The Sexist

David Lisak on Acquaintance Rapists: “We’re Giving a Free Pass to Sexual Predators”

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In the world of sexual assault prevention, the work of University of Massachusetts psychologist David Lisak has gained some serious traction. Lisak has spent the past 20 years studying men who commit acquaintance rapes. In the past year, that work has been dissected by feminist blogs, employed in an investigative report from the Center for Public Integrity, and integrated into the policies of campus safety nonprofit Security On Campus. Being a bit of a fan girl myself, I was happy to discover more from Liak: This CBS news interview in which the researcher talks about the ways in which non-stranger rapists operate, how they're ignored by the criminal justice system, and why these men tell him about the rapes they've committed. Transcript after the jump.

The most common rape is a non-stranger assault where the victim is picked out by the offender at a party, at a bar. The degree of acquaintance between them is usually very, very incidental. It is really just the perpetrator finding a particular individual who they're going to target. And so if they're in a bar, if you've got a predator in a bar, he's not going to look for the most sober individual in the bar. He's going to look for the most intoxicated individual. In fact, he'll look for the individual who is not only intoxicated but seems to be doing outrageous things.

Somehow all we can do is take the statement from the victim, take the statement from the alleged perpetrator, and then throw up our hands because they're saying conflicting things and we don't know how to resolve this. That's not how we investigate other crimes. You know, in almost any other circumstance, if we have an alleged perpetrator, we begin an investigation. And it doesn't end with asking the alleged perpetrator whether or not they did the crime. Rather than taking the report and investigating the alleged offender—which is what we do in virtually every other crime and certainly in violent crimes, that is our approach—and yet somehow that's not the approach that's taken in non-stranger cases.

The reason that this is such a common part of the scenario—the non-stranger assault—is that we know, and I've interviewed these rapists for 20 years and they have told me explicitly, they are predators. They go after victims in those kinds of circumstances, and they look for potential victims who are already somwhat vulnerable. They're going to get her so intoxicated that she might have blackouts, she may be unconscious, she is much more susceptible to all the manipulations you would use. So for example, you get her completely intoxicated and then you say, "You know what? You really shouldn't drive. I'll drive you home." And then, presto! The rapist has her in his car, and the assault can happen whether in his car, his apartment, or wherever, but she's under his control. And that scenario has been described to me so many different times by these non-stranger rapists.

Predators look for vulnerable people, and they prey on vulnerable peope, and if as a criminal justice system, we're going to essentially turn away from any victim who is drinking or any victim who is in some way vulnearble, we're essentially giving a free pass to sexual predators. A lot of these men, especially the serial rapists, are very very narcissistic, there is nothing they enjoy more than to sit down in a room with a guy like me and impress me with all their sexual exploits. And that's how they view them.

  • Eo


    The judgment of the accusation being false or not didnt rely on a person taking a polygraph test. It was offered as a tactic.... so the fact that polygraph tests are unreliable is irrelavant because the results of a test were not a factor.

    Heres how the study worked.

    This investigation is essentially a case study of one police agency in a small metropolitan area (population = 70,000) in the Midwestern United States. This city was targeted for study because it offered an almost model laboratory for studying false rape allegations. First, its police agency is not inundated with serious felony cases and, therefore, has the freedom and the motivation to record and thoroughly pursue all rape complaints. In fact, agency policy forbids police officers to use their discretion in deciding whether to officially acknowledge a rape complaint, regardless how suspect that complaint may be. Second, the declaration of a false allegation follows a highly institutionalized procedure. The investigation of all rape complaints always involves a serious offer to polygraph the complainants and the suspects. Additionally, for a declaration of false charge to be made, the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false. The police department will not declare a rape charge as false when the complainant, for whatever reason, fails to pursue the charge or cooperate on the case, regardless how much doubt the police may have regarding the validity of the charge. In short, these cases are declared false only because the complainant admitted they are false. Furthermore, only one person is then empowered to enter into the records a formal declaration that the charge is false, the officer in charge of records. Last, it should be noted that this department does not confuse reported rape attempts with completed rapes. Thus, the rape complainants referred to in this paper are for completed forcible rapes only. The foregoing leaves us with a certain confidence that cases declared false by this police agency are indeed a reasonable -- if not a minimal -- reflection of false rape allegations made to this agency, especially when one considers that a finding of false allegation is totally dependent upon the recantation of the rape charge. We followed and investigated all false rape allegations from 1978 to 1987. A ranking police official notified us whenever a rape charge was declared false and provided us with the records of the case. In addition, the investigating officers provided any requested supplementary information so that we could be confident of the validity of the false rape allegation declarations.

