Wiktionary defines a rape van as

A vehicle with a large interior body having no windows or blocked windows, for which it would be easy to lure or force a person inside and thereafter conceal their presence in the vehicle in order to enable the commission a sexual assault against that person.

In the citations page, many of the citations given seem to be either within fiction, urban legend style anecdotes, or used as a metaphor:

In addition to condemnations of male sexuality, Dines offered questionable horror stories about pornography's atrocities, like this: Rape vans are roaming the streets of New York. Women are dragged into the vans and raped on camera; when their attackers sell the rape videos in commercial outlets, the women have no legal recourse.

Are rape vans real, or an urban legend?

  • 2
    Are you asking, "Has there ever been, historically, a real rape van?" Or are you asking about vans in the plural? Or in the present?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 0:20
  • Me and my wife used to call windowless panel vans "serial killer vans"… also, the claim in the second quote about selling rape videos publically and so is even more exceptional… o.o
    – Weaver
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 9:33
  • The wiktionary just defines the meaning of a term. It does not mean or claim that "rape vans" have been used or are used for rape. Another example from the same source: apple-catchers are so called because they are so wide you could catch apples in them; it doesn't mean this has been done or is usual practice.
    – P_S
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 10:29
  • 1
    Well there is at least one problem with the story. There do not exist windowless Vans that magically negate the laws regarding rape in NY. "the women have no legal recourse." So yes, it is an urban legend that their exist vans in which all rape is legal.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


Yes, there are several cases where windowless vans have been used in kidnappings for sex crimes.

I list a few examples below.

[Caution: The stories may be distressing.]

In 2013, the Ohio Attorney General warned parents of one or more suspects who were approaching children and had been unsuccessfully trying to entice them into a white van:

In each case, the suspect has approached girls and boys between the ages of nine and 15 while driving a white, windowless panel van, which could be a commercial vehicle. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van.

Fortunately these attempts were unsuccessful.

In 1989, a man was sentenced to prison for manufacturing child pornography:

Thoma lured the boy into his windowless van in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago`s South Side, where the boy lived, and offered him money to pose, Romza-Kutz said.

In 1979, the "Toolbox Killers" killed five southern Californian teenagers. Wikipedia explains:

Bittaker purchased a silver 1977 GMC cargo van in February 1979. The vehicle was windowless on the sides and had a large passenger-side sliding door. According to Bittaker, when viewing this sliding door, he realized he or Norris could "pull up [to a teenage girl] real close and not have to open the doors all the way." (Bittaker and Norris would nickname this van "Murder Mac".)


After unsuccessfully attempting to entice Schaefer into their van with alternate offers of marijuana and a lift home, Bittaker and Norris drove further ahead and parked alongside a driveway. Norris then exited the vehicle, opened the passenger-side sliding door and leaned into the van, with his head and shoulders obscured from view behind the door. When Lucinda Schaefer passed the van, Norris exchanged a few words with her before dragging her into the van and closing the door. Using a ruse they would repeat in most of their subsequent murders, Bittaker turned the radio up to full volume as Norris bound the victim's arms and legs and gagged her with duct tape

Similar techniques were used for their other victims.

[Wikipedia references a number of "true crime" books - I have been unable to confirm these passages.]

  • A woman was seen by witnesses at a laundry mat being snatched into the back of a white van from a phone booth in the parking lot. Five days later her body was found a few miles away on a church lawn. She had been raped, tortured, and strangled to death. This happened where I live in Kannapolis NC in 1995-1996. I don't remember the exact date, but it's in the local papers(independent tribune) if you dare to track it down. Even though there were several witnesses of the body snatching, and DNA evidence, no one was ever charged. DNA showed 3 different men, of different races, had sex with her.
    – Xarcell
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 3:20
  • Another example found in a blogpost by someone who unwittingly helped soundproof the van. (Blog gone, recommented my old comment with a link to an archived copy).
    – SQB
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 15:31

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