmental factors. Studies of mixed samples of rapists and child molesters typically neglect to conduct comparative analyses. Consequently, the full nature of their distinction is not clear. This is particularly problematic for the understanding of crossover or polymorphous sex offenders, who target victims from various age groups. Using a sample of 216 incarcerated sexual offenders, hunting behavior patterns were identified and tested to establish which hunting behavior patterns were associated with each type of offender. Relationships between modus operandi, geographic decision making, and hunting behavior were also examined. Three types of offender were identified: (a) manipulative; (b) opportunist; and (c) coercive. The manipulative offender is typically a child molester. The coercive offender is typically a rapist. The opportunist offender includes both rapists and child molesters. These findings emphasize the relevance of polymorphous, crossover, or versatile sex offenders and suggest new ways of conceptualizing sex offenders and their study.



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