From Abused Child to Serial Killer: Investigating Nature vs Nurture in Methods of Murder

“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ― Asa Don Brown

Deeply traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can have an even deeper impact in adult life. They can significantly shape an individual’s personality and life choices, spurring research into the connection between childhood abuse and criminal behavior. In particular, the extent of childhood abuse reported among serial killers has raised the question: Are serial killers born or made?

Nature vs Nurture

Not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of childhood abuse. However, the connection between the two cannot be dismissed as just coincidence. According to criminologist Dr Adrian Raine, both biologic and social factors contribute to the making of a murderer. Reviews of more than 100 twin and adoption analyses showed that approximately 50% of variance in antisocial behavior is attributable to genetic influences. In his book, The Anatomy of Violence, Dr Raine explains that “Genetics and environment work together to encourage violent behavior.” For example, those with a specific variant of the enzyme monoamine-oxidase-A gene are more prone to displaying violent behavior if they have had an abusive upbringing. A child susceptible to genetically driven violent conduct does not necessarily become a criminal. However, genetics, in tandem with environmental factors such as violent childhood experiences, work together to shape a person.  more

The preferred jobs of serial killers and psychopaths

Serial killer job breakdown

  • Top 3 Skilled Serial-Killer Occupations: 1. Aircraft machinist/assembler; 2. Shoemaker/repair person; 3. Automobile upholsterer
  • Top 3 Semi-Skilled Serial Killer Occupations: 1. Forestry worker/arborist; 2. Truck driver; 3. Warehouse manager
  • Top 3 Unskilled Serial Killer Occupations: 1. General labourer (mover, landscaper, et. al.); 2. Hotel porter; 3. Gas station attendant
  • Top 3 Professional/Government Serial Killer Occupations: 1. Police/security official; 2. Military personnel; 3. Religious official

Obviously, not everyone occupying these jobs is a serial killer, nor are they likely to become one.

What about the psychopaths?

As we begin to redraw the map of serial murder and career paths, it might also be useful to look at the otherwise better-known index of occupations over-represented among psychopaths.

While not all psychopaths are serial killers, psychopathy —or at the very least, the possession of psychopathic traits —is a common denominator among serial killers, sex offenders and most violent criminals. Have a look at the Top 10 occupations according to an Oxford University psychologist:

  1. CEO or business executive
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media personality
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist or news anchor
  7. Police officer
  8. Religious official
  9. Chef
  10. Miscellaneous civil servant (military, city council, corrections, etc.)

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Why does it seem like serial killers all wear the same glasses?

A brief history of murderers and their chosen eyewear, from Jeffrey Dahmer to the BTK Strangler to the Zodiac Killer

A teenager with red hair swooping over one eye takes a selfie at an eyeglass store and posts it on Tumblr. “I saw these Jeffrey Dahmer-like glasses,” he writes in the caption. “I feel like [they] look cute on me. Is that bad?” He tags the photo #serialkiller.

The list of serial killers who wore glasses is long and bloody, from Dahmer to BTK to Harold Shipman and his professorial frames; even the Zodiac Killer, never caught, wears a thick-rimmed pair in a police sketch. The aesthetic of “serial killer glasses” is so pervasive that it pops up everywhere from Urban Dictionary (“Eyeglasses with heavy or severe frames that live somewhere between fashionable and creepy”) to TV Tropes (where “a guy who is cold, emotionless … or even a soulless monster” is given glasses “to quickly tip off the audience to his personality”), and countless Tumblr posts in between.  more

Are Mass Murderers Insane? Usually Not, Researchers Say

It is true that severe mental illnesses are found more often among mass murderers. About one in five are likely psychotic or delusional, according to Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of 350 mass killers going back more than a century. The figure for the general public is closer to 1 percent.

But the rest of these murderers do not have any severe, diagnosable disorder. Though he was abusive to his wife, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub, had no apparent serious mental illness. Neither did Stephen Paddock, who mowed down 58 concertgoers from a hotel window in Las Vegas.

Ditto for Dylann Roof, the racist who murdered nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015, and Christopher Harper-Mercer, the angry young man who killed nine people at a community college in Oregon the same year.  more

The Battle Over Brett Kavanaugh Has Ended. But the Pain His Hearing Triggered Has Not

Since #MeToo went viral, survivors have been inundated with stories of sexual assault and harassment on a weekly — and for some stretches, daily — basis. But nothing had evoked memories and pains of past traumas in some survivors, and particularly women, as much as the respective testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Senators, television personalities and people across the country heard stories from loved ones that they had never been told before. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) saw a 388% increase in traffic on its hotline from the Thursday of the hearing to the following Sunday. That Friday was the busiest day in the organization’s 24-year history. No other single #MeToo moment appeared to precipitate that sort of deluge.

