Non-stranger Rapists Workshop Details

False stereotypes and misconceptions about who rapists are and how rapists behave continue to hamper both the criminal justice system and institutional response to sexual violence. Twenty years of research on so-called “undetected” rapists – men who commit rapes but who are either not reported or not prosecuted for their crimes – has clearly demonstrated that the old stereotypes about rapists are false. These undetected rapists represent the vast majority of rapists, and account for the vast majority of rapes. Their crimes are characterized by extensive planning and premeditation, the frequent use of alcohol and other drugs to render their victims vulnerable, and the use of sufficient force and threats to intimidate their victims into submission. Further, a majority of these rapists are serial offenders, and many commit other forms of violence.

Historically, non-stranger rape has been one of the most difficult crimes to successfully prosecute because the non-stranger rapist presents unique challenges to those responsible for protecting the community from criminal behavior. Successful prosecution or adjudication of these cases requires different strategies and a different focus than stranger rape cases, and a very coordinated effort by all those involved in the investigation and prosecution effort. The focus must be squarely on attacking the inevitable “consent defense.” Often, this means pursuing different avenues of investigation than are ordinarily pursued, and focusing on different kinds of evidence.

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Be familiar with misconceptions regarding the characteristics of non-stranger rapists
Have a research-based understanding of rapist behavior and characteristics
Understand the research on serial offending and its implications
Understand the concept of predation and its application to serial rapists
Be familiar with key investigative avenues in non-stranger rape cases

Neurobiology of Trauma

The human brain is a miraculous organ that has enabled our species to adapt to a mind-boggling diversity of environments and conditions. The brain is a virtual “adaptation machine.” One of the crucial adaptations our brain has made is that it has prepared us to survive in a world full of predators – not the 21st century post-industrial world – but the world in which our species evolved, in which we were preyed on by panthers, lions and other predators of the wild.

One of our brain’s chief adaptations to this world of predators has been the evolution of a complex mechanism for producing fear. Fear motivates us to escape danger. Fear dramatically alters our body’s neurochemistry and propels us to death-defying feats of physical prowess and endurance.

However, fear is also the cornerstone of what we have come to understand as psychological trauma. The very neural mechanisms that produce the fear that saves our lives are the same mechanisms that produce the neurophysiologic and neuroanatomical changes that underlie Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

This workshop will serve as an introduction to the neurobiology of fear and the neurobiology of trauma – how trauma alters the brain, and in so doing alters experience and memory. It will then focus on the many implications for interviewing and treating victims of trauma.

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Understand the evolutionary underpinnings of the human fear response.
Understand the basic neural pathways involved in the fear response.
Understand the neural mechanisms underlying the core symptoms of PTSD.
Understand the impact of traumatic fear on memory formation.
Understand the neural mechanisms underlying recovery from PTSD symptoms.

Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

There is a widespread misconception that males are rarely victimized sexually. This misconception is fostered by society’s deeply-held beliefs about men, masculinity and sexuality, as well as by male victims’ profound reluctance to disclose their victimization. Yet research over the past two decades indicates that the rate of sexual victimization of male children is far higher than society recognizes. Approximately one in six males are sexually abused during childhood. Sexually victimized men comprise one of the most unrecognized and under-served traumatized populations who suffer the full array of trauma symptoms but who rarely receive any help in coping with them.

This presentation will provide a summary of the current research on male sexual victimization – its prevalence and characteristics – and will then focus on the psychological, behavioral and psychiatric consequences that its victims must often struggle with. The presentation will then focus on the interplay between these legacies of abuse and the traditional masculine socialization that most men are also subjected to.

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Become familiar with common misconceptions about male sexual victimization.
Understand with the research on the prevalence of male sexual victimization.
Understand the reasons that male victims tend not to disclose victimization.
Understand the psychological and behavioral consequences of sexual abuse.
Understand the interplay between sexual abuse and male gender socialization.

Trauma, Spirituality and Healing

Do spiritual experiences play a role in the healing from traumatic experiences? If so, how common are such experiences? And what is a spiritual experience? These are some of the key questions addressed in this workshop.

This presentation will focus on videotaped testimonials of adult men who have suffered sexual trauma, and who describe what are often gripping, intensely emotional, and often transformative spiritual experiences. How do we understand such experiences, and how do we create a space in which survivors feel able to disclose them?

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Be familiar with how we define a spiritual experience.
Understand the key components of a spiritual experience.
Be familiar with religious and non-religious frameworks for such experiences.
Understand how spiritual experiences can facilitate healing from trauma.

The Cycle of Violence

Among the many tragic consequences of child abuse, perhaps none is more sobering or more consequential than the increased risk that the abused child will at some point turn its pain and suffering against others, thereby creating a new generation in what has aptly been termed, the “cycle of violence.” It is clear that while abuse is a very significant risk factor, by itself it is not sufficient to generate the cycle; the majority of men and women who are abused do not perpetrate violence against others. Therefore, other factors must add to and interact with abuse to create the violent outcome. Identifying these interceding variables is a crucial step in increasing our understanding of the cycle of violence, and in potentiating our capacity to interrupt the cycle.

This presentation will review the research on the cycle of violence, concentrating on men, who represent the vast majority of violent perpetrators. It will then focus on a published, in-depth study of the life histories of 43 death row inmates conducted by Dr. Lisak. The study reveals severe levels of abuse, but also provides a window into the multiple risk factors and vulnerabilities that intercede between that abuse and the tragic violence committed by these men.

Through a greater understanding of the complex weave of factors that lead from early childhood abuse to later acts of violence, it is hoped that professionals will be better prepared to work effectively with men whose violence sustains a tragic cycle.

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Become familiar with the research on the cycle of violence.
Identify the variables that mediate between abuse and later violence.
Understand the interaction between abuse and other childhood risk factors.
Understand the role of gender socialization in the cycle of violence.

False Reports of Rape

In the public discourse on sexual assault, no topic generates as much controversy or emotion as false reports. On one side, some people assert that a majority of rape reports are ultimately proven to have been false allegations. On the other side, some people assert that false reports are almost non-existent. Unfortunately, the debate is typically marked by a lot of heat, and very little light.

This presentation will add light to the heat by surveying decades of research on false rape reports, and by providing details of a new study recently completed by the speaker.

For many years, researchers around the world have been attempting to study the phenomenon of false reports. Their efforts have clearly demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to conduct careful, systematic research of this topic. However, their efforts have also yielded reasonably consistent findings. This talk will provide a clear explanation of the complexities of conducting research on false reports, including the complications of how rape cases are classified and how false reports are defined. It will separate out the good, reliable studies from the ones that can’t be interpreted.

Finally, it will provide an answer to the question: “What do the numbers tell us?”

Learning Objectives +

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:
Understand why the issue of false reports is so controversial.
Understand the complexities of doing research on false reports of rape.
Understand the difference between reliable and unreliable research in this area.
Be familiar with the best research that has been done, worldwide.

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    David Lisak is a nationally recognized forensic consultant, trainer and lecturer.
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