Strangers Versus Non-Strangers

The Nature of Police-Reported Sexual Assault Characteristics

  • Cassandra Kleefman MacEwan University


Sexual assault is a prevalent crime in our society with approximately 21,500 cases of sexual assaults reported in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2015). The literature that examines the perpetrators of sexual assault has shown marked distinctions between those who were strangers and those who were known to their victims, in terms of the severity and nature of the violence used and the characteristics of the perpetrators. Many studies have been conducted using victim surveys, while fewer studies have examined police-reported sexual assaults using local police data. The current study examines a sample of 697 police-reported sexual assault cases. Stranger- and non-stranger-perpetrated sexual assaults were compared on demographic characteristics of the perpetrators and the victims, such as age and ethnicity, and the criminal history and recidivism rates of perpetrators. Our results indicate that there were many similarities, which suggest homogeneity between the two groups. However, some notable differences were also found. Specifically, stranger perpetrated sexual assaults were more often reported downtown rather than areas outside of the downtown core and during warmer months of the year. A greater proportion of stranger perpetrators had prior criminal histories and prior sexual offending histories compared to non-stranger perpetrators. Also, a greater proportion of stranger perpetrators committed recidivistic acts than non-stranger perpetrators. The findings have implications for policing in prioritizing cases and allocating resources, particularly in light of the potentially greater risk that stranger-perpetrators pose in further committing criminal acts. The use of evidence-based practices will be highlighted in this poster presentation.

Discipline: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sandy  Jung