A cumulative behavioural scale for identifying non-sadistic ritualistic rape

Dr Michael Davis1

1Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, , Australia, 2Department of Psychiatry, Monash University, , Australia, 3Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, , Australia


Rapists and the offences that they commit are markedly heterogeneous. Decades of scholarly literature have posited a number of motivations for the crime of rape, including power, anger, misogynistic vindictiveness, and sexualisation. Identifying the motivational drive behind sexual offending can be vitally important for forensic assessors, behavioural investigative advisers, and treating clinicians. One particularly important construct is to differentiate between ritualistic offences driven by fantasy and those that are not. However, this is often difficult to determine from a clinical interview as it relies on the assumptions that the offender knows why they committed an offence and that their narrative is truthful. Accordingly, it is arguably of great importance for forensic mental health professionals to concentrate on actual offence behaviours when formulating hypotheses. This paper will focus upon the identification of ritualistic rape from an analysis of offence behaviour. Sadistic and non-sadistic variants of ritualistic rape will be discussed, drawing attention to the similarities and marked differences between them. Historical conceptualisations of the non-sadistic variant, including biastophilia, raptophilia, and paraphilic coercive disorder will be reviewed. It will be argued that these are of limited clinical utility without a valid behavioural anchor. Distinguishing features and salient behaviours of non-sadistic ritualistic rapes will be discussed and a cumulative behavioural rating scale for identifying such offences will be proposed: “The Non-Sadistic Ritualistic Rape Scale.” A sub-scale for identifying poorly understood muted forms of sadism will also be proposed. Pragmatic recommendations for forensic mental health professionals and behavioural investigative advisers will be outlined as well as proposals for future research regarding this important construct.


Dr Michael Davis is a Forensic Clinical Psychologist in full-time private practice with adjunct positions at Swinburne, Monash, and Melbourne Universities. He has presented to mental health and law enforcement audiences worldwide on various aspects of sexual and violent crime. He has conducted hundreds of assessments for the courts and in consultation for area mental health services, government departments, and private lawyers. Dr Davis is a member of the Australian Forensic Reference Group (Victoria Police). He has provided behavioural investigative advice to police in several countries across three continents and is the only mental health professional in Australia to be elected to membership of the International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship (ICIAF). Dr Davis serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling.

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