Beijing Law Review
2013. Vol.4, No.1, 20-27
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
A Review of Weapon Choice in Violent and Sexual Crime
Paul Dawson1, Alasdair M. Goodwill2
1School of Psychology, U niversity of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
2Department of Psyc h ology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Received August 15th, 2012; revised September 16th, 2012; accepted September 23rd, 2012
The concept that weapon choice and use may play a valuable role in differentiating between offenders is
one that has not been well explored in current criminological or psychological thinking. The key aim of
the current paper is to discuss the role of weapon choice and use in the application of offender profiling.
Relevant research is identified though a literature review: initially considering a broad range of offences
and then narrowing the focus on the specific case of violent and sexual offences. The review highlights
several key findings which are then conceptualised through the offender profiling literature. In the discus-
sion, the paper argues that there is considerable merit in the consideration of weapons within profiling
violent and sexual offenders and concludes with proposed dimensions (planning and emotional use of the
weapon) that illustrate the range of motivations that may aid in discriminating offenders.
Keywords: Weapon; Violence; Sexual Offences; Offender Profiling
Weapon use in sexual and violent offences is a key consid-
eration for police agencies and governments alike (Home Of-
fice, 2011). For the current paper, a weapon is defined as “an
object used to cause or threaten injury to another”. Prevalence
data pertaining to weapon enabled crime exists for England and
Wales through Home Office statistical releases utilising both
public survey and police statistics. For example, in the year
ending March 2012, 51 per cent of attempted murders, 22 per
cent of robberies, and one percent of rapes involved a knife or
sharp instrument (ONS, 2012).
Prevalence data is collected in many countries (Catalano,
2005; Home Office, 2011; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004)
and is valuable for understanding trends, developing policies or
preventative strategies and the like. However, it reveals little on
the motivations or whether weapon type has the ability to dif-
ferentiate between offenders.
The question at hand is whether examining weapon use may
benefit police or criminal investigations. This is a question that
has not received adequate investigation: there is a paucity of
weapon enabled research in current criminological and psycho-
logical thinking. As an example—a recent review conducted by
Brennan and Moore (2009) was a valuable step forward relating
to the history and theory of weapons, although did not cover the
potential value of examining weapon use within a police con-
text. Furthermore, the Crime Classification Manual (Douglas,
Burgess, Burgess, & Ressler, 2006), one of the most compre-
hensive texts concerning the classification of crime lacks an
in-depth discussion regarding weapon use and what it may
mean for the police.
One area where weapon use has been previously discussed
beyond that of prevalence is within the offender profiling lit-
erature. There have been a number of psychological of investi-
gative typologies that incorporate weapon use to varying de-
grees. The most notable of the psychological based typologies
are Canter, Bennel, Alison and Reddy (2003) and Salfati and
Taylor’s (2006) multidimensional scaling thematic representa-
tions of stranger rape and sexual assault, respectively. From an
investigative viewpoint the Massachusetts Treatment Center’s
(MTC: R3) (Knight, Warren, Reboussin, & Soley, 1998) classi-
fication system for sexual offenders and Groth’s (1979) power
and anger typology have been recently used the by Federal
Bureau of Investigation (Hazelwood & Burgess, 1987) for ap-
plication to offender profiling. The organised/disorganised split
has some consideration of the weapon (Ressler, Burgess, &
Douglas, 1988). While it is not the remit of the paper to criti-
cally evaluate offender profiling, a consideration of these ty-
pologies and how they incorporate weapon use will be valuable
in supplementing discussions regarding the underlying motive-
tion of weapon use.
This paper seeks to go beyond prevalence data and explore
the motivational, demographic and psychological aspects of
offender weapon use. The aim is to examine the potential value
for criminal investigations in considering the use of weapons
within sexual and violent offenders.
