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Where Do Serial Killers Come From?

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Where Do Serial Killers Come From?

It was January 1974, and the people of Wichita, Kansas were staying up all night, with their guns in their hands, ready for the unthinkable to happen. Four members of the Ortero family had just been brutally murdered in their own home, in the middle of the day. Julie and Joseph, the mother and father, had been found tied at the hands and wrists, strangled, in their bedroom. Beside them lay their nine year old son Joey, who had been murdered the same way. Even after the police discovered their bodies they were still not prepared for what they found in the basement. The Orteros' daughter, Josie, had been stripped and hung from a sewer pipe. This was just the very beginning of the serial killer career of Dennis Rader, also known as BTK (Singular, 2006).

The definition of serial killer has been heavily debated, and there is no definite answer. However, the most widely accepted definition is "three or more unrelated killings separated by a cooling-off period and involving sadistic, sexual violence." (Schechter & Everitt, 1996).

People are fascinated and at the same time horrified at the thought of serial killers. How can someone take away another human beings life just for the fun of it? No one is sure of the factors that bring about a serial killer. There have been similarities between these types of individuals, but not always. In the highly debated topic of Nature versus Nurture, both sides may offer an insight into how a serial killer is born, or raised.

When we look at serial killers from a Nurture point of view, we look at the past and upbringing of a serial killer. Childhood abuse may not bring about a serial killer, but it is an undeniable factor in most of their backgrounds. Parents who physically and psychologically abuse their children teach them to rely on violence when there is a challenge at hand (Scott). When parents use disciplinary actions to toughen their children up for the real world, they deprive the child of actually trusting anyone later on in life (Scott). I believe this is why most serial killers have no remorse, because they have never actually been able to bond with another human being.

Albert DeSalvo, or more commonly known as the Boston Strangler, grew up in a violent household. His father was said to bring whores home and perform sexual acts with them in front of the children. Albert also witnessed his father break his mother's fingers one by one and knock out some of her teeth (Schechter & Everitt, 1996). His father later sold Albert into slavery, and he eventually grew up to terrorize and murder thirteen women over a span of eighteen months. Growing up with his father as the only male role model in Albert's life, must have had major negative effects on him. He observed women being treated as objects, and was taught to abuse them physically when they acted out.

Henry Lee Lucas is known as one of America's horrific serial killers. Investigators are not entirely sure of his actual victim count, but they place it somewhere from sixty nine to eighty. Henry suffered a rough childhood under the care of his abusive, alcoholic mother. She was extremely abusive, often beating poor Henry with large wooden objects. His mother would also bring home some of her clients, and force her son to watch them perform sexual acts. Henry's childhood was much like Albert DeSalvo's. Both were exposed to physical and sexual abuse at an extremely young age (Schechter & Everitt, 1996).

Those were just two examples of several serial killers growing up in an abusive household. However there are some serial killers that are brought up in, what out society would call, a normal household. Dennis Rader was born and raised in Kansas, where he was baptized Lutheran. His parents where God fearing people and they attended church every Sunday. Dennis was not abused, and was considered normal throughout his childhood (Singular, 2006). Somehow despite his upbringing, he became a murderer. So does an example like Rader's completely disprove that Nurture is not a factor in making a serial killer? I don't believe it does. Most serial killers have grown up in abusive homes and I think that contributed to a lot of their personality. However, I think that both Nature and Nurture play a part in a person's personality, so those serial killers who grew up in normal households must have had other factors playing a part.

Another theory for the explanation of serial killers, is the possibility that addiction drives them. The statement that the serial killer is addicted to what he does cannot be

understood without a discussion of addiction. While the early examples of addiction such as alcoholism and drug addiction are still the clearest examples of addiction, new examples have come about. Addictive behavior now includes exercise, compulsive gambling, and even sexual addictions (Anderson 1994). Just as alcoholism was once thought to be a conscious choice, these latter examples have long been thought to be the result of such things as a defective moral character. Recently, however, it has been recognized that the sexual addict or the compulsive gambler can stop their compulsion no more easily than the alcoholic (Anderson, 1994).

The mind of the serial killer is based around fantasy. Most serial killers have a fantasy, either one they created after they started killing or one that may have been the indirect cause of his killings.

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