Glamorising serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer through ‘true crime’ shows has to stop

Even in death, Carl Williams’ voice is louder than that of his victims. Intimate prison letters written by the convicted killer and drug smuggler to his ex-wife Roberta – who was recently arrested for kidnapping and death threats, allegedly directed against a documentary producer – were published in August 2019.

The explosion of true crime in podcasts, series and books has fueled our interest in violent and dangerous perpetrators, and increasingly means victims remain ignored. In fact, Evan Milat, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer are household names. However, Deborah Everest, Karen Campbell, and Tony Hughes – the victims of these violent killers, are largely forgotten.

My students and I often watch true crime documentaries as catalysts for discussion about criminal causation or victim selection. Recently, a student on one of these tutorials expressed her admiration for notorious American serial killer Ted Bundy, even going so far as to say she’s attracted to him — or at least his portrayal of Hollywood star Zac Efron.

Bundy killed at least 30 women, assaulted several women, and escaped prison twice. It was probably active from the late 1960s until 1978. Bundy was the subject of a recent four-part series on Netflix titled Conversations with a Murderer: Ted Bundy Tapesdescribed as “present-day interviews, archival footage and audio recordings made on death row”.

The series premiered in January 2019, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution. Netflix followed up this real-life account of Bundy’s crimes with a movie about the case called Extremely wicked and shockingly wicked and despicableEfron Championship.

I found my disciple’s affection for him facing him. She was willing to condone the horrific violence because Efron – and this also applies to Bundy – was such a charismatic and charismatic person. I’ve been left wondering if glorifying criminals through true crime makes people less sensitive to the victims’ plight. And if this is the case, the impact on the surviving victims and their families.

Some of the victims are talking. A recent article focused on Bill Thomas, the unsolved 1986 murder of his sister Cathy in Colonial Parkway, Virginia. Bell was on the first day of CrimCon, an annual true crime festival, to draw attention to his sister’s murder and pressure the FBI to conduct further investigations. To do this, he has to rub his shoulders with people dressed in clothes plaid with the faces of serial killers.

We are particularly fascinated by cold cases. Even if we don’t know who the perpetrator is, the obscene details of the crimes cast a shadow over the victims’ pain and suffering.

I came to this painfully recently while writing a book on cold cases, with the goal of keeping the focus on the victims – each case covered with hopes of learning something new. A new forensic technology may come forward, another victim who may be part of the sequence and whose case remains unresolved.

Victims’ identities are inversely divided into who offended them, and I wanted to try to undo some of that.

Narcissistic killers like Evan Milat and Daniel Holdum (who murdered Carly Pierce Stevenson and her two-year-old daughter Khandalis Pierce in 2010) maintain their notoriety by writing letters from prison. Milat’s letters to his nephew, Alistair Shipsey, were published in 2016. Holdum’s letters were turned into a podcast by Daily Telegraph.

But recent events have seen a shift in focus.

Victimology (the study of victims) is growing as a criminal discipline, and academics and victim advocates have been saying for some time that the center needs to shift from perpetrators to victims. But we were pretty much screaming into a black hole.

The Christchurch mosque shooting on March 15, 2019 gave a voice to redirect attention when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