Methodology and Results
A search of the literature was conducted to examine the issue
of weapon use and offenders. The electronic sources included
Swetswise, Ingenta, Silverplatter, Cambridge Scientific Ab-
stracts and Zetoc. The basic search terms used in each were
weapon use”, “weapon choice”, “weapon & offender” and
rape & weapon”. A wide range of articles were identified
through the searches conducted. The results can be grouped into
a number of key themes that we now turn to.
Youth Violence and Weapon Use
A number of identified research studies examined weapon
use within youth samples reporting weapon to be relatively
common (Barlas & Egan, 2006; McCluskey, McCluskey, &
Bynum, 2006; Thurnherr, Michaud, Berchtold, Akre, & Suris,
2009; Simon, Crosby, & Dahlberg, 1999). Kuntsche and Klinge-
mann (2004) examined weapon carrying in a representative
sample of 1549 Swiss school pupils reporting that 17% had
taken a weapon to school. Clubb et al. (2001) reported that of
6400 US ethnic minority pupils, 30% had used weapons in
fights. Adolescents who reported living full-time with a parent
or parent figure, and those who reported religious observance or
beliefs, were less likely to report violence involvement. All
violence related behaviors were more common among male
than female adolescents.
Malek, Chang and Davis (1998) examined 297 cases of
school fights involving 7th grade students in three US commu-
nities. One or more weapons were reported to have been used
within 43% of all reported fights. Those fights with more than 5
individuals, intoxicated students or gang involvement were the
predictors of both weapon use and injury. Benda and Tollett
(1999) examined 224 criminal youths in the United States ex-
amining factors associated with reconviction. Carrying a wea-
pon was one of the main predictors of reconviction. Hill, How-
ell, Hawkins and Battin-Pearson (1999) examined youths and
gangs. The key risk factors for gang involvement were neigh-
bourhood, family, school, peer and individual differences.
Langstrom and Grann (2000) found that sexual recidivism of
adolescents was associated with index offence weapon use,
previous criminality, psychopathology and conduct disorder.
They also identified weapon use as a key predictor of future
diagnosis of conduct disorder in adolescence. Conduct disorder
is characterised by behavioural and emotional problems and can
be defined as a repetitive and persistent pattern of behaviour in
which the basic rights of others and of major society are vio-
lated (APA, 1994). In order to receive a diagnosis the symp-
toms must cause significant impairment to the social, academic
or occupational functioning and be present within specific
timeframes. The major symptom s include:
aggression to people or animals (bullying, cruelty to ani-
mals and the use of a weapon);
destruction of property (deliberate);
deceitfulness or theft (broken into others property);
serious violations of rules (run away from home).
Conduct disorder has clear associations with criminality (due
to the behaviours such as theft, weapon use, and general
anti-social behaviour) but also co-morbidity with other prob-
lems such as Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (Loeber, Burke,
Lahey, Winters, & Zera, 2000) or substance misuse (Boys et al.,
2003). This has important implications in the differentiation of
offenders by weapon use as the onset of criminal behaviour,
weapon use and conduct disorder are seemingly correlated.
Indeed, criminological research indicates that adult offenders
that are prolific offenders are significantly more likely to have
begun their criminal career at a younger age than the general
offending population (Farrington, 2005).
Domestic Violence
The search revealed a number of relevant articles concerned
with weapon use in cases of domestic violence. Sorenson and
Wiebe (2004) examined 417 women in 600 shelters reporting
that words, hands and feet were the most common method of
assault. Thompson, Saltzman and Bibel (1999) reported that
weapon use was positively related to injury levels in domestic
violence. Murrell, Merwin, Christoff and Henning (2005) ex-
plored weapon use in 362 male domestic violence perpetrators.
Specifically the self-report of viewing parental violence incur-
porating weapons as a child was explored. Men who reported
witnessing threat or the use of a weapon in parental violence
were more likely than not to have threatened to use a weapon
themselves. However, in the sample most men that used weap-
ons did not report witnessing such weapon related violence as a
Haugen, Slungård and Schei (2005) examined 162 females in
a sexual assault health service between 2000 and 2003 finding
that type and severity of the sexual assault did not differ sig-
nificantly according to the victim-perpetrator relationship.
