Differentiating between serial and non-serial rapists in Queensland

Ms Serena Davidson1

1Bond University, Robina, Australia

For sexual assault case linkage to be successful, it is assumed that a serial rapist will behave relatively consistently across his offences yet distinctively compared to other offenders. Inherent in this is the assumption that serial offenders can be distinguished from non-serial offenders. As this has yet to be fully examined in Australia, the current research analyses offence behaviours of serial and non-serial rapists to determine more clearly whether these assumptions are valid. In total, 250 solved stranger rapes (125 serial and 125 non-serial) from Queensland Police Service crime records were examined. This research specifically assessed whether serial rapists (as a group) display behaviours that are distinct to non-serial rapists, and whether offence behaviours can assist in accurate case linkage and predict whether an offender is serial or not. A number of significantly different offence variables were identified, with five variables providing a significant contribution to predicting offender classification. Additionally, the use of MO variables for case linkage resulted in a high level of linkage accuracy. The results of this project and the implications for investigative practice will be discussed.


Serena Davidson is in the final stages of her PhD candidature at Bond University. Her research explores whether serial and single-victim rapists in Queensland engage in significantly different behaviours during their offences, and whether those behaviours can be used to predict serial versus single-rapist classification. She is also examining case linkage accuracy of rape offences using MO behaviours. She received her Master of Criminology from Bond in 2015 and BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of New Mexico, USA in 2010. Serena plans to further her research and continue to bridge the gap between academia and investigative practice.

Stranger sexual assault presents a unique investigative challenge, with a high cost to both victims and society. As proactive policing increases, methods such as case linkage analysis have been formalised and enhanced to assist serial offender investigations. Case linkage examines the similarities and differences within offender behaviours across multiple offences to identify similar crimes and potential serial offenders. These links can help investigators identify and apprehend serial rapists more quickly.




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