SERIAL KILLER: KILLING FOR A PSYCHOLOGICAL GRATIFICATION

Abstract

Serial killers engage in brutal killings and commit horrifying acts in order to satisfy themselves and to get abnormal psychological gratification. This article investigates the evilness of a serial killer, their behavior, their stand for selecting their victims and what motivates the serial killers to kill random people for their psychological gratification.

Introduction

Serial Killer is an individual who felonious kill at least one individual and commit subsequent homicides in order to fulfill the psychological gratification with the gap of a significant time frame in between. Some psychologists and authorities consider three murders to call somebody a serial killer, others extend it to four or reduce it to two. Additionally, serial killing is done with a desire to practice power over the victim. The serial killers are not the same as mass murderers but their childhood encounters lead them to hostility. In the mean-time, negligence directs them to withdraw from social life and lead to their aggressive personality.The other significant characterization of serial killer is his motive which vary from gaining pleasure, economic gain, stress relieve, hatred, etc. and these subsequent murders happen independently by the serial killer and not under the supervision of political, governmental, criminal or intelligence agency.[1]

The very essence of serial killers put them under the ambit of evil. The behavior of serial killers is irrational and that is why they tend to commit homicide repeatedly. The underlying evil intent pushes them to become recidivists and destroy human lives.

Psychology observes that most serial killers obtain a great amount of psychological gratification from killing others. The psychological gratification they attain from killing others encourages them to satisfy their hunger and get more satisfaction by killing again and this distinguishes them from one-time murderers who kill incidentally.These recidivists have a persistent and overwhelming want to commit murder for their own interest.

How serial killer select their victims?

FBI in its report of 2005 on serial killing stated that serial killer chooses their victims based on the following criteria:[2]

  • Availability

The availability of a person can be easily ascertained by their lifestyle or the condition in which the victim is in, that might give the serial killer a chance to attack that person. For example, someone who lives alone is always available and can easily be accessed by a break-in attack by the serial killer.

  • Vulnerability

Vulnerability is being fragile. It characterizes the degree of risk the victim is at and how defenseless the victim is to the attack by the killer. For example, an old man living alone in his home is more vulnerable and can be easily attacked, but on the other hand if the old man is living with a ferocious dog, he is less vulnerable and less likely to be attacked by the perpetrator.

  • Desirability

Desirability is subjective and could be biased. It depends upon how attractive and intriguing the victim is to the offender. The desirability of the victim includes various factors such as, gender, age, ethnicity, body type, race, intellect, or any other standard established by the offender that encourages him to commit homicide. For example, children are desirable to a paedophile.

Motives of serial killers to seek different psychological gratifications

The motive of serial killers is generally not easy to figure out because a serial killer can have multiple motives involved for killing. But the general motives of serial killers that provide psychological gratification to the them are based on four categories defined below:

  • Hedonistic

Hedonistic serial killers lookout for thrill and try to extract pleasure from killing. The killers who try to derive pleasure out of killing are lust killers. Their fantasies play the primary role in the killings and they do not care whether the victim is alive or dead and often end up engaging in necrophile. Their sexual delight relies upon the amount of torment and mutilation they inflict on the victim.[3] As lust killers proceeds with their killings, the time period between subsequent killings either decrease or the incitement increases, sometimes both.

Next comes the thrill killers who have the primary intention to actuate pain or terror in the victims which incites and exhilarates the killer. The hunting and murdering of victims provide them gratification. They are the unorganized killers because they do not plan everything in advance. They generally use weapons such as knives for mutilation or rape their victims before killing or engage in necrophilia and after that they hide the victim’s corpse and move on to their next target, if they are not caught.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a hedonistic killer who was a necrophile, killed 17 men and boys. He said dismemberment and cannibalism used to thrill him.