However, the victims of known offenders only reported life-
threatening violence and the use of a weapon. Research also
found that domestic violence offenders that used a weapon
during their offence were more likely to be arrested than indi-
viduals who did not (Houry, Reddy, & Parramore, 2006; Has-
sani, Houry, Parramore, Heron, & Kellermann, 2004).
Greene, Maas, Carvalho and Raven (1999) examined gen-
der-specific patterns of male and female victims of assault.
Specifically, a cohort of 91 female assault cases was compared
with a control group of 706 males with similar injuries resulting
from blunt assault trauma. Females were more likely to be ad-
mitted with soft tissue injury only but no fracture, less likely to
be assaulted with a weapon, and unlikely to be involved in an
altercation, gang violence, arrest, or robbery. Females were also
less likely than males to be injured while intoxicated. The inci-
dence of specific injury patterns and outcomes, however, were
similar between the male and female groups.
General Violence and Weapons
Wintemute, Drake, Beaumont, Wright and Parham (1998)
examined the previous criminal record of individuals purchas-
ing handguns to explore future criminal behaviours. Of the
5923 authorised purchasers, 3128 had at least one conviction
prior to handgun purchase. In a 15-year follow-up study the
handgun purchasers with at least one prior conviction were
more than seven times as likely as those with no prior criminal
history to be charged with a new offence after handgun pur-
chase. Those with two or more prior convictions for violence
were at greatest risk for offences of murder or non-negligent
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
This link between weapons and an increased likelihood of re-
cidivism is supported elsewhere (Ministry of Justice, 2011;
Huebner, Varano, & Bynum, 2007).
Pratt and Deosaransingh (1997) examined gender differences
for homicides in the United States. Females were more likely to
be killed by their spouse of intimate partner, where men were
more likely to be killed by strangers. A higher percentage of
women than men were killed with a blunt object, a personal
weapon (i.e., fists, feet, and teeth), or other weapon (25% ver-
sus 11%). Men were more likely than women to be killed by a
firearm, in a public place and whilst a crime was being com-
Moskowitz, Laraque, Doucette and Shelov (2005) examined
the relationships between US youth homicide victims aged zero
to 19 years between 1976 and 1999. A total of 70,258 victims
were studied. Murdered girls were 3.6 times more likely to have
been killed by family members and 21.3 times more likely to
have been killed by intimate partners than murdered boys.
Handguns were more likely to be used during homicides com-
mitted by strangers.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 21
Smith (2003) examined the nature of robbery in England and
Wales based on an investigation of over 2000 crime reports and
witness statements across seven police areas. Weapons were
present in a third of all robberies—particularly when the of-
fender used a confrontational victim approach. Knives were the
most frequently used weapon type, being used in 1 in every 5
personal robberies.
Wells and Horney (2002) examined over 2000 violent and
potentially violent events described by offenders to assess the
role of weapons. The authors reported that the offenders intent
to injure did not appear to play a role in determining the need
for a weapon and firearm attacks overall reduced the risk of
injury. Kleck and DeLone (1993) conducted logistic regression
analysis on over 4500 robbery incidents reported in the 1979-
1985 period. Unarmed physical force against the robber and
trying to get help, attract attention, or scare the robber away
generally increased the likelihood of victim injury. The rob-
ber’s possession of a gun appeared to inhibit victim resistance
and so perversely, the offender using a gun reduced the prob-
ability of victim injury. However, even controlling for victim
resistance, gun possession was associated with a lower rate of
injury to the victim. Robbers with handguns were much more
likely to complete their robberies than those with knives or
other weapons and unarmed assailants. However, once an in-
jury occurred, those with a weapon were more likely to cause
greater levels of harm. This seems to indicate the functional
value of weapons, namely to control victims and facilitate
completion of the robbery.
Murder—Suicide, Child Homicide and Filicide
A number of studies examined weapon use within homi-
cide-suicide (a murder followed by the suicide of the murderer).
