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A descriptive study of the modus operandi of serial rapists in South Africa.

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Acta Criminologica


This article reflects research of which the aim is to increase our collective knowledge of the modus operandi of serial rapists in South Africa in an attempt to contribute to the prevention and prosecution of perpetrators. The sample consists of 22 convicted cases of serial rapists and reflects 204 victims. The authors note that a mere understanding of the modus operandi of serial rapists is not sufficient to fully understand the behavior of these perpetrators. However, they draw attention to the argument that understanding the perpetrator’s modus operandi has been recognized by both criminal investigators and academics as making a valuable contribution to understanding crimes, including that of serial rapists. A behavioural checklist was developed to provide assistance with accounting for the chronological pattern of the crime from the time of victim acquisition to the actual attack. The rational choice perspective and routine activity theory were then used as an organizing framework within which to analyse the strategies of the perpetrator. The results indicated that the modus operandi exhibited by a group of serial rapists in South Africa differs from offenders in other countries. Aspects of the routine activity theory is contextualized and utilized to interpret the current findings. The authors highlight shortcomings of the current research and suggest how the current findings should form the basis of further research.



Rapists--Psychology., Rape--Psychological aspects--South Africa., Serial rape investigation., Rapists--South Africa--Psychology., Serial rapists.


Potgieter, C and de Wet, J. 2010. A descriptive study of the modus operandi of serial rapists in South Africa. Acta Criminolica 23(3), pp. 1-15.