Beauregard, E., & Leclerc, B. (2007). An application of the rational choice approach to the offending process of sex offenders: A closer look at the decision-making. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 19, 115-133.


| Link to article in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment |

Abstract  Although the study of both offense processes and implicit theories provides in-depth knowledge about the decision-making of sex offenders, these studies focus solely on the internal psychological processes of the offender leading to the commission of a sexual assault. These studies neglect to look specifically at the offender’s decision-making during the offense in interaction with the immediate situations encountered at the offense scene, such as the choices of behavior while interacting with the victim in a specific context. Based on a rational choice approach, this study investigates the decision-making involved in the offending process of 69 serial sexual offenders who have committed their crimes against stranger victims. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with offenders in order to identify the rationale behind their actions during the pre-crime phase (premeditation of the crime, estimation of risk of apprehension by the offender, and forensic awareness of the offender), crime phase (use of a weapon, use of restraints, use of a vehicle, and level of force used), and the post-crime phase (event leading to the end of crime and victim release site location choice). Results show that sex offenders, even if traditionally described as “irrational” and impulsive individuals, are capable, up to a certain point, of an analysis of the costs/benefits related to their actions. Moreover, results emphasize the important role of situational factors, such as victim resistance, on the decision-making process of sex offenders. Implications of the results are briefly discussed in regard of clinical practice and crime prevention.