Easteal (1994) examined Australian homicide-suicides re-
porting that if the offender was an estranged male from his
partner, born outside of Australia, who used a gun as the
weapon and killed more than one victim, or was older with an
ailing wife, he was more apt to commit suicide. Lecomte and
Fornes (1998) examined this crime within Paris and its suburbs
between 1991 and 1996. During the six-year study period, there
were 56 cases involving 133 victims. In 45 events (80%), the
offenders used a gun for both the homicide and suicide. A knife
was used in only four murders, strangulation in four other cases,
with poisoning, arson, or beating occurring in one case each. In
nine cases, the offender used a different weapon for the suicide
than for the murder. Among firearms, handguns were more
likely to be used than shotguns.
Lyman et al. (2003) investigated the epidemiology of child
homicide in Jefferson County, Alabama for children that were
born and died between 1988 and 1998. Homicides primarily
resulted from an angry impulse (61%), with hands the most
common weapon (61%). This apparently links high emotion
such as anger to impulsive personal attacks, where planned use
of a weapon is not apparent. Lewis, Baranoski and Buchanan
(1998) reported 60 cases of maternal filicide and weapons were
used by one in four cases. Psychotic women were 11 times
more likely to kill with a weapon.
Cross Cultural Compa r ison s
A small number of studies conducted cross-cultural investi-
gations into weapon use. Eisner and Wikström (1999) com-
pared two European capitals (Stockholm and Basle) reporting
that the presence of weapons increased the risk of violent
events. Friday, Dussich, Okada and Yamagami (2000) com-
pared a US and Japanese sample reporting that US partici-
pants were more likely to state that they would use weapons in
response to a threat.
Boots and Heide (2006) investigated 208 cases of parricide
involving weapon use; 40% were firearms, knives 21% and
other objects (12%). Cultural differences were evident in that
US parricides were more likely to use firearms (49% vs. 21%)
and multiple weapons (14% vs. 9%) than non-US parricides,
which showed a higher frequency of knife (27% vs. 18%) and
blunt weapon use (19% vs. 9%).
Rogde, Hougen and Poulsen (2000) examined homicide by
sharp weapons in two Scandinavian capitals between 1985 and
1994. In total, 33% of homicides used a knife. Female victims
on average received lesions in three to four anatomical regions
compared to male victims who received most frequently in one.
The authors hypothesise that a possible explanation for this was
that the female victims more often were killed by someone
closely related to them, and that multiple wounding was evident
when the perpetrator was emotionally related to the victim.
Weapon Use against the Elderly
Bachman (1998) examined violence against the elderly over
a two-year period. It was found that older victims, particularly
women, were more likely to sustain injuries as the result of a
violent attack using a weapon and more likely to require medi-
cal care for these injuries. Safarik, Jarvis and Nussbaum (2002)
and Safarik and Jarvis (2005) examined the homicide of eld-
erly women. These studies devised a scale of injury and re-
ported that there was a predominate use of personal weapons
(feet, fists) and firearms were only evident in 3% of cases. In
the cases present, 10% of offenders to conduct the sexual mur-
der of elderly females brought weapons to the scene.
Weapon Use in the Mentally Disordered
A number of studies examined the weapon use of individuals
with mental disorders, examining whether symptom type was
associated with weapon type. Stueve and Link (1997) reported
that weapon use was elevated in psychotic and bi-polar com-
munity based individuals with mental illness. Swanson, Swartz
and Van Dorn (2006) conducted a large-scale study into the
violent behaviour of 1410 schizophrenic patients finding that
positive symptoms were associated to high levels of violence,
including the use of weapons.
