Adult Sex Offenders 101

Sex offender. These two words have been in the news a lot recently. Between public bathroom talks, the Stanford Case, and the Vanderbilt Case, the phrase has become a familiar one.

However, familiarity doesn’t automatically translate into understanding. In fact, familiarity may cause us to run the risk of becoming desensitized to what these two words can mean even though they are two words that can change everything.

Understanding sex offenders is a complicated topic; therefore, this blog and the next will look at two general categories of sex offenders: adult and child. Adult sex offenders primarily prey on those 18 years of age and older and child sex offenders target those under the age of 18. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to address them in the comments section or by emailing

No one wants to think about being raped. The violation and trauma during this act of violence and its aftermath are the stuff that nightmares are made of. However, burying our head in the sand doesn’t fix anything. In fact, burying our head allows us to lower our guard against the very people who would want to take advantage of us. This is unwise.

At their core, adult sex offenders are driven by a need to have power and control over their victims. People mistakenly, but commonly, believe that rapists rape because they need to have sex or because the sexual attraction towards their victim is just too great to resist or because they are drunk or high or a combination of these things. All of these “reasons” are baloney. Rapists rape, or attempt rape or engage in sexual assaults, because their sexual arousal is tied to acts that violate, produce fear, and/or humiliate someone else. In other words, they rape simply because they can.

We would be remiss if we didn’t push the pause button for just a moment. In an effort to reduce our own anxiety over the topic, we (the societal “we”) can often be very quick to claim that rapist’s rape because of their victim. We whisper that if the victim had dressed a different way or had gone a different place or had not been drinking or had the good sense to not be “there” so late or had not “teased” the offender or had better expressed that they didn’t really want “it” then none of this would have happened. There are two really big, glaring issues with this line of reasoning:

  1. Rape is the sex offender’s responsibility. Period. There is only one person, one entity who is making the decision to degrade another sexually and that is the would-be offender.
  2. By not making the offender take responsibility for their choices, we are effectively hijacking their ability to be accountable adults. No accountability = no change. No change = more victims. When we make excuses and justifications for sex offenders, we are essentially saying to them that it is OK for them to make the same choice again.

Types of Adult Rape

Stranger Rape: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 33% of reported rapes are committed by strangers to the victim. Of these rapes, the rapist is motivated by:

      Power which means the assault is premeditated, involves rape fantasies,involves  threats and force to gain control of their victim, and this rapist often experiences deep feelings of inadequacy and insecurities.  For an example of a power rape, click here.

Opportunistic which means the assault happened because the opportunity arose for the offender to rape someone. Maybe an offender’s primary motivation was to burglarize a home, but then the homeowner returns in the middle of burglary and not realizing anyone is in their home, goes in only to then be raped. Or these offenders “make” their opportunities by intoxicating and drugging their victims. For an example of this rape, click here.

      Anger which means the assault is more impulsive but generally includes more physical force than is truly necessary to overpower the victim. In these cases, the victim often experiences injuries throughout their body and the rapist generally employs every avenue – physical, verbal, and emotional – to subdue and gain power over their victim. The actual event may take a long time and involve several different rapes during the course of the interaction. Many of these rapists feel like they are “paying back” for things that have been done to them. For an example of an anger rape, click here.

Sadistic which means the assault is calculated and pre-planned. The rapist often switches between “sweet” and “degrading” acts towards the victim and engages in ritualistic behaviors that may include torture and often results in death. For an example of a sadistic rapist, click here.

 Acquaintance Rape: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 66% of reported rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

These rapes happen because the offender believes:

1) They are owed something because of who they are or what they did for the victim. They feel entitled.

2) The victim won’t remember it so it’s not a big deal (in this event, they either believe the victim has become so intoxicated on their own or they “help” the victim to this point by drugging them).  They have lost empathy.

For an example of offenders who believed both of these things, click here.

In other words, people rape their friends, intimate partners, acquaintances, and those they just met because they want to. And believe it is their right to. And justify their behavior to their choices by convincing themselves it’s not that big of a deal. And the victim is left to piece together what happened and then reassemble the shattered pieces of their lives. If you have ever wondered what it feels like to be a victim, read this.

If you are a victim of a stranger or acquaintance rape, please know that it is not your fault. You have been forced into a role you never wanted. It is unfair. It is maddening. But you have the strength to overcome it and take control of how the next chapter is written. If you need help, please contact us at

If you are someone who is thinking about raping another person, please understand that you, and only you, are causing great personal devastation to someone who is undeserving. Regardless of your past and what others have done to you, this is not your right. If you need help, please contact providers here.

It is time that we understand this section of our population. Everything from protecting ourselves to the amount of time an offender gets post conviction depends on how well we understand this topic. If we are serious about not wanting to see any more headlines that scream at us about an adult rape, then we have to get serious about knowing this topic and using that knowledge to dictate our decisions.  Join us!

Written by Valerie Craig, Co-Founder, Tennessee Voices for Victims


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