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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Page(s) 1 - 23
Title of proceedings Journal of Interpersonal Violence
DOI 10.1177/0886260518821456

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Elderly sexual abuse has been almost completely ignored from researchers and practitioners alike. However, the occidental population is aging and living longer, suggesting that the number of cases of elderly sexual abuse should increase. Moreover, elderly sexual assaults have been described as being more violent, resulting in more severe injuries, and are more frequently committed by strangers, making criminal investigations more difficult to solve. The current study aims to identify the various motivations associated with elderly sexual abuse and to test whether it is possible to link offender and modus operandi characteristics to these motivations. In other words, the main objective is to identify “why” the elderly are sexually abused, “how,” and “by whom”? Using two-step cluster analysis on a sample of 128 cases of extra-familial elderly sexual assaults (aged 65 years or more) from France, four clusters of offenders’ motivation were identified. Congruent with previous studies, results showed that elderly sexual abuse was motivated by sex, anger, and opportunities. However, a fourth cluster was identified, describing offenders motivated by experimentation. These offenders, in addition to being young with a lack of criminal experience, were also more likely to perform the most intrusive sexual acts and to use physical violence, sometimes to the point of killing their victim. To test the external validity of our cluster solution, a series of bivariate analyses were conducted. Results showed that the four motivations were also associated with specific offender and crime characteristics. These findings highlight the importance of looking at the motivations underlying elderly sexual abuse to suggest better interventions strategies as well as improve the criminal investigation of these cases.