Michie and Cooke (2006) examined 250 Scottish prisoners
who were subject to a range of psychological assessments. A
nine-question tool, interviews, the Psychopathy Checklist-
Revised (PCL-R) and a number of other scales were used with
the aim of developing a hierarchical model of violence. Two
factors provided the best fit to the violent data, namely “vio-
lence with a weapon” and “violence without a weapon”. Vio-
lence with a weapon was particularly associated with psycho-
pathy, a history of childhood violence and the frequency of
aggressive fantasies. Violence without a weapon was associated
with level of anger (NOVACO scale), the Barratt impulsivity
scale and age at interview. The authors likened this distinction
to predatory aggression (weapon use) compared to affective
aggression (non-weapon use). The authors also note that further
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
work examining the difference choices of weapon (i.e. knives
vs. guns) may be useful in further model refinement.
Catanesi et al. (2011) examined psychopathology and wea-
pon choice, reporting a significant correlation between some
mental disorder and weapons. A strong correlation was reported
between delusional disorders and sharp weapons, whereas de-
pressive disorders were more strongly a ssociated with asphyxia.
Organic disorders were highly correlated with the use of blunt
Sexual Offenders and Weapon Use
Greenfeld (1997) examined a range of databases held by the
US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Offenders were five times more
likely to use a gun in the rape of a stranger (10%) than in the
rape of a family member (2%). Rapes committed by African-
American offenders against African-American victims were
about twice as likely as Caucasian against Caucasian rapes to
involve the use of a gun or knife (14% vs. 7%). Interracial rapes
were equally likely to use a gun or knife (22%).
Woodhams, Gillet and Grant (2007) examined stranger juve-
nile sexual offences. In particular, how victim characteristics
and the number of suspects affected the use of physical vio-
lence and the occurrence of penetration in 495 allegations of
sexual assault. Victims experiencing penetrative offences were
significantly younger than victims to receive no penetration.
Group assaults were associated with a higher level of violence
and penetration as compared to lone individual offenders.
However, in this study victim age was not found to be associ-
ated with weapon use or number of assailants.
Beauregard and Leclerc (2007) interviewed serial sexual of-
fenders whom discussed issues around control, intimidation and
the functional value of weapons before, during and after their
offence. Guay, Ouimet and Proulx (2004) studied individuals
(sexual and non-sexual offenders) and their processing through
the US Criminal Justice System (CJS). Weapon use was re-
ported to be of principal importance, in that offenders using
weapons were more likely to be treated more harshly and sent
to custodial institutions. This seems to indicate that courts view
weapon use as a measure of increased severity and substantial
risk to the community. Accordingly, Bachman (1998) reported
that the key factors that increased the likelihood of a rape being
reported to the police were weapon use and severity of injury.
In an examination of young sexual offenders (n = 46) in Swe-
den, Langstrom and Grann (2000) found recidivism was low
(20%) but significantly associated with previous criminality,
conduct disorder, psychopathy and weapon use.
Brecklin and Ullman (2001) reported that alcohol use prior to
rapes (n = 362) was associated with an outdoor assault,
night-attack, stranger attack and increased victim resistance.
There was no difference between pre-assault alcohol use and
offender aggression or weapon use (11% of alcohol and 10%
non-alcohol rape groups). Coker, Walls and Johnson (1998)
examined 213 female and 664 male victims of sexual assault in
South Carolina between 1991 and 1994. On average, females
received more injuries than males and were at significantly
greater risk of severely violent, non-penetrative sexual assault,
in offences involving multiple assailants, sodomy, weapon use,
being kidnapped, stranger offender(s) and offender intoxication.
Ruback and Ivie (1998) examined information about the rapes
of 2526 adult females from the records of a rape crisis centre,
finding that attacks by strangers were more likely to involve a
weapon and to occur outdoors than were attacks by non-
strangers and victims were less likely to physically resist
strangers than non strangers.
English, Retzlaff and Kleinsasser (2002) developed the
Colorado Sex Offender Risk Scale. A sample of 494 sex of-
fenders was followed for an average of 30 months. A risk scale
was developed based upon criminal and therapeutic outcomes.
