Myths and truths about rapists

The case of the Igualada rape, with a detainee with a record, will help to cement the idea that sexual predators have a very high probability of reoffending. The seriousness of the crime and the media coverage will add fuel to the fire. Experts, however, assure that the recidivism of these aggressors is approximately 20%, much lower than other types of criminals.

This is the opinion of, among others, Santiago Redondo and Meritxell Pérez. The first is a doctor in Psychology and professor of Psychology and Criminology at the University of Barcelona (UB), as well as the author of The origin of the crimes Y Evaluation and treatment of offenders. The latter teaches Criminology at the Comillas Pontifical University and is also the co-author of works such as Intervention and treatment of criminals in prison.

Both have published the above study on the risk of recidivism of sexual aggressors, together with Marian Martínez, a graduate in Psychology and Criminology, professor at the UB and specialist in the psychology of delinquency. These three researchers cite international studies to maintain that “the general average of recidivism of non-specific sexual offenders is around 50%”.

Despite the echo that they arouse in the press, “sexual crimes embody a minimal proportion of delinquency”, which they place at 1%, knowing that the cases that transcend are not all, “so it is conceivable that this percentage would be doubled at least, if all the crimes could be known”. Even so, the social perception of the recidivism of sexual aggressors is much higher than the real data.

Media expectation in Igualada

Xavi Jurio

There are two ways to try to penetrate the mind of a predator like the Igualada. One is to read Antonio Muñoz Molina and his wonderful novel Plenilunio (Seix Barral). Another is to give the floor to experts such as those cited. His study is from years ago, but it seems to fit perfectly with the data that has emerged from the detainee. Repeat offenders like him often exhibit deviant behavior.

These criminals, who prefer “antisocial forms of sexual relations that are more exciting for them”, fail to “inhibit those inappropriate and harmful ways of obtaining pleasure”. They often have trouble relating and communicating. Many, although not all, have difficulty maintaining normal sexual contacts, that is, between adults who freely access desired and consented exchanges.

three facts

So are these criminals


20% of predators reoffend, although the echo of their crimes is much higher


The accused of Igualada is a textbook case: antisocial, lonely, without empathy, violent…


Repeat offenders like him get turned on and experience sex “in a distorted way”

They are lonely individuals, with little ability to empathize or understand the feelings of others. They are anxious or nervous in simple social situations. This explains his social isolation. Like other types of criminals, they have failed at what psychologists call “inhibitory learning.” Sexual assaults tend to be favored by “close facilitating circumstances”.

What kind of circumstances? Santiago Redondo, Meritxell Pérez and Marian Martínez cite four possible examples in their work: prolonged stress, sexual arousal, angry reactions or abusive alcohol consumption. To these emotional states we must add cognitive distortions (about sexuality, women, children…) that help rapists overcome their internal controls.

Myths and truths about rapists

The arrest record


The defendant from Igualada, with pedophile tendencies (he abused a 7-year-old sister), had a big drink the night of the attack. Another piece of information supports his profile as a repeat offender: his age. He’s 21 years old. A comparative analysis between sexual aggressors who returned to their old ways and others who did not, indicates that the former were younger when they acted, with an average of 25 years (34, in the case of non-repeat offenders).

In addition to the youth with which they start the attacks, repeat offenders have “a high psychopathic profile and high sexual excitability.” It was the case of someone who repeatedly abused his victims, like Francisco López Maíllo (1964-20019), the Eixample rapist (the first Eixample rapist: later there were others, also sadly famous: Alejandro Martínez Singul and Francisco Javier Corbacho.

Some of the agents investigating the case

Some of the agents investigating the case

Xavi Jurio

What went wrong with these three predators? What should be done to avoid repeating mistakes with the defendant from Igualada, in the event that he is convicted? Officials from penitentiary institutions of the CSIF union explain that pedophiles and rapists tend to be model prisoners: “In prison they don’t have opportunities to commit crimes.” Rehabilitation treatments are effective, but not magical or mandatory.

“A high-risk sex offender will require much stricter community control and supervision than someone with a low risk of recidivism,” explain Santiago Redondo, Meritxell Pérez and Marian Martínez. A good prediction of recidivism would prevent crimes, would reduce the institutional cost of these prisoners and would allow “maximizing the resources available in the care of those who really need it”.

Rehabilitation in prison is useful, but not magical or mandatory

Only 14.3% of those who reoffended did not receive treatment in prison, according to some studies. There are tools to predict such behaviors. One of the main ones is the SVR-20 or Sexual Violence Risk-20, an assessment manual that includes 20 risk factors for sexual violence (from paraphilias to having been a victim of childhood abuse). An pioneer study in Spain praises the reliability of the SVR-20.

A total of 163 sex offenders already released and who were in the Brians prison between 1991 and 2002 were scrutinized with the SVR-20 criteria. The researchers had a very high percentage of successes when it came to establishing who would commit a crime again and who would not. The question is: are these or similar resources used systematically and generalized in all prisons? The answer is blunt: no.

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Myths and truths about rapists