Marissa's ePortfolio: A Reflection of My Academic Journey

Murderous Traits Essay
Academic Lows
Academic Highs: Selected Works

By:  Marissa Alclala
Period 2 World Literature

Murderous Traits
It's hard to admit tht your uncle's a murderer.  But in my case, it's just a hard dose of reality that may be difficult to swallow, but should be finally made clear.  It's been over twenty years since the day that my uncle pointed the gun at the crazed man behind the wheel of a speeding truck, shattering not only the windshield glass, but my family's reputation as well.  But as the crime went into a court of law, my uncle was freed of the image of a murderer and perceived more as a hero; a martyr to his neighbors who courageously stepped in front of the swerving truck and stopped it before anyone else could be hurt.  It was this acceptance of my uncle's crime that had left me with mixed emotions and unsettled questions.  I was left with not only the question of why, but also of how this beloved relative of mine had killed a man with absolutely no remorse.
Stories such as mine are more common than most think.  It has long been perceived in the media that psychopaths and murderers are the dark, looming creatures in the alleyways that should be feared and avoided as rejects of human nature.  When in fact, murderers are more commonly known as 'next-door neighbor' types of people; always the last person you'd think could be responsible for a criminal act.  It's hard for people to understand how their loving, perfectly normal family member is able to commit such a violent act.  In my eyes, everyone, even a loved brother or sister, is capable of committing such crimes, no matter how normal they might be.  Everyone is born with the capability to kill.  But it's what we experience in life that can either lead us down the path of goodness or the path of evil.
Adolescence is a time of innocence, learning experiences, and finding an identity for yourself.  But for murderers, adolescence is seen as less of a time of happiness and relaxation and more as a time of confusion and awkwardness.  According to many psychologists and murderer profilers, "it is evident that virtually all serial killers come from dysfuncional backgrounds involving sexual or physical abuse, drugs or alcoholism and their related problems" (Sycamnias).  It is at these young stages in our lives that what we are exposed to can leave a lasting impression on as-yet-to-be-educated young minds.  Dealing with such family problems as a kids not only leads them to large amounts of stress, but it also can lead to later problems in life-such as anxiety disorders, social problems, and an over-active imagination (Sycamnias).  The human brain is a growing organ that needs to take the first few years of a human life to grow and adjust.  It is during this growing period that the brain is most sensitive and takes whatever experiences it encounters into its threshold, where it keeps it locked away, for several years into adulthood and beyond.  While all experiences, good or bad, are often seen as good charcter builders, research has shown tht " the occurrences of some noxious experiences will cause harm to the developing organism" (Glaser).  In other words, any experience that can be seen as traumatic to a child can cause mental problems at an early age, disrupting the brain that is still trying to figure itself out.  The problem is not just in the unorganized brain itself, but rather in the rather toxic incident that occurred to the child in the first place, placing this domino effect on its body and mind.  Adults are capable of experiencing the same kind of trauma as a child would, but by then the brain is much more developed and an adult has better ways of dealing with the situation than, say a 5 year-old kid could.  This confusion of how to deal with normal, mature sitautions can lead to other feelings of misplacement and loneliness, some other warning signs of a would-be murderer.  Childhood isn't just about playing Legos and finger-painting; it's also a time where we are beginning to learn how to think, how to feel and any great disruption during this process is nothing more than a call for disaster at a later time in life.
Poverty has always been a main problem for America, since the beginning of its time.  But many other problems have all been linked back directly to poverty, as if that is the real big source of America's problems.  Many murderers have been known to grow up in poverty-stricken homes, leading many to believe that poverty itself can help lead to a criminal lifestyle.  A study once showed that "moving from a neighborhood where the poverty rate is under 20% to a neighborhood where it is over 40% increases the rate of violent crime more than threefold..." (Roleff).  It is believed that a young child exposed to extreme poverty will begin to see the richer side of the world as indifferent to them and that they are special to the world.  This kind of mentality can branch off into a fantasy world tha the person puts themselves into, where the fantasies might become so realistic that they might want to act them out with real people.  There is no denying the fact that poverty has many effects on people and can destroy many lives early on in life.  Poverty and its sister, unemployment, are said to "tear people's lives apart, wrecking their personal relationships and deepening people's sense of alienation, so making it much more likely that they may commit crime" ("What Causes Crime?").  Poverty has a devastating attack on all aspects of our lives and when it feels like the world is crumbling around you, it is easy to feel tempted to attain the happiness that 'everyone else' has except you, in any way possible.  This sense of alienation comes from not feeling part of the 'in-crowd' of other wealthy Americans and feeling as the loner in the sitaution.  Young people-kids even-realize the importance of wealth as a young age, since "society that tells them they can only express themselves and establish their personalities by owning things" ("What Causes Crime?").  The frustration of inequailty can lead to pent up anger and emotions, with virtually no other way to express them except in a violent nature.  It might just be another way for a murdere to feel less as the social outcast and more as the popular leader.  These strong surges of emotions can take a big toll on a person's conscience, allowing the evil thoughts of some sort of 'pay-back' to society settle on in.  Poverty can not only break a person's bank account, it can also break a person's spirit and fade the lines between what is real and what is not.
Serial killer Ted Bundy is known as being one of the most famous, sickest men to have ever lived on the earth.  His love for sadism went down in history, along with the heinous and unthinkable crimes that he committed.  But when interviewed about his reasons for committing all of his crimes, he barely had an excuse, but did say something about his pornography addiction, "The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior...I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fuled, largely, by pornography" (Dobson).  Pornography is often seen as a sick way of getting pleasure, but to others, such as Ted Bundy, it is merely a way for people to get a feeling that they simply can't get anywhere else.  The images can vary on a scale, from soft-core porn to hardcore, explicit porn.  The more graphic porn is, the more likely the damaging aspect of the image will come into place.  Since more men tend to look at pron than women do and porn is aimed more towards men, they are shown what can interpreted as degrading pictures of women; some men can start to dehumanize women and see tham as nothing but a sex object (Hazelwood).  These pictures can be used by these men to then seek out these 'non-human' women to carry out any sick, sexual fantasies they might have.  Pornography helps murderers, especially sexual sadists, due to the fact that it helps give them something to off on; it gives them the rush and excitement to recreate it themselves.  Even Ted Bundy admitted that "the most damaging kind of pornography-and I'm talking from hard, real, personal experience-is that that involves violence and sexual violence.  The wedding of those two forces-as I know only too well-brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe" (Dobson).  These images are pretty much a welcoming sign for future sexual predators, since it does absolutely nothing else ut fuel sick fantasies.  The hardcore, explicit porn that Bundy is talking about helped guide his path of destruction and since he was introduced to pornography at such a young age, it gave him more and more time to make his fantasies more twisted.  When given a harder style of porn, it can send some already on-the-line people onto the side of a demented, perverted criminal, full of ready-to-test-out fantasies from a single picture.
Child abuse is a sad fact in itself, but the high number of children that are affected by it are probably worse than anybody can imagine.  It is without a doubt, that any kind of abuse a child faces, whether it be phsycial, sexual, or mental, can seriously damage their perceptionof simple human feelings such as love, trust, and compassion.  Parents are usually the first teachers that a child has on how to act, what to say, and so forth.  But when kids are shown acts of violence from their parents, their parents, purposely or not, "instill in them an almost instinctive reliance upon violence as a first resort to any challenge" (Scott).  So later on, when a child gets frustrated by not getting something that it wants-even something as little as a toy-they would use their fists or any other violence to try and get whatever it is that they would want.  This early violence makes kids understand tha violence is okay and can be used as a means of controlling others and getting them to do what they want them to do.  Studies have shown the effects that abuse can lead to children to have, like showing compassion for other schoolchildren.  Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus conducted a study between 20 toddlers, where ten had been abused and the other ten had not.  When a fellow student started to cry, "The nonabused children showed concern and tried to give comfort.  None of the abused children tried to give comfort or to help.  They showed fear and distress, and some were angry and even struck the crying child" (Galen).  This case shows that the abused schoolchildren were much too scared to show any human compassion or sympathy for the crying child.  Instead, they put up their emotional shield brought upon by a parent's brutal beatings and tried to block out whatever distress was around them.  Being emotionally unable to deal with simple situations such as these can make a person become extremely antisocial, so they won't have to deal with such problems out in public anymore.  This avoidance of people can eventually lead to "isolation, where intense violent fantasies become the primary source of gratification" (Scott).  Fantasie may seem innocent, but they can get progressively worse and worse the more time a person spends alone.  In other words, instead of being able to show trust and love to someone, they would be more likely to show their dominance or control that they might have in their fantasies, a dominance and control that they see in their abusive parents and probably wish that they could have.  It is without a doubt here that children are influenced by their parents and whatever is shown to them, even abuse, teaches them how to inflict violence among others in order to succeed in achieving whatever it is they desire.  Childhood abuse can not only lead to behavioral problems in the future, but can also lead to violent natures familiar with murders.
Murderers are probably the mot studied people in science and psychology today.  It has really all come down to the purpose of prevention and keeping people safe.  If we could predict who will become the next Ted Bundy, it would save a lot of lives and be one big step further in understanding the criminal mind.  But all the factors mentioned before play a huge role in this predicting-the-future-killer plan, because with the science and psychology that we have available today, it has pretty much proved that they all can lead to future murderers.  If we catch some of these signs of childhood trauma early on, the better a chance we have at trying to help them before it is too late.  Not all murderers are psychotic and in the mental institution.  In actuality, they are neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, even moms and dads, your typical, normal people.  My uncle just happens to be one of those normal people, even though he did kill a man, it doesn't make him insane.  With proper care and psychiatric treatment to understand childhood pains, my uncle was able to let go of his rage and live a normal life, outside of jail.  If we can have more success stories of prevailing over inner demons from a tormented childhood, then there wouldn't nearly be as many other Ted Bundy's and there wouldn't be nearly as many grieving families.  It is our chance to learn from mistakes in the past of not doing enough in time and this time, doing it before it's too late.  The younger someone is helped the better of a chance they have of being able to live out in the real world, where they won't feel like the out casted loner anymore.
Dobson, Dr. James. Life on the Edge. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1995.
Galen, E. "Physiology, Sociology and Murder: A Scientist Looks At Violence in America." 2002. World Socialist Web Site. 20 May 2005.>.
Glaser, Danya. "Environmental Influences on Brain Development." 1994. Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. 20 May 2005.
Hazelwood, Roy, and Stephen G. Michaud. Dark Dreams: Sexual Violence, Homicide, and the Criminal Mind. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Roleff, Tamara L., ed. Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 2000.
Scott, Shirley Lynn. "What Makes Serial Killers Tick?" 2005. Courtroom Television Network LLC.
Sycamnias, Evan. "Evaluating a Psychological Profile of a Serial Killer." Abous, Inc. 20 May 2005.
"What Causes Crime?" Socialist Worker Online. 2002. Socialist Worker. 20 May 2005. <>.

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