The final risk scale included a range of factors such as previous
youth convictions, denial in therapy, sexual deviance in therapy
and weapon use during the crime. The risk scale provided sig-
nificant relative risk ratios against program failure at 12 and 30
months for those using weapons during their offences.
Vinogradov, Dishotsky, Doty and Tinklenberg (1988) inter-
viewed 63 adolescents accused of rape reporting that the “typi-
cal” rapist often had a criminal record and carried a weapon.
Quinsey and Upfold (1985) examined adult male rapists that
had been refe rred to a ma ximu m-se cu rity psychiatric institution.
Rapists were more likely to complete the rape when the attack
was conducted in an inside location, with a weapon and not
against a stranger.
Pino and Meier (1999) found that the rape of males were
more likely to involve a weapon, although there was no gender
diffe renc es re gard ing injury rece ived. Cohen, Frenda, Mojtabai,
Katsavdakis and Galynker (2007) reported offenders against
children were less likely to use a weapon. Muram, Hostetler,
Jones and Speck (1995) reported that sexual assaults versus
females more often involved weapons and physical injury in
comparison to young victims, indicating that weapon use may
be associated to victim age.
Motivations of Weapon Use
As we have seen research pertaining to weapons would ap-
pear to be relatively broad in nature covering many crime types,
although there has been some valuable research that may be of
value to a police force (e.g. criminal history of weapon enabled
offenders). Moving forward, while there has not been extensive
research on weapon use within an offender profiling context,
there has been several investigative and psychological typolo-
gies that incorporate weapon use. The most notable of the psy-
chological based typologies are Canter, Bennel, Alison and
Reddy (2003) and Salfati and Taylor’s (2006) multidimensional
scaling thematic representations of stranger rape and sexual
assault, respectively. From an investigative viewpoint the Or-
ganised/disorganised (Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas, 1988), the
Massachusetts Treatment Center’s (MTC: R3) (Knight, Warren,
Reboussin, & Soley, 1988) classification system for sexual of-
fenders and Groth’s (1979) power and anger typology have
bee n recently adapted the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
(Hazelwood & Burgess, 1987) respectively, for application to
offender profiling. These typologies, although approaching the
topic from different perspectives do have considerable overlap
in underlying theory. Therefore, rather than a series of separate
discussions of each typology, the main underlying themes will
be highlighted and discussed in relation to weapon use.
Control of the Victim
An element within a number of the typologies is the issue of
achieving control and compliance of the victim. According to
Canter, Bennel, Alison and Reddy (2003) offenders in the con-
trol domain view the victim as an inanimate object, one that
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 23
needs to be trussed and controlled. The use of bindings, ropes,
gags and a weapon are highlighted as behaviours demonstrating
this theme. This view is shared by Salfati and Taylor (2006)
whom also highlight behaviours designed to control the victim
as an important discriminatory factor in their domain. In this
respect, the weapon can relate to the enhanced control of the
victim enabling the offence to be completed with greater ease.
Salfati and Taylor further theorise that weapon use reflects a
predominantly functional or instrumental behavioural aspect of
the offence demonstrating the offender’s need for control and
characteristic of a planned offence. A so called organised of-
fender would also be ascribed more likely to use a weapon to
control and facilitate the crime (Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas,
Power and Intimacy
The next theme is also predominantly instrumental in nature
as a weapon is shown by the offender in order to gain power
over the victim in an attempt to offer the offender a level of
victim compliance in which they can pursue pseudo-intimacy
with the victim. Hazelwood and Burgess’s (1987) FBI typology,
based on the work of Groth (1979), suggests power-reassure-
ance offenders commit offences in an attempt to challenge their
own sexual doubts and their own personal inadequacy. As such
the offender may ask the victim to participate in the offence,
though importantly, without any motivation to either degrade or
harm the victim. According to Keppel and Walter (1999) serial
offenders motivated by power-reassurance may begin their
offences with no weapon but progress to bringing a weapon to
better gain full compliance from the victim, without the need to
excessively physically harm them. For these offenders, the
hostile or aggressive use of a weapon and associated higher
levels of physical violence could be seen as counter-productive
to their overall aim of achieving pseudo-intimacy through
Anger and Weapon U se
Groth (1979) argues that anger plays an important psycho-
logical role in rape and is also a central aspect to each afore-
mentioned typology. To relate the different psychological
processes of anger to weapon use, anger is separated into gen-
eral and targeted anger.
