Is He the Type? Exploring Empirical Typologies of a Sample of Men Convicted of Rape

Is He the Type? Exploring Empirical Typologies of a Sample of Men Convicted of Rape

Sexual and Violent Recidivism of Empirically-Typed Individuals Convicted of Rape | 2023 Vol. 22, No. 1, 26-38


Laura Freudenthaler; Justinzanstalt Asten, Asten, Austria

Ulrich S. Tran; Faculty of Psychology, Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Rieinhard Eher; Federal Evaluation Centre for Violent and Sexual Offenders, Vienna, Austria


Men convicted of rape are a heterogenous group among individuals with sexual offending history. This may contribute to the difficulty of establishing adequate treatment during institutionalization and preventing recidivism after release. Therefore, we aimed to identify an empirical typology of individuals convicted of rape based on (a) common criminological variables (age at first offense, number of prior convictions, relation to the victim), (b) offense behavior (alcoholization during the offense) and (c) clinical diagnoses (substance abuse and dependence, psychopathy, sexual sadism, Cluster B personality disorders, paraphilias, para- philia-related disorders) associated with the risk of sexual offending. Data of N = 575 adult males with raping history were analyzed. We found four types with different profiles in the described variables: an antisocial impulsive, a sexualized, a highly violent and a non-criminal situational type. The types significantly varied in prognostic validity for violent, but not sexual, recidivism. Also, the typology exhibited a slightly higher predictive validity for violent recidivism than Static-99 scores. In contrast to Static-99, the typology failed to significantly predict sexual recidivism. Although the types explained more variance of violent recidivism than Static-99 scores, the value of applying a broad set of risk factors in contrast to combining only few are discussed.


Risk factors; rape; sexual offenders; typology; recidivism

Summary of the Research

“Within the group of persons with sexual offending history men convicted for rape are known to be a rather heterogenous group…This seems to be one of the reasons why it is difficult to establish adequate treatment during institutionalization and hence prevent recidivism after release…Empirical typologies are classification schemas, which can help identifying subgroups, drawing a distinct picture, and outlining differences between subgroups regarding problematic characteristics…To date, the research practice in German-speaking countries seems to have focused on detecting differences between specific groups of offenders (men who have sexually offended against adults vs. men who have sexually offended against children…) rather than on differences within specific groups. Thus, the current study aimed to explore a clinically derived, empiric typology of men convicted of rape, using commonly reported clinical forensic and criminological risk characteristics, which proved relevant in recent research…Furthermore, we aimed to predict violent and sexual recidivism for the different observed types and quantify the incremental validity of the typology to a commonly used risk assessment tool [the Static-99]…” (p. 26-28).

“Anonymized archival data from N = 575 Austrian adult males who had committed a sexual assault against an adult woman were used for this study. All had been convicted for rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse of defenseless or mentally impaired persons…We obtained evidence of four types of individuals convicted of rape. Of these four types, three showed heightened violent recidivism rates. Also, some variables, like the relation to the victim, did not contribute to the classification of empirical types. Yet, most of the other criminological and clinical forensic characteristics (e.g., age at first offense, number of prior convictions, alcoholization during the offense, substance abuse and dependence, psychopathy, Cluster B personality disorders) proved relevant for the classification as expected” (p. 29-34).

“Type 1 seems to represent an antisocial impulsive type with strong psychopathic characteristics who start his criminal career in early adulthood with general and violent offenses. Drug abuse also appears to be a somewhat noteworthy factor in this group, significantly distinguishing this type from all others…Further, type 1 individuals have an 87% probability for a diagnosis of a Cluster B personality disorder. Type 2 apparently constitutes a sexualized type. Besides prior convictions for violent and other than sexual or violent crimes and high psychopathy traits, this type is mostly characterized by previous convictions of sexual offenses. Individuals of this type also have a high probability of being diagnosed with a Cluster B personality disorder…” (p. 34).

“Type 3 appears to be a highly violent type with a very early onset and high number of former violent and general offenses. All individuals of type [3] had a Cluster B personality disorder diagnosis…Type 4 indicates a late-onset situational type with only a low chance for the presence of a Cluster B personality disorder and no relevant substance dependencies. Rape seems to be committed situationally rather than associated with a mental disorder among individuals of this type…This type was found to have the lowest violent recidivism rates…The four types differed in violent recidivism rates, but not in sexual recidivism, which, however, appears unsurprising given the fact that the event of sexual recidivism is generally rare…type 2…had the highest relative recidivism rates, albeit differences to the other types were not significant…While the present study replicated previous studies using the Static-99 for the prediction of sexual and violent recidivism…for the subgroup of individuals convicted of rape, we also observed that the typology predicted violent recidivism slightly better than Static-99 scores. This finding corroborates important differences between individuals convicted of rape, albeit the importance of particular risk factors still needs to be investigated in more detail. Our results suggest that, paraphilias did not turn out to be risk relevant simply because of their low base-rate in our population…” (p. 34-35).

Translating Research into Practice

“Typologies can aid in a first diagnostic evaluation, but cannot and should not replace the process of a well-founded individual psychiatric/psychological risk assessment. Still, typologies may help to better understand the heterogeneity of individuals convicted of rape. Also, it may serve as an empirical basis for adequate interventions and treatment planning, which could be tailored to match the type of the respective individuals…” (p. 34).

“…Although the present study cannot add to the results of Knight and Prentky (1990) on the motivations of individuals, our typology ends up with the same main discriminators (“antisocial behaviour,” “sexualization,” and violence”) … Yet, the practical value of the present typology for the assessment of recidivism risk appears to be limited. Our results show that an extensive data collection and the use of many different variables does not necessarily improve the prediction of (sexual) recidivism within a specific prison population. Commonly used and broadly validated instruments, such as the Static-99, are considered best practice when assessing the individual recidivism risk – our results corroborate this finding. Still, a typology based on clinical measures may contribute to the risk assessment and help to better understand the individual case” (p. 35).

Other Interesting Tidbits for Researchers and Clinicians

“The SESAS is an expert-rated forensic screening inventory for the assessment of severe sexual sadism. It contains 11 criteria, which were derived from Marshall et al. (2002), and which are rated present (1) or absent (0). Items include the experience of sexual arousal by sadistic acts, humiliating and degrading the victim, or the mutilation of sexual parts of the victim’s body. Previous psychometric validation studies suggest that the scale is unidimensional and highly reliable…The PCL-R is a semi-structured expert-rated interview for the assessment of psychopathy. It includes 20 items, which are rated on a scale of 0-2 (0 = does not apply, 1=partial match or mixed information, 2 = reasonably good match) via face-to-face interview and/or supporting file information…” (p. 30).

Additional Resources

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