  • Mission-orientedserial killers

Mission-oriented serial killers are those killers who are well-organized and feel that they are doing their duty in helping the world get rid of the people who are perceived as undesirable, example, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug dealers or people from different race or religion, etc. they are not generally psychotic[4] and they feel their killings are doing good to the society and helping the world in getting better off. The mission-oriented killers go after certain kinds of people and control the crime scene accordingly and hence they are easy to be tracked down.

Gary Ridgway aka the Green River Killer was a Mission Oriented serial killer. He used to murder prostitutes because he thought they were unclean and do an unpleasant job.

  • Visionary serial killers

Visionary serial killers have been reported about hearing voices from God or the Demon and are compelled to kill the people but they do not seem to have any mental illness relating to the hearing of voices. These killers have stated that they have been motivated by visions or voices to kill random people. They, also, occasionally suffer from psychotic breaks from the society. The subcategories of visionary serial killers are: God-mandated and Demon-mandated.[5]

David Berkowitzwas a visionary serial killer. He claimed that he used to hear voices of a demon to kill people through his neighbor’s dog.[6]

  • Power and Controlserial killers

The primary aim of power and control serial killers is to gain power over the victim and enjoy the torture inflicted on the victim. Nothing satisfies these killers more than the control over their victims. They feel desperate and powerless because they had suffered childhood abuse. These power- or control-motivated killers even abuse their victims sexually but they differ from lust killers because they are not motivated by lust but they have hunger for exercising power and domination over the victim.[7]

Ted Bundy was power and control serial killer. He wanted to exercise power over brunette women with center-parted hair and he murdered 30 women. In his entire life he raped and murdered women. He was also a famous serial killer for necrophile.

Conclusion

Serial Killing is not easy to research because it is a very rare event. Currently, the research is restricted because it is only based on the killers who agrees to be interviewed and the information given in newspaper or reported in court documents or police files. Therefore, there is a need for thorough research on serial killing. Also, a good theory needs to be established so that it can serve as a standard for conducting research and setting a paradigm. As a solution in order to narrow down the fields of suspect, more research is needed to predict the factors that lead a serial killer to commit homicide and how can the motives of serial killers that fetch them psychological gratification be pacified.

References

  1. Ferguson, C. J., White, D. E., Cherry, S., Lorenz, M., &Bhimani, Z, Defining and Classifying Serial Murder in the Context of Perpetrator Motivation, J.C.J, 287 (2003).
  2. Morton R.J., Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, N.C Ana. V.C. (2005).
  3. Myers, Wade C.; McElroy, Ross; Burton, Karen; Recoppa, Lawrence, Malignant Sex and Aggression: An Overview of Serial Sexual Homicide, Bul. of Am. Aca. of Psy, 435(1993).
  4. Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T, Serial Murder, 43 (1998).
  5. Bartol, Curt R.; Bartol, Anne M. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application, SAGE Publications, 145 (2004).
  6. Schechter, Harold, The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World’s Most Terrifying Murderers, Ballantine Books, 291 (2003).
  7. Egger, Steven A., Why Serial Murderers Kill: An Overview, Contemporary Issues (2000).

[1] Ferguson, C. J., White, D. E., Cherry, S., Lorenz, M., &Bhimani, Z, Defining and classifying serial murder in the context of perpetrator motivation,J.C.J, 287 (2003).

[2]Morton R.J., Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, N.C Ana. V.C. (2005).

[3]Myers, Wade C.; McElroy, Ross; Burton, Karen; Recoppa, Lawrence,Malignant Sex and Aggression: An Overview of Serial Sexual Homicide, Bul. of Am. Aca. of Psy, 435(1993).

[4]Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T,Serial Murder, 43 (1998).

[5]Bartol, Curt R.; Bartol, Anne M. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application, SAGE Publications, 145 (2004).

[6]Schechter, Harold, The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World’s Most Terrifying Murderers, Ballantine Books, 291 (2003).

[7]Egger, Steven A.,Why Serial Murderers Kill: An Overview, Contemporary Issues (2000).

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