In my sociological research, I conducted interviews with 75 prosecutors and defense attorneys who worked on sex crime cases. My sample was 80 percent men. Published results focus on a sub-sample of 30 respondents, but the findings were consistent across the entire group.
Virtually all my respondents took sex crime cases seriously and demonstrated deep concern for victims. But they also tended to think that only certain kinds of men were likely to commit sexual assault. Perhaps not surprisingly, they defined potential rapists in opposition to themselves.
Specifically, the trial attorneys I interviewed imagined sex offenders as lower class men.
Stereotypes about lower class cultures, and lower class men in particular, became proxies for assessing the credibility of allegations of sexual aggression. They used words like, “mopes,” “creeps,” “hillbillies,” “bums” and “dogs” to characterize men who commit sexual assault.
Of course, these research findings present a chicken-and-egg scenario: Are lower class men actually more likely to commit sexual assault? Or are they simply the ones who tend to be held criminally accountable for the same behaviors in which men of various social groups engage?
In other words, might privileged men who are sexually violent have the resources to escape detection altogether?