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While the crimes that are committed by serial killers are beyond reproach, the atrocities committed continuously capture the attention of the public, sometimes fulfilling a morbid fascination with the perpetrators. The reasons and motivations that drive a serial killer to commit these crimes are for the most part unknown, however extensive studies have been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and psychologists to try and pinpoint the factors that may influence an individual. Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. Not only did Dahmer kill a series of men, he also horribly mutilated them and cannibalized several of his victims.
In many serial murders, sexual desire and gratification, as well as domination and manipulation, are motivating factors. Douglas and Olshaker (1999) contend that serial murderers commit homicidal acts because they find fulfillment in the acts themselves and they will continue to kill for as long as they are able to. Serial murders experience a sexual thrill and pleasure through the homicide itself and he, or she, will continue to kill, maintaining the belief that law enforcement officials will not catch him or her. While law enforcement officials and behavioral scientists investigate the factors and behaviors of serial murders, analyzing their crimes and attempting to understand why they have committed their crimes, they rarely have insight into the serial killer's predatory world at the time that the killer is active (Arrigo, 2006).
Despite having little to no insight into the predatory world of a serial killer at the time that the killer is active, behavioral scientists have been able to establish that many serial killers develop a modus operandi (MO), a criminal's signature, that helps law enforcement officials tie crimes to their perpetrators. More specifically, a modus operandi is defined as "repeated patterns of behaviors which are unnecessary to the commission of the crime; provide psychosexual arousal and gratification; and compliment the motive" (Arrigo, 2006, p. 232). In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, his MO included picking up men at gay bars and having sex with them before drugging, strangling, and dismembering his victims with an electric saw (Bardsley, n.d.).
In addition to these behaviors, Jeffrey Dahmer also cannibalized several of his victims. Cannibalism is, for the most part, is seen as a human taboo and is not considered to be acceptable behavior; cannibalism that occurs as a means of survival is generally the only accepted method of the practice (Bell, 2011). It has been theorized that an underlying neurochemical cause may contribute to cannibalism and cannibalistic tendencies. Additionally, a contributing factor to cannibalism is believed to be schizophrenia as has been observed in historical accounts of tribal cannibalism (Bell, 2011). While cannibalism is not considered to be a crime in many countries, the acts that facilitate the taboo practice, including grave robbing and necrophilia, are punishable by law. Criminal cannibalization is categorized into four distinct groups: sexual cannibalism, aggression cannibalism, spiritual and/or ritual cannibalism, and epicurean/nutritional cannibalism (Bell, 2011). There are times where overlapping of the cannibalistic groups may occur.
Given the sexual gratification that Dahmer experienced through the murders that he committed, it can be argued that he engaged in sexual and aggression cannibalism. Sexual cannibalism is a psychosexual disorder where eating a person's flesh is sexualized. This type of cannibalism is frequently associated with necrophilia, which Dahmer is suspected of having engaged in. It can be deduced that Dahmer engaged in this type of cannibalism from the evidence that was found and collected from his apartment after he was apprehended. Among the items that were seized from Dahmer's apartment were photographs of his mangled victims, four severed heads, severed hands, and severed penises; furthermore, the police found human remains in the refrigerator, a human heart in the freezer, seven skulls, and corpses dissolving in acid vats (Bardsley, n.d.). Aggression cannibalism overlapped Dahmer's sexual cannibalism. Aggression cannibalism is sometimes motivated by feelings of fear or hostility and is often the result of the perpetrator's need or desire to exert power, revenge, or control over his or her victim. Dahmer's need to exert his power over people is evident in his MO; Dahmer would exert his power over people through drugs, which subsequently allowed him to control his victims. Moreover, Dahmer attempted to make his victims zombies by performing crude lobotomies on them; in order to achieve this, Dahmer would drill a hole into his victims' skull and pour hydrochloric acid or boiling water onto the frontal lobe (Bardsley, n.d.). Needless to say, he was not successful and the lobotomies resulted in death for his victims.
It is estimated that Dahmer killed 17 men that he picked up at various gay bars in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin region. While it is unknown as to what factors drove Dahmer to commit these murders, Dahmer's behavior began to change between the ages of 10 and 15, possibly while undergoing puberty. It was during this time that Dahmer became withdrawn and uncommunicative; he also began to show an interest in the dissection of dead animals and started to drink heavily. By the time that he graduated high school, Dahmer had become a full-fledged alcoholic. Dahmer's problem with alcohol would go on to affect his studies at Ohio State University and his subsequent attempt to enroll in the U.S. Army (Bardsley, n.d.). It has been postulated that alcohol dependency influences the behavior of serial killers. Michael Stone (2009) contends that alcohol dependency can be a result of an individual's natural environment as well as a result of mixed origins, that is to say that alcohol dependency can be a result of both a natural and nurturing environment. Other factors that are attributed to one's natural environment include mental illness with psychosis -- including schizophrenia and manic-depression -- and mental illness without psychosis -- including epilepsy and an excessive sex drive. Additional factors that are attributed to be of mixed origins include paraphilia, juvenile delinquency, and animal torture (Stone, 2009).
In 1978, when Dahmer was 18, he murdered his first victim, Steven Hicks, a hitchhiker he picked up with whom he intended to engage in a sexual relationship. Hicks was bludgeoned to death and buried in the backyard after he tried to leave Dahmer's house. As time passed, Dahmer grew more daring in his attacks; in 1987 he murdered Steven Tuomi, he murdered two more men in 1988, and he murdered Anthony Sears in 1989, keeping his skull as a trophy until he was apprehended (Bardsley, n.d.). On September 26, 1988, Dahmer was arrested for drugging and molesting 13-year-old Somsack Sinthasomophone. As a consequence of this crime, Dahmer was forced to register as a sex offender, had to serve five years of probation, and was sentenced to spend one year at a work release camp (Bardsley). Ironically, Somsack Sinthasomophone's cousin, Konerak Sinthasomophone, nearly led Dahmer to be discovered. On May 27, 1991, Konerak Sinthasomophone escaped from Dahmer's apartment; Sinthasomophone was aided by two women whom would not allow Dahmer to take Sinthasomophone back to his apartment until the police arrived, however Dahmer was able to convince the police that Sinthasomophone was his 19-year-old lover and that they were in the midst of a lover's quarrel (Bardsley, n.d.). While it was later revealed that the policemen noticed a strange smell emanating from Dahmer's apartment, they would have found his previous victim, Tony Hughes's decomposing remains. If the policemen had looked further into the alleged domestic dispute, they would have been able to verify Sinthasomophone's real age and would have known that Dahmer was a registered sex offender. The policemen's negligence contributed to Sinthasomophone's death, who Dahmer killed the same night, and the deaths of Dahmer's subsequent victims. By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was killing at least one person a week; he killed Matt Turner on June 30,…[continue]
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