Target Selection and Crime Characteristics: A Comparison of Sexually Motivated Abduction Cases to Nonsexual Abduction Cases and Nonabduction Sexual Cases

Published date01 June 2023
AuthorEric Beauregard,Julien Chopin
Date01 June 2023
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2023, Vol. 50, No. 6, June 2023, 891 –910.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2023 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
A Comparison of Sexually Motivated Abduction Cases
to Nonsexual Abduction Cases and Nonabduction
Sexual Cases
Simon Fraser University
Abduction has been related to a more extensive violent criminal record, suggesting that it represents a risk for escalation in
violence. As most research has investigated child abductions, the current study compares sexually motivated abductions (n
= 1,288) to nonsexually motivated abductions (n = 270) and nonabduction sexual assaults (n = 1,500) involving both chil-
dren and adult women victims. Logistic regression analyses showed that compared with nonsexually motivated abductions,
those that are sexually motivated are typically committed on victims who are single, while they are hitchhiking at night, and
perpetrated in the offender’s car. Moreover, when compared with nonabduction sexual assaults, results show that individuals
who commit sexually motivated abductions are more likely to use a con approach on a stranger victim, to use a weapon,
restraints, inflict serious injuries, and penetrate vaginally the victim either in their residence or their car. Abduction cases are
often characterized by instrumental violence and both children and adult women need to be prioritized.
Keywords: abduction; sexual assault; target selection; criminal event perspective; criminal behavior
Abduction or kidnapping—the unlawful seizure, transportation, and/or detention of a
person against his or her will—is a crime that has been ignored by researchers in
criminology and psychology, despite its serious nature as well as the various challenges it
presents for law enforcement (Tillyer et al., 2015). For instance, DeLisi (2001)
showed that individuals who commit kidnappings—just like those who commit rapes
AUTHORS’ NOTE: The authors would like to thank the people at the Ministry of Interior (France), and
especially Mr. the Central Director of the French Judicial Police for sharing the data used in this project. We
also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for all their helpful comments. Your suggestions really
helped to make this paper better. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Eric
Beauregard, Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby,
British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6; e-mail:
1166152CJBXXX10.1177/00938548231166152Criminal Justice and BehaviorBeauregard, Chopin / Sexually Motivated Abduction
and m urders—present more extensive violent arrest records compared with other habitual
offenders. Similarly, people who commit kidnapping have been found to be 30 and 4 times
more likely than males in the general population and individuals convicted of sexual
crimes, respectively, to be later convicted of homicide, suggesting that kidnapping consti-
tutes a risk for escalation in violence (Liu et al., 2008).
One of the reasons suggested to explain the paucity of academic attention has been the
lack of data, especially in the United States where kidnappings are not included in the
Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) or the National
Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). To fill this gap in the United States, the National
Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrown-away Children (NISMART)
was established in 1988 (Finkelhor et al., 1990). However, several limitations have also
been noted with this database, such as the inability to collect information about multiple
crimes or co-occurring crimes (Tillyer et al., 2015). The most important of these limitations
was that it included only cases involving children, suggesting that abductions were not a
concern for adults. In fact, most of the existing literature on abductions concerned children
(e.g., Baker et al., 2002; Collie & Shalev Greene, 2016; Park & Cho, 2019; Walsh et al.,
2016; Warren et al., 2016). When adults—especially adult women—were victim of abduc-
tion, it was preceding another crime (e.g., rape, robbery). It has been suggested that the
complexity associated with the combination of two distinct types of crime into a new one—
such as sexual assault and homicide for sexual homicide, or in this case, abduction and
sexual assault for sexually motivated abduction—could represent another reason as to why
these “hybrid offenses” have been under-researched (Asdigian et al., 1995; see also
Beauregard & Chopin, 2020). Another possible reason to explain this was related to the fact
that research on abduction has mainly relied on what Walker (2014) has referred to as “cel-
ebrated cases”—that is, cases that make the headlines and capture the attention of the media
but are considerably different from the overall general cases (see Mears, 2010). Finally,
prior studies on abduction have focused only on certain aspects of this crime, neglecting to
look at the entire criminal event.
In the current study, we argue that sexually motivated abductions are different from non-
sexually motivated abductions—especially as to their target selection and criminal event
characteristics—thereby showing that the motivation for a crime influences how it will be
committed. Moreover, we propose that the act of abduction may reveal a specific crime-
commission process different from sexual assaults committed without abductions.
Identifying specific target selection and criminal event characteristics of sexually motivated
abductions may help law enforcement agencies to better organize their response in such
events as well as contribute to suspect prioritization (Rossmo, 2000; Shelton et al., 2016).
Criminological theories have often been criticized for neglecting the dynamic nature of
the interpersonal interaction that occurs between an offender and a victim—that is, the
event—focusing instead solely on the act (Kennedy & Forde, 1999). This failure led to the
emergence of the criminal event perspective (CEP) (Miethe & Meier, 1994; Sacco &
Kennedy, 2002a). According to Sacco and Kennedy (2002b), the behavior of any one par-
ticipant (offender and victim) in the criminal event intersects with and influences the behav-
ior of other participants, shaping the course of the event and determining the stages through

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT