Serial Abusiveness

Serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer displayed sociopathic traits, though there is probably more to his urges than mere lack of feeling for other people. Sociopaths are often charming, social, and manipulative, but their lack of conscience does not typically include boyhood fantasies of lying next to an unconscious man or of sexual fantasies involving killing. Dahmer’s fantasizing about men”, not boys, seems odd in view of the fact he targeted younger boys when older.

There must be an explanation for Jeffrey's inclinations, and the classic explanations for psychological make-up point to genetic or environmental factors, or a combination of those. Dahmer’s behavior and background fit a pattern that has been described by other serial killers, making it likely that childhood abuse was likeliest stimulus to his perversion no matter how Dahmer himself might have explained it.

Most serial killers come from severely abusive childhoods, typically suffering physical/sexual/emotional abuse in the home or extended family. This man was not merely a conscience-deficient sociopath, he lost time during which he was dissociated and not in executive control of his actions.

Dahmer mentions losing something like six hours of time and of being disoriented when the police arrived and found one of the bodies. Since he was already convicted, that claim was not part of an insanity plea.

Psychiatric diagnosis is much more difficult than medical diagnosis because individuals can exhibit symptoms from several categories. However, the DSM-IV description of DID indicates that dissociative amnesic episodes such as those that Jeffrey described are conditio sine qua non for the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. DID arises only through severe, early, prolonged traumas commencing in early childhood—usually physical or sexual abuse. In other words, Jeffrey's adult behavior indicates that matters were far worse in Jeff's childhood (probably in the home) than the videos indicate.

His father, Lionel Dahmer said that he was a cheerful child until they moved to Ohio, after which he became shy and socially withdrawn. The boy became fascinated with dissection of dead animals, which he collected as road-kill. In a video of Dahmer’s boyhood he displayed weird body language when wafting around the garden at about age 7 in what appear to be pink pyjamas. He moves like a girl, yet he appears very masculine in other clips.

Lest I give DID an undeservedly bad name, I should point out that it is quite common (2-6% depending on the study) and that most patients with DID do not commit horrendous crimes, or any crime at all. Females with DID tend to be self-abusive, and many seek therapy, whereas males with DID are more likely to be violent, to commit crimes, and to be incarcerated. Personality systems also typically include workers, reporters, helpers, protectors, sluts, etc. Because different personalities play different roles, they can be very persuasive.

A very high percentage of survivors of childhood abuse were raised and abused in highly religious families. A significant percentage report that when, as children, they told their mothers that they were being abused, their mothers merely prayed over them or instructed them to pray. Some alter personalities who are devoutly religious, whether or not the host (chief) personality is religious. The religion-of-choice may not be the religion in which the child was raised. Thus, one alter personality may carry all of the religious 'hopes' for the personality system.

Some of the reported conversions during incarceration may result from more prolonged emergence of religious identities or an identity-consensus adoption of religious 'hope' bargaining.

Similarly, the alarming frequency of pedophilic priests reflected a similar phenomenon–devout Catholics with no interest in adult women might well have hoped that entering the priesthood would 'cure' them of their unwelcome urges.

Dahmer’s claimed conversion to God was probably as faked as much of his presentation of self. Lionel Dahmer is reported to have been a staunch creationist throughout Jeffrey’s childhood. Even if Jeffrey had been a believer throughout his life, nothing short of incarceration would have stopped him from killing those boys and young men.

Dahmer’s evolution-made-me-devalue-life pitch was some kind of ploy. Since the father was interviewed at the same time, I suspect that the father influenced (or convinced) Jeffrey to take that line with Stone Phillips in the interview. Some might consider it unlikely that an abuser could exert a prolonged, powerful influence over a victim. However, continued obedience, and even love, are quite common in the victim-perpetrator relationship. Think of this phenomenon as lifelong Stockholm syndrome.

It is likely that many jail 'conversions', religious alters, pedophilic priests, praying look-the-other-way mothers, and televangelists reflect the fact that we have inherited both the intergenerational impact of difficult lives and the empty promises that religionists have repeated about "remedies" that cannot help.

dissociative identity disorder,

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