When we think about sexual predators, the image that most often comes to mind is a small minority of men who rack up countless victims over the course of decades. This has held true in investigations into Catholic priests who get transferred from parish to parish and molest hundreds of children over the course of their lifetime, and the series of Me Too investigations inspired by the New York Times’ unmasking of Harvey Weinstein, who used his power and influence to rape women and then silence them by threatening their livelihoods.
But Swartout’s research reveals that most men who commit sexual assault in their teen and early adult years report only doing so within a limited time frame, and that the likelihood of committing rape changes as time goes on and the men transition from high school to college.
For instance, his 2015 survey found that many who commit a rape in high school don’t do it again once they’re in college. He also found that most men who commit rape in college did it once, complicating the mainstream narrative of the serial sexual predator.
Why is this? Why would a man rape a woman once but then never rape someone again?