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Trajectory Analysis of the Campus Serial Rapist Assumption

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2015
7 pages
This study’s objective was to determine whether a group of serial rapists exists by identifying cohesive groups of young men, indicated by their trajectories of rape likelihood across high school and college.
Rape on college campuses has been addressed recently by a presidential proclamation, Federal legislation, advocacy groups, and popular media. Many initiatives assume that most college men who perpetrate rape are serial rapists; however, the scientific foundation for this perspective is surprisingly limited. For the current study, latent class growth analysis of the two largest longitudinal data sets of adolescent sexual violence on college campuses was performed using two distinct groups of male college students. The first group was used for derivation modeling (n = 847; data collected from August 1990 through April 1995) and the second for validation modeling (n = 795; data collected from March 2008 through May 2011). Final data analyses were conducted from February 16, 2015, through February 20, 2015. Rape perpetration assessed using the Sexual Experiences Survey. Across samples, 178 of 1,642 participants (10.8 percent) reported having perpetrated at least one rape from 14 years of age through the end of college. A three-trajectory model best fit both the derivation and validation data sets. Trajectories reflected low or time-limited (92.6 percent of participants), decreasing (5.3 percent), and increasing (2.1 percent) rape patterns. No consistently high trajectory was found. Most men who perpetrated a rape before college were classified in the decreasing trajectory. During college, the increasing trajectory included 14 men (15.2 percent) who reported having perpetrated a rape, the decreasing trajectory included 30 men (32.6 percent), and the low or time-limited included 48 men (52.2 percent). No participant in the low or time-limited trajectory reported perpetrating a rape during more than one period. Most men (67 [72.8 percent]) who committed college rape only perpetrated rape during one academic year. The study concludes that although a small group of men perpetrated rape across multiple college years, they constituted a significant minority of those who committed college rape and did not compose the group at highest risk of perpetrating rape when entering college. Exclusive emphasis on serial predation to guide risk identification, judicial response, and rape-prevention programs is misguided. To deter college rape, prevention should be initiated before, and continue during, college. Child and adolescent health care professionals are well positioned to intervene during the early teenage years by informing parents about the early onset of nonconsensual sexual behavior. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: December 1, 2015