Perpetrator Surveys

  1. Methodology
  2. Data
  3. Table - Selected findings of perpetrator self-report surveys
  4. Critical Assessment


Perpetrator self-report surveys use the same methodology as victimization surveys. Participants are recruited using a sampling scheme, then interviewed by telephone, written questionnaire or face-to-face. The major differences are that the respondents are perpetrators or potential perpetrators rather than victims or potential victims, and that the respondent’s behavior is the subject of inquiry rather than what has happened to the subject.



Table - Selected findings of perpetrator self-report surveys

Subjects Rape Percent Reference
Naval Recruits Attempted 3.5 Koss 1997
  Completed 11.3  
College Students Attempted 4.0 Walker et al. 1993
  Completed 4.5  
College Students Attempted 3.3 Koss and Dinero 1987
  Completed 4.4  

Perpetrator surveys of college students have found that about 4% of males have attempted rape and about 4% have completed rape. New data from naval recruits shows a much higher incidence of completed rape at 11.3%.


Critical Assessment

Perpetrator self-report surveys have the advantage of providing another perspective to the question of the incidence of rape. However, perpetrator self-reports are sensitive to how questions are asked and the same errors in judgement and self-serving perceptions that lead to a rape can lead a perpetrator to fail to self-identify as a rapist. The legal definition of rape includes penetration, use of force, and lack of consent. The perception of two of these criteria can differ greatly between parties involved in an incident. Men and women differ in what they consider use of force. What is normal aggressive behavior to a man may be a strong use of force to a woman. It is also not unusual for men and women to disagree on whether or not consent has been given. Unfortunately, sexual signals can be ambiguous or misread.

Like victimization surveys, perpetrator surveys are extremely expensive. Conducting a perpetrator survey is not financially feasible. Furthermore, a perpetrator survey is not politically feasible because of the confidentiality issues involved in undertaking this type of survey as a government contract and because they are seen as threatening to the status quo.


Arizona Rape and Sexual Assault Surveillance Project
University of Arizona, University of Arizona Prevention Center
All contents copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.