    And as was pointed out to you above, the fact that Dr. Kanin carried out this study does not make his lifes work void. The fact that the study turned up a result that doesnt fit your narrow view doesnt make his lifes work viod.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Eo--the threat of a polygraph is designed to intimidate victims, and to make them feel that they will not be believed, and to discourage them from pursuing justice in a hostile interrogation environment. Your assertions that only the false claimants would be discouraged from submitting to this degrading and intimidating voodoo science is absurd. Furthermore, the police department there had a policy that they would insist that the victim declare "false" any case that they could not or did not want to substantiate, so they had a policy that was structurally designed to demand that the victim negate her story. She couldn't just stop the investigation because the experience was too traumatic (and reporting is EXTREMELY difficult for many survivors to handle emotionally), the police would make her declare herself a liar just so she could get some peace.

    This study methodology is so amazingly dishonest that yes, anyone who tries it cannot have any professional integrity.

  • pipi long stockings


    you put up a good fight but some people are just crazy and irrational and Eo is one of them.

    Why else would an anti-feminist spend so much time on a feminist blog? And he says feminists are the ones that enjoy being offended!

  • Eo

    Leftsidepositive you are quite paranoid.

    The police and Dr. Kanin set out to deliberatly intimidate rape victims with a polygraph test? Total delusional nonsence.

    Its just one lie after another with you, besides... Kanin and the polygraph test is only something you desperatly latched on to because every other lie youve told on this thread you've derailed has been debunked.

    Your 2 + 2 = 5 thinking is telling you that if you can discredit someone that Hoff Sommers used as one example to illustrate a point in an article that L republished here that you can somehow "win" and your sex negative manhating self is right. It doesnt actually work like that.

  • jj

    I have a hypothetical situation on which i would like to here some thoughts.

    Suppose a young woman meets a young man at a bar. Both parties are highly inebriated and decide to leave the bar together. The two engage in intercourse which is free of any force or coercion.

    Due to the previously stated precedent in which it has been established that a drunken individual is unable to grant consent. Does this situation constitute a rape? If so which party it the victim and which the perpetrator?

  • jj

    hear*, my apologies.

  • Kit-Kat

    Amanda, is there any way to block the posts of particular posters? I am really tired of reading the same crap from the same person over and over again on every single blog post. It adds nothing to the discussion, which can otherwise be quite interesting. Personally, I wish that others would stop responding to it, because it seems clear that the poster in question is not actually interested in meaningful discussion, but until everyone learns not to feed the troll, it's really tedious. I can scroll past it, but it would be easier to just not have to see it at all.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Eo--there is no other use or indication for a polygraph. period. it doesn't work for anything, and your belief that magically only the "right" people would be discouraged is faith-based nonsense. Something that is not based on science can never yield scientific results. Get over it.

    jj--the person who made the sex happen is responsible--removing clothing, positioning the other person, making intentional genital contact, etc. Just like if a drunk driver hits a drunk pedestrian, you don't say "Oh, well, they were both drunk so how do we tell?!" The person who took action at or against the other person is responsible. Also, we're not defining drunk as over 0.08% BAC, full stop. We mean cognitively impaired--this can range from confused and unable to resist effectively (a lot of drunk rapes happen when the victim is saying no or tries to resist but is easily overpowered) to too wasted to know what's going on or absolutely blacked-out. Just because two people are over 0.08% doesn't mean they are both equally functionally impaired.

    By the way, in your scenario, if both parties so drunk as to not be in command of their faculties, how did they ever manage to get home?

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  • snobographer

    "Firstly, those priests are mainly pederasts not pedophiles."

    That's firstly, because it's such an important distinction.

  • snobographer

    Also, what Kit-Kat said.

  • Eo


    In an environment like this one where there is deep prejudice against heterosexual men and sex crimes are used to stereotype them, it is important to point out that the majority of those priests were homosexexual.

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  • Denice Ann Evans

    David Lisak is in my documentary, Spitting Game: The College Hook Up Culture, talking about acquaintance rape on college campuses. He is truly brilliant and a true visionary when it comes to offering progressive solutions for prevention on campuses!!!

    The 35 minute educational version of my doc. is for sale now at special pricing for individuals if you email me. HOWEVER, I am also releasing a "Director's Cut " of my feature in the FALL 2010, that includes lots of extra "bonus footage."

    Check me out at:

    Email me at: