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It has been proven in multiple studies that an individual is greatly affected by the traumatic childhood events that may be present in their life. These traumatic events range from a lesser extent such as a car crash but can be as great an extent as sexual or emotional abuse and neglect. In research studies conducted by psychologists, it has been concluded that because of traumatic events a child may face, it can greatly influence their behavior as an adult when engaging in illegal behavior.
Because childhood traumatic events are a baseline for criminal behavior, one may be wondering how serial killers choose their victims and whether their childhood plays a significant role in it.
Looking at the life of the now-deceased Aileen Wuornos, the trauma faced in her early adolescence can greatly be the root of her adult behavior. As a child, Wuornos was subjected to multiple years of molestation by her biological father, who then committed suicide while serving time in prison for it. Wuornos was later left in the care of her grandparents. She was abandoned by not only her abusive biological father but also her mother. This served to be a detrimental turning point in Wournos’ life. A girl who thought she had escaped the ill fortunes of her life, was now brought into an environment that is arguably worse. The sexual abuse did not just end with her father, Wournos was then faced with the misfortunes of her grandparents. As stated in an article, her grandmother was an alcoholic and her grandfather was just as invasive as her biological father. She claimed that her grandfather would molest her as well and if that isn’t bad enough, she also claims that he went as far as letting other men abuse her as well. In the midst of the chaos, Wuornos began a sexual relationship with her brother and later became pregnant, at the age of 14, with one of her grandfather’s accomplices.
After giving her child up for adoption, Wuornos was put out onto the streets by her grandparents, where she then began hitchhiking her way down the coast as a sex worker in order to make ends meet. Wuornos met her wealthy partner, Lewis Fell, in Florida whom she then married in 1976. Fell soon annulled the marriage as he claimed Wuornos was abusive. Because of these claims, Wournos was later sent to prison. Once released, within the years of 1989-1990, as stated by Biography.com Editors, Wuornos had committed the murders of seven men at point-blank range and claimed that the men had attempted to rape her. She was again, found guilty in 1992 and was sentenced to the death penalty for each of the murders. Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in October of 2002.
Wuornos faced traumatic events in her adolescence more specifically, sexual abuse stemming from not only her biological father but also her grandfather and his acquaintances. These events directly impacted the ways that she had chosen to live by in order to make ends meet. The abuse she faced by men sparked and further added fuel to the fire in her criminal behavior that is seen through the victims she chose, all men. This idea of psychopathic behavior stemming from childhood trauma does not end with Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy is yet another criminal whose childhood has impacted his adulthood.
John Wayne Gacy, famously known as the “Killer Clown”, may be considered to be one of the most infamous and brutal serial killers in US history, raping and murdering at least 33 young males, all while being a model citizen. In Gacy’s childhood, Gacy faced years of abuse by his alcoholic father and witnessed his father abusing his mother as well. In school, Gacy was unable to be as active as a child should be because of a heart condition that his father considered as yet another reason his son was a failure. As Gacy reached his pubescent years, he found himself being attracted to males, which created more abusive tendencies by his father to arise.
As Gacy reached adulthood, he was seen as a normal active citizen in his community. Gacy had been married twice, with two children, and was active in his political organizations, and cultural gatherings, and even managed multiple fast-food chains.
As an article by Biography.com Editors states, Gacy began working as a clown for birthday parties, where he was known to have been picking his victims and drawing them to himself, his story is that he would promise them to work. Instead, Gacy would capture these individuals and sexually assault them. He went as far as torturing them in the process. He did so by strangling the majority of his victims with a rope, or even with his own bare hands. In the same article, it is said that in the late 1960s, Gacy was found guilty and was convicted for the sexual assault of two minors. These children were merely 10 years old and were both males. Gacy was sent to prison with a 10-year sentence. Upon being released, Gacy was soon wanted for another instance of sexual assault of a minor. This victim was also a teenage boy. Gacy was not convicted for this case of sexual assault, on the basis of the plaintiff not appearing in the court hearing.
Nearly a decade later, yet another young boy had disappeared, this time a 15-year-old. As the article by Biography.com Editors states, numerous witnesses say the boy had been seen with Gacy. Authorities took it upon themselves to search this well-known offender’s house in Illinois where they had uncovered numerous other crimes that had taken place in the home. Police found dozens of remains of young boys buried in a crawl space found in Gacy’s home. Because of this finding, Gacy had admitted and confessed to the murders and sexual assaults of nearly 30 other young males. After receiving a dozen death sentences, Gacy was given a lethal injection in 1994.
John Wayne Gacy faced years of abuse by his father because of his “failures”. Due to Gacy being abused for his “failures”, one being his sexuality, Gacy targeted young teenage boys who he released his pent-up anger on, resulting in horrific crimes. Similar to Aileen Wuornos and John Wayne Gacy, Jeffery Dahmer is yet another criminal whose childhood directly impacted his actions as an adult.
Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, within the years of 1978 and 1991, similar to Gacy, had committed the murders of 17 young males. Dahmer was an energetic child that showed no tell-tale signs of a psychopath that his parents should be worried about, but soon after surgery, Dahmer began to become withdrawn. Similar to Gacy, Dahmer also struggled with his sexuality. Dahmer’s interest for murder and necrophilia began at the age of 14, soon after his distant mother who neglected him and his father had divorced. Dahmer began to consume alcohol shortly after his parent’s divorce, this alcoholism will be the bases of his life for years to come. Dahmer had been dishonorably discharged from the US military because of suspicions that he had committed murders in the location he was stationed in.
Dahmer lured his victims into their murders by getting them heavily intoxicated where he took numerous ways of disposing of their remains. Many of his methods were to engage in intercourse with the corpse, where he then dismembered the remains and buried them in his backyard. Dahmer was known to keep souvenirs of his victims, some of these were their skulls, polaroids, or even the genitalia of the victim.
Dahmer faced years of neglect from his absent parents after surgery, a surgery that forever altered his personality. Similar to Gacy, Dahmer struggled to accept his sexuality as an adolescent which rolled over to adulthood and was then evident in the victims he chose and how Dahmer had chosen his means of torture. Hundreds of other criminals, like Wournos, Gary, and Dahmer, deal with traumatic events in their childhood which impact their decisions in the future and are written off as psychopaths, but many individuals don’t realize that the roots of their issues come from violence, abuse, and neglect that come from parental and familiar figures. The trauma an individual can face in their childhood can very well be the means of the reasoning behind their violent behaviors. As seen with Dahmer, Gacy, and Wuornos, the three individuals faced years of abuse from their parental figures that reflected on the victims that were a part of their crimes.
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