Are all perpetrators alike? Comparing risk factors for sexual coercion and aggression

Sarah DeGue, David DiLillo, Mario Scalora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The present study developed and contrasted predictive models of male nonphysical sexual coercion (e.g., verbal pressure or manipulation) and physical sexual aggression (e.g., incapacitation, physical force, or threats) using a sample of 369 incarcerated males to identify shared and unique risk factors for each form of sexual perpetration. Results revealed a set of shared risk characteristics that predisposed individuals to both sexual coercion and aggression (i.e., belief in rape myths, sexual promiscuity, aggressive tendencies, and empathic deficits). In addition, findings indicated that whether the offenders engaged in only sexual coercion or also used more violent sexually aggressive tactics depended on the presence of two sets of traits unique to these forms of perpetration. Specifically, sexual coercers tended to possess traits that facilitated the use of verbal tactics (i.e., ability to manipulate others and to imagine others' emotional reactions). In contrast, sexual aggressors had characteristics that could increase their willingness to "cross the line" and resort to more violent means to obtain sex from an unwilling partner (i.e., hostility toward women, egocentricity, an impulsive disregard for sociolegal proscriptions, and childhood emotional abuse). A model of general sexual perpetration that directly contrasted sexually coercive and aggressive men was also developed, and hostility toward women was identified as the only predictor capable of predicting perpetrator group membership. Together, these findings suggest that although sexual coercers and aggressors share some underlying risk factors, the etiological patterns of these behaviors are distinct and necessitate individual attention by researchers and prevention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-426
Number of pages25
JournalSexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • manipulation
  • nonphysical
  • perpetration
  • rape
  • sexual aggression
  • sexual coercion
  • sexual offending
  • sexual violence
  • verbal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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