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The association between offender socioeconomic status and victim–offender relationship in rape offences

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The aim of this study was to assess the association between a rapist's social status and the relationship with his victim. Research based on an evolutionary theory of rape suggests that low-status males are more likely to rape (Thornhill and Thornhill, Ethology and Sociobiology, 1983, 4: 137-73), as the relative benefits are higher for them. However, costs and benefits may depend on the relationship with the victim (e.g. victims of a stranger rape are more likely to report it than those raped by an acquaintance; Russell, Sexual Exploitation: Rape, Child Abuse, and Workplace Harassment, Sage, 1984). This study collected data on 255 rape offences from the Prison Service, the Probation Service and Law Reports. The offenders were classified as either high or low status, and the relationship with the victim was categorized. The first hierarchical log-linear analysis found no support for the prediction that there would be a relationship between status and the victim-offender relationship. The second analysis found a main effect of status, i.e. there were more low-status than high-status offenders. There was a main effect of victim–offender relationship, i.e. there was a smaller number of offences committed against strangers and partners, and a larger number of offences committed against step-relatives and acquaintances. There was a significant interaction in that there were more offences committed by high- than low-status men against step-relatives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2001

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