Survivors with histories of sexual abuse are at higher risk of exhibiting PTSD symptoms whenever a #MeToo story hits the news, according to Freyd. But such allegations are often blips in the 24-hour news cycle. The Kavanaugh story dragged on, with an apparent strain on many survivors that the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby allegations did not inspire — and it will continue to do so as he takes his seat on the Supreme Court. Experts say that all that has happened could have lasting effects on the psychology of many victims of sexual assault.  more

Examining Trauma & HEROES IN CRISIS: What is PTSD and How Can a Comic Book Help?

When writer Tom King first introduced the concept of Heroes in Crisis to the public, he framed the story idea around the perception that a whole generation of Americans are dealing with the aftermath of trauma.

“I want to speak about, and to, this New War generation, the millions of people who have fought bravely overseas and have come home to try to return to their normal lives,” King said in a press conference at San Diego Comic Con.

King is a former counterterrorism  operations officer with the CIA who experienced after-effects of his traumatic experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he wants to use DC heroes to tell the stories of the people who are dealing with the mental effects of trauma. “I want to talk about their hopes, their pains, their triumphs.”  more

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Be Contagious

PTSD sometimes spreads from trauma victims to the people who care for them, including rescue workers, spouses and even therapists

IN BRIEF

  • When caregivers, rescue workers or family members attend to someone with post-traumatic stress disorder who has suffered a horrible experience, a number of them develop “secondary” PTSD, without themselves having witnessed the traumatic event.
  • Stories of trauma, it seems, can become etched into memory as if they were the hearer’s own experiences. This memory transfer may occur because the brain regions that process real and imagined experiences overlap considerably.
  • The more that caregivers or family members empathize with a victim and the less able they are to maintain emotional distance, the more likely it is that they will experience secondary trauma.  more

‘Cry Havoc!’: Onstage ‘Personal Journey’ Portrays Need to Help Vets ‘Un-wire from War’

Army veteran Stephan Wolfert will present “Cry Havoc,” the story of his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder during performances and workshops that begin tonight at Fort Greely and continue into the weekend in Fairbanks. Wolfert’s a classically trained actor who says he found relief from PTSD on stage, especially when performing Shakespeare.

“Now is the winter of our discontent …”

That’s the opening line from Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” the story of the conniver who became King of England after murdering and imprisoning his rivals. It’s not an uplifting story, but Stephan Wolfert says seeing it at a low point in his life helped inspire him to pick up the pieces, turn himself around and tell his story, on stage.

“It’s a personal journey from being in the military, having a horrific experience after the first Gulf War was over – a buddy of mine was killed in training at Fort Irwin, California. I lost it – I can say that now – I didn’t know what was going on,” he said in an interview with New York public-radio member station WSKG.  more

A young mom’s powerful obituary is shedding light on opioid addiction

A young Vermont mother who died as a result of opioid addiction is being memorialized by her family in a fearless obituary calling for a more open understanding of the illness that took her life.

Madelyn Linsenmeir, 30, died October 7. In her obituary published in The Burlington Free Press, her family wasted no time in sharing the truth: Linsenmeir was addicted to drugs. But, they said, she was also a loving mother, a beloved daughter, a talented singer and a charming person even in the throes of addiction.
“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction,” the obituary reads. “To some, Maddie was just a junkie—when they saw her addiction they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them.”  more

‘Voices in my head telling me to rape women, murder people’, said UPSC aspirant who murdered security guard

New Delhi: Shocking developments have emerged in the death of a 65-year-old security guard who was murdered by a  civil services aspirant on Wednesday. About two weeks ago, 25-year-old Benzi Singh woke up in the wee hours of the morning and mentioned that he had been hearing ‘voices’ asking him to ‘rape women and kill people’, saying his roommates.

One of Singh’s roommates, upon the condition of anonymity, told The Hindustan Times that Benzi came to him the night of the incident around 3.30 am. A shivering Benzi told me that someone had been talking to him which scared him so much that he slept next to me that night, said Singh’s roommate. The boy further added that Benzi’s friends took him to a psychiatrist the other day and that they could never have imagined that would kill someone.  more