A study of sexual offending against older female victims
Background Sexual offending against older female victims is a poorly
researched area and few published works are available within the literature.
Previous studies suggest that older women may constitute between 2-7% of all
victims of rape. There is some evidence that this pattern of offending represents
a typology of sexual offending, namely "anger rape". Offences falling within
this category are typically brutal and sadistic, and are carried out against
stranger victims. The literature is confusing as to whether the sexual assault of a
woman who is frankly elderly, and that in which the victim is significantly older
(although not necessarily elderly) than the perpetrator, are variants of the same
Aims This study was designed to calculate an estimate of prevalence of older
women victims of sexual offending based on a large-scale population survey.
The study was also designed to test the anger rape hypothesis in the case of
firstly, sexual offences in which the female victim is old or elderly in absolute
terms, and secondly, when there is a large (30 years or more) age gap between a
younger male perpetrator and an older female victim.
Method All reported sexual offences on adult women (age 18 years and over)
occurring over a five and a quarter year period from a circumscribed semi-rural
county in eastern England were analysed. Prevalence rates and attributable risk
values for older victim age groups were calculated. The crime scene
characteristics were analysed by means of a case control methodology and by
Results Sexual offences committed on older or elderly women are uncommon.
A female aged 20-24 years is about 155 times more likely to become a victim of
a sexual offence than is the case for a woman aged 80-84 years. Sexual offences
against women aged 60 years and above are more likely to be carried out in a
residential domestic setting by a single male assailant who is significantly oldersample were not consistent with the anger rape hypothesis. Sexual offences in
which the female victim is 30 or more years older than the male offender are not
typically of the anger rape type, and are more likely to be minor assaults carried
out by young alcohol intoxicated males in public places.
Conclusions There are public health implications for these results. The fears of
increasing numbers of elderly female victims of sexual assault based on
established demographic trends in Western societies may be misplaced.
Previous studies that have provided evidence for the anger rape hypothesis have
been characterised by a selection bias not present in this study. Sexual offences
in which there is a large age gap between victim and perpetrator are likely to
represent a different form of criminological phenomenon
than is the case for typical sex offenders. The crime scene characteristics of this