In terms of general anger, Salfati and Taylor (2006) describe
a violent theme associated with a hostile frenzied attack in both
rapists and sexual murderers. The key variables composing the
violent theme were multiple wounding, non-controlled violence
and the offender using a weapon from the crime scene. Inter-
estingly, they reported that rapists were more likely to bring a
weapon to the crime scene (43% vs. 14%), whereby sexual
murders were more likely to use a weapon from the crime scene
(35% vs. 5%). The lack of a weapon in the sexual murderer
sample may indicate the impulsivity and highly emotional of-
fence of sexual murder.
Knight, Warren Reboussin and Soley (1988) describe a per-
vasive anger domain within the MTC: R3 in which offenders
have enduring “global” anger “against the world”, alongside a
history of antisocial aggressive behaviours. As such, offenders
express their anger though their rapes and victims are likely to
receive a high level of injury. The power assertive domain in-
volves an element of planning and physical aggression and is
viewed as an expression of virility, masculinity and dominance
on the part of the offender. Keppel and Walter (1999) state that
regarding sexual murder this type of offender will often use a
weapon and view it as an extension of their personality, carry-
ing an element of symbolic importance to deliberately hurt and
intimidate the vic tim.
Whereas the previous section considered general, or global,
anger towards victims, there are offenders that have speci-
fic/targeted anger towards their victim; either as a specific per-
son (e.g. girlfriend, prostitutes, etc.) or a particular misogynistic
hatred of females for example. Canter, Bennel, Alison and
Reddy (2003) found that factors such as tearing clothing, single
and multiple acts of violence, demeaning behaviours, anal sex
and verbal insults were commonly associated with each other
composing a thematic region dubbed hostility. Likewise, Salfati
and Taylor (2006) proposed a theme associated with violent
behaviours such as anal penetration and the use of foreign ob-
jects in penetration, termed exploit. However, no definition of
foreign object was provided, but there could be some crossover
between the use of foreign objects and weapons as it is possible
that some weapons could be used in this sexual manner. Previ-
ous literature indicates the correlation between head/face
wounding, multiple wounding and a relationship to the victim
(Salfati & Canter, 1999; Haugen, Slungard, & Schei, 2005).
Of relevance here is the term “overkill” that Douglas, Bur-
gess, Burgess and Ressler (2006) describe as excessive violence
that is personal against the victim, with anger as the common
underlying drive. The example being a husband that severely
bludgeons and stabs his wife 20 times, in comparison to a bur-
glar whom they posit would not use such violence. They argue
that overkill, especially to the face is often an attempt to dehu-
manise the victim-but may also indicate the killer knows the
victim or represents a specific person.
Groth (1979) defined the anger-retaliatory domain, which
included an expression of anger towards females, including a
disregard for the victim, selfish behaviours and strong violence
delivered through a perceived explosive retribution. In terms of
sexual murder this type is more likely to assault with fists or
weapons of opportunity, indicating an emotional and impulsive
element to the crime. The MTC: R3 incorporates a vindictive-
ness domain that involves high levels of misogynistic anger
directed and focused on women. The primary aim for such
offenders is to degrade, harm and to humiliate women. In such
cases of targeted anger, it could be inferred that weapon use
would be used deliberately to harm and terrorise the victim.
However, the choice of weapon could be relatively impulsive
with offenders using any available object found at the crime
Both the MTC: R3 (Knight, Warren, Reboussin, & Soley,
1988) and FBI (Hazelwood & Burgess, 1987) typologies in-
volve an element of opportunism. Such crimes are influenced
by contextual and environmental factors as opposed to deep-
seated motivations. These seem to be criminally minded indi-
viduals, of which sexual crimes are but one element of an over-
all criminal ity and anti-socia l nature. It is uncle ar whether these
individuals are more probable to generally carry weapons and
then utilise them during an opportunistic offence or offend
when opportunities arise utilising any weapon they can fashion
at the crime scene.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Deviant Use
The final theme to be discussed from the typologies relates to
the extreme of both instrumental and expressive factors. Groth
(1979) discusses the anger-excitation motivation stating that it
relates to a strongly pre-planned offence whereby the offender
inflicts pain and terror on the victims in order to derive pleasure.
The sexual theme within the MTC: R3 classification similarly
assumes that some form of sexual preoccupation with sadistic
fantasies serves to motivate the rape. Within the MTC: R3
highly sexual offences are sub-divided into sadistic and non-
sadistic. In both the FBI and MTC: R3 typologies the sadistic
elements would be likely to increase the use of weapons both to
fully control the victim to enable the playing out of the fantasy
and for the sadistic violence directed at the victim. As such,
weapons go far beyond a functional use and are more likely
utilised to enable the expression of deep psychological motive-
tions for power, control and sadism.
The paper has sought to identify literature to inform thinking
about the issue of weapon use both in sexual and violent crimes
within a police context. It is clear that weapon use, while not
the focus of a considerable amount of research itself, is dis-
cussed within a variety of offender and offence types. This
paper has sought to bring this research together, identify a gap
and to progress the topic forward. In consideration of the results
from the literature and how weapon use has been viewed by a
number of typologies the following dimensions of weapon use
are proposed. These illustrate the range of offenders and moti-
vations where weapon use may aid in discriminating offenders.
Evidence of Planning (Opportunism and Control)
Evidence of planning, be this high or low, emerged as a
theme underpinning weapon use. This was found in a variety of
the samples. High planning demonstrating forethought in bring-
ing a weapon and a facilitative or controlling element to the
crime compared to crimes of opportunity. Such a theme is con-
sistent within an organised/disorganised offender and instru-
mental violence (Bartol, 1991).
Emotional Use of a Weapon (Anger and Power)
Weapon choice and use can also demonstrate an offenders’
emotional expressiveness, feelings of inadequacy and anger
towards the victim. In some research the weapon moves beyond
a utility function to facilitate a crime and appeared to be related
to an intent to harm the victim. This is consistent with expres-
sive violence (Salfati, 2000). A practical example would be an
offender brandishing a hammer or axe as compared to a knife in
order to elicit terror and increase the damage potential. The
choice of weapon in these instances may indicate differential
motivations and thus generate discriminatory offender charac-
teristics able to aid in offender profiling.
The above dimensions have implications for differentiating
between offender characteristics, for example; levels of impul-
sivity, evidence of planning, anger and aggression, basic demo-
graphics and previous convictions. For example, offenders
using a weapon as a strategy for control or to facilitate the
crime would be, it is hypothesised, have a longer and more
extensive criminal career than the other weapon dimensions.
Those within the emotional use would be likely to have a vio-
lent criminal history.
While many aspects of a criminal career will be in constant
development and subject to learning and other environmental
factors, it is proposed that the underlying motivations of using a
weapon are likely to remain static. Research on this topic would
be valuable. Other unexplored concerns regarding weapon use
would be issues such as the transition from youth to adult
weapon use, different choices of weapon, escalation and de-
escalation and consistency in weapon use. These are all key
areas, not only academically but also of practical use to police
The current paper has examined the use of weapons within a
number of crime types, but with a specific focus on sexual
crimes. This research has been discussed and considered within
an offender-profiling context. Key results have been presented
from the literature review and proposed motivations underpin-
ning the use of a weapon. The topic of weapon use has not been
explored adequately in the previous literature-while the present
study is far from comprehensive, it can hopefully lay some
important groundwork to extend research on the issue of wea-
pon use.
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