When it comes to serial crimes, we think of serial murder at the hands of crazed mad men looking for victims of opportunity everywhere. Their crimes are spectacularly horrifying and draw all of us into the mystery of them. Yet, when it comes to serial crime, serial killers are the rarest. This is great news for all of us, because it means we are unlikely to be set upon by a serial killer. You, me, the guy and girl across the hall are all far more likely to fall victim to a different less discussed predator the serial rapist. Unlike the serial killer, the serial rapist is more likely to prey on people they know. Also, unlike the serial killer, they aren’t rare. For Anonymous Dreams and Innocent Dreams, I had to put in a great deal of research on rape and I learned some horrifying things. Things I’m now going to share with my readers, because I think they’re important to know.
In the last year, I have basically removed the word “rapist” from my vocabulary and replaced it with “serial rapist” all the time. I’ve done this for a very disturbing reason… One in four sexual assaults are committed by a person who has committed at least one other sexual assault. Okay, so 25% that’s bad, but it’s not mind blowing…
This should be terrifying; because those are the ones we know about. Sexual assault and rape are the most underreported crimes in the world. Estimates put the reporting rate at 25% meaning only one in four sexual assaults are even reported… and that means 75% of sexual assaults are not reported meaning we don’t know what percentage of them are committed by repeat offenders.
Because sexual assault is so underreported and because it isn’t a highly investigated crime, serial rapists are comfortable preying on people they know. And it is their preferred victim pool, this is in direct contrast to serial killers who prefer to kill strangers because it is harder to trace it back to them. If a rapist has a relationship with his victim, he is less likely to be convicted in a jury trial, which is why sexual assaults are usually plea bargained instead of tried.
However, there is another disturbing bit about criminals that commit sexual assault that makes me think maybe we should be harder on them. Rapists are more likely to commit other types of violent crimes. It is rare for a rapist to get in trouble solely for sexual assault, usually they have a string of convictions that include other violent offenses like armed robbery, home invasion, carjacking, and assault and battery. I think what struck me the most about this, is rarely does someone commit armed robbery and then go on to get arrested for committing rape or sexual battery, usually the sex based crime is the first offense and they graduate to committing the other types of violent crimes.
Uh what? This means a person who commits a rape in their late teens or twenties even if not convicted of it, is more likely to go on to commit armed robbery, murder, or another violent crime. This is because contrary to what the act of rape or sexual assault implies it is not a sexual act. It is about control, anger, contempt, and a desire to possess someone or something else. In this way, the rapist is very much like the serial killer where murder is about control, anger, contempt, and a desire to possess.
Which brought up an interesting thought for me. I watched the documentary I am Evidence and it discussed all the untested rape kits that have been collected in the US. If a rapist is just as likely to commit a mugging or carjacking or home invasion as they are to commit a second rape, then it seems like all those untested rape kits could provide evidence in other crimes. Imagine three men kick in your front door, in the process they are leaving their DNA on items in your home and if you are super lucky one of them will cut themselves and leave blood. That untested rape kit from 2001 of the “college girl who got drunk and probably deserved it” could provide the identity of one of the men who busted down the front door of your home. Because their DNA once processed in the rape kit should be uploaded to CODIS and made available to all police departments in the US.
As a woman, I do of course, have strong opinions on sexual violation. However, as someone who researches crime, I feel the processing of rape kits, all rape kits, could help in the prevention and conviction of other crimes. A case study of convicted serial rapists (in this instance, I mean rapists that didn’t have a relationship with their victim beforehand) found more than fifty percent had committed other violent crimes. Just stop and think about that a moment. If 50% of convicted serial rapists have committed other violent crimes, we go back to that 75% of rapes that are never reported. Hundreds of thousands of sexual assaults are reported every year and only a small portion are ever investigated and even fewer end with an arrest. But studies show, that those hundreds of thousands of reported rapes could lead to capturing the perpetrator in other violent crimes.