Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 4, October 2004 (
The Implicit Theories of Rapists: What Convicted
Offenders Tell Us
Devon L. L. Polaschek
and Theresa A. Gannon
Twenty years of research into sex offenders’ cognitive distortions has primarily
focused on the measurement of distortions rather than on theorizing about the
underlying structures that are responsible for generating and organizing them.
Recently T. Ward (2000; T. Ward & T. Keenan, 1999) suggested that offenders have
underlying causal theories about themselves, their victims, and broader categories
of people (e.g., women and children), and that these implicit theories enable post
hoc explanation as well as prediction of people’s actions and reactions. D. L.
L. Polaschek and T. Ward (2002) examined rape-related attitudinal scales and
constructed and outlined ﬁve core implicit theories. Here, we examined whether
evidence for these ﬁve theories was also found in offense process descriptions
generated from interviews with 37 imprisoned rapists. Coding of the descriptions
revealed support for all ﬁve theories.
KEY WORDS: implicit theories; schemas; rapists’ cognitive distortions.
I love them, I love those girls, dirty girls. Bad girls have more fun. We like those girls
but we wouldn’t want them for our own. We’re constantly surrounded by girls like that,
girls for that [i.e. sex]. And not understanding what love is, and not understanding that no
means no. We hate that, when people say no; man, woman, society, whoever. We have a
real hard time handling rejection ...the jealousy of what people have that you haven’t, and
the helplessness and being able to do nothing, would lead to this mentality of degrading
women, them being the weaker sex, just to fucking control something, just for a while.
(Quotation from Offender #33 from the present sample)
I don’t really think she knew what she wanted. I’m not saying she didn’t enjoy [the
rape] ...but I’m saying she had an ulterior motive. At that stage I don’t even know if the
motive was the money but, she wanted somebody in her life ...and I seemed to be all
University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of Psychology, Victoria University of
Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation