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Sexual Assault

In the Mind of the Sexual Offender

Abusive people, including sexual offenders, typically think they are unique, really so different from other people that they do not have to follow the same rules everyone else does. Rather than being unique, abusers and sexual offenders have a lot in common with one another, including their patterns of thinking and behaving. Some of their characteristics are:

Excuse Making

Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the sexual offender tries to justify his behavior. For example, "I was molested as a child" or "I was drunk when I did it" or "When she said no, I thought she meant yes."


The sexual offender shifts responsibility for his actions from himself to others, a shift that allows him to blame the other person for "causing" his behavior. For example, "She was acting provocatively."


In a variation on the tactic of blaming, the sexual offender redefines the situation so that the problem lies not with him but with the outside world in general. For example, "It is society's fault."

Success Fantasies

The sexual offender believes he would be rich, famous, or extremely successful in some other terms if only people were not holding him back. He uses this belief to justify his assault. The sexual offender also puts other people down verbally in order to make himself feel superior.


The sexual offender uses lies to control the information available and therefore to control the situation. The sexual offender also may use lying to keep other people, including his victim, off-balance psychologically. For example, he tries to appear truthful when he's lying, he tries to look deceitful even when he's telling the truth, and sometimes he reveals himself in an obvious lie.


Sexual offenders often assume they know what others are thinking or feeling. Their assumption allows them to justify their behavior because they "know" what the other person would think or do in a given situation. For example, "I could tell she wanted me to do it."

Above The Rules

As mentioned earlier, a sexual offender generally believes he is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules that ordinary people do. That attitude is typical of convicted criminals, too. Each inmate in a jail typically believes that while all the other inmates are criminals, he himself is not. A sexual offender shows "above the rules" thinking when he says, for example, "I don't need counseling. Nobody knows as much about my life as I do. I can stop anytime I want to."

Making Fools Of Others

The sexual offender combines tactics to manipulate others. The tactics include lying, upsetting the other person just to watch his or her reactions, and encouraging fights between or among others. Or, he may try to charm the person he wants to manipulate, pretending a lot of interest or concern for that person in order to get on her or his good side.


The sexual offender usually keeps his assaultive behavior separate from the rest of his life, physically and psychologically. An example of physical separation is the abuser's sexually assaulting family members but not people outside the family. An example of psychological separation is the offender attending church Sunday morning and sexually assaulting his victim Sunday night. He sees no inconsistency in his behavior and feels justified in it.


The sexual offender ducks responsibility for his actions by trying to make them seem unimportant. For example: "It was no big deal" or "She wanted it anyway."


Sexual offenders are not actually angrier than other people. Anger is a tool offenders use. They deliberately appear to be angry in order to control situations and people.

Power Plays

The sexual offender uses various tactics to overcome resistance to his bullying. For instance, he berates the victim, calling her a "tease," a "slut," etc. If they have friends or acquaintances in common, he may organize others to shun or criticize her for daring to "accuse" him of rape or sexual assault.

Playing Victim

Occasionally the sexual offender will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate the victim into accompanying him or staying with him. Here, the offender thinks that if he does not get what he wants, he is the victim; and he uses the disguise of victim to attack or make fools of others.

Drama And Excitement

Sexual offenders make the choice not to have close relationships with other people. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Offenders find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they will use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.

Closed Channel

The sexual offender does not reveal much about his real feelings, and he is not open to new information about himself such as insights into how others see him. He is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. He believes he is right in all situations.


The sexual offender typically is very possessive. Moreover, he believes that anything he wants should be his, and anything that is his he can do with as he pleases. That attitude applies to people as well as to possessions. It justifies his controlling behavior, physically abusive behavior, and taking others' possessions.


The sexual offender usually thinks of himself as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient, and very masculine. His idea of the ideal man often is the cowboy or the adventurer type. Any action or perceived attitude of another person that does not conform to his glorified self-image is seen as a putdown.

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