Although much has been written and many theories brought forth on identifying the criminal mind, it is still evident that there is no foolproof way to know in advance whether a person is prone to criminal activity. Law enforcement agencies have begun using a method called profiling to identify serial killers and terrorists. Some school districts are looking into the concept as a way of early detection into the minds of troubled children whose violent ways might be discovered before it is too late. By watching for certain signals educators hope to intervene before these tudents actually complete a violent act (Lord PG).
Some have felt it is the influence of drugs or alcohol that induces this kind of criminalistic behavior. While substance abuse may affect a person as far as committing offenses, it is far unlikely that substance abuse alone could create a serial or mass murderer. Mitchell (PG) points out that there are “studies correlating a geographical prevalence of alcoholism and serial murder and might show that there is some relation between the two (although this relationship might well be spurious). ”Some personality traits have been shown to be ore prevalent in the makeup of serial or mass murderers.
Impulsiveness, low self-esteem and poor social skills, as well as competitive and aggressive behavior are quite common among these killers as is hypersensitivity to criticism (Mitchell PG). It has also been pointed out that those with active or high fantasy prone imaginations are more apt to be able to become serial killers. Even Carl Jung pointed out that it is the tortured that become the torturers, thus establishing the fact that child abuse assumes a very prominent role in the makings of a serial killer. Perhaps it is a sense of helplessness or ack of self worth that causes the abused to turn to others to inflict pain upon.
Sometimes this fantasy life comes to the forefront in the presence of actual abuse the killer has had to endure, at which time the mind takes over and concocts a fantasy in which the abuse is happening to someone or something else. This can perhaps sow the seeds in which the mind allows the fantasy to be played out in reality later on in life (Mitchell PG). So far, however, not enough has been discovered in order to accurately predict deviant behavior in the young and enable it to be corrected before it comes to fruition. It is interesting to note that only a few examples of female serial murderers exist.
There are even fewer examples of female serial sadistic killers. It seems that serial killers are most predominately male. Because women are socially taught subservience and obedience, it is felt that to overcome this sociological learning is more than normally would take place in the mind of even the aggressive female in a social setting. It normally takes a propensity toward violence and overbearing in order to be expressive rather than alien to the social culture of a given individual. It is noted that a feminist approach to serial murder would have, no doubt, much to offer in the terms of social analyzation (Mitchell PG).
Children are not displaying normal behavior when they hurt, torture or kill animals. That, say behaviorists, is one of the significant indications of underlying psychological trouble. Bundy, along with Manson, Dahmer and most other killers of this sort, began their torturous abuse on animals. The evidence that childhood animal abuse ultimately leads to adulthood crimes is irrefutable. Senator Ed Perlmutter, who sponsored a bill to stiffen the punishment of animal cruelty harges, has no doubt that animal cruelty is linked with “much more serious crimes” (Sanko 38A) later in life.
It is as though the animals act as practice tools until the time is right to graduate up to humans. But with the help of new laws currently being passed in several states, law enforcement is now taking a closer look at the connection. According to psychologist Randall Lockwood of the Humane Society of the United States, perpetrators do not stop to count the number of legs on their victims (Sharp, PG); rather, they just want the thrill of the kill, no matter who is on the eceiving end. Make no mistake that there exists a clear and distinct connection among the abuses of animals, children, battered spouses and the elderly.
The late anthropologist Margaret Mead was frequently quoted as having said that “one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it” (Landers ). However, animal abuse is but one clue that a child like Bundy, Gacy or DeSalvo will grow up a serial killer; fire-setting and bed-wetting are just two of several other pieces to the puzzle. As well, torturous mischief can indicate that the hild derives pleasure from seeing others in pain or fear. The makeup of such a killer starts early on, long before the concept of murder ever enters the mind.
The inner motivation that compels children to commit heinous acts of violence and torture is not something that is consciously recognized by the individual. ”Children normally learn to trust and develop attachments to people within the first two years of life. By then they have also acquired a sense of compassion and empathy for others. And they have begun to be taught the difference between right and wrong and that hurtful actions have onsequences. Many youngsters, though, fail to acquire those early curbs on conduct.
Later on, when children misbehave, indulgent parents make excuses and forgo punishments. Young boys who grow up with absent or uninvolved fathers suffer doubly in that they often fail to develop a healthy sense of masculinity” (Toufexis 64). Not coincidentally, Bundy, as an example, started demonstrating telltale signs at the age of three, when he ever so quietly slid a butcher knife under the covers of his aunt’s bed while she was still asleep. As he stood there grinning, she shooed him ut of the room to put the knife away.
The unsettling thing about this incident is that no one took notice of its message; in fact, says the aunt, she was the only one who thought his actions were strange (Simon simonb. html). Time and time again, however, Bundy’s family insisted that he had a normal childhood — that was before such examples started leaking out. Experts in the field of serial sexual murderers say that a commonality among serial killers is the issue of sexual dysfunction, no matter if they are heterosexual or homosexual.
Impotency and the inability to conduct or maintain “mature, onsensual sexual experiences” (Simon simonb. tml) are trademark for this kind of offender. Oddly enough, however, they have no trouble at all achieving intense sexual pleasure from their deviant acts of violence. According to FBI statistics, of the some 500 serial killers at large, 90 percent of them commit crimes of brutal sexual violence (Anonymous PG). There are many common factors that may lead seemingly stable people to commit violent crimes. Some experts say the breakdown of the family structure plays a heavy role, while others say it is a combination of abuses kids suffer at the ands of their parents.
When parents are even in the picture, say still others, they are often void of any parental abilities, thereby leaving the teenagers to learn moral values of right and wrong for themselves. However, not every child who has had a lousy upbringing within a dysfunctional family ends up a serial killer, so there has to be more to the equation than just the home life situation. There is, say some psychologists, who suspect that biology plays yet another powerful role (Toufexis, 64).
In a study conducted by Psychologist Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia, both normal eople and known psychopaths were rated on their responses to such emotionally-illustrative words as death, cancer and rape, as well as to neutral works like table and chair. The psychopath brain waves indicated a distinct lack of reaction to the emotional words, while the normal people responded right away. In short, because the brain produces no reaction, it is apparent that killers like Gacy, DeSalvo and Bundy have no conscience to answer to, as their brains do not register the action being wrong (Toufexis, 64).
Society feels the effects of serial killers by arboring significantly more fear towards strangers. It has come to a point where no one is safe walking in his or her own neighborhood — no matter how upscale it may be — inasmuch as money or status has no bearing whatsoever upon who falls victim to a serial killer. As a means by which to enact self-preservation, people have come to withdraw from those whom they do not know, opting not to answer doorbells or help strangers on the street; indeed, this is precisely the manner by which many of the killer’s victims lost their lives.
The fact that most serial killers are white males n their thirties addresses issues that previously have not been associated with this particular kind of perpetrator. Society has historically looked upon serial killers as having a certain repulsive image or appearance, never once considering that upstanding, nice looking, relatively young men could ever fit that description. This severe modification addresses American history in that the overall representation of serial killers has changed to the point that anybody’s next door neighbor — the guy with the nice smile and kind word for all — might very well be the country’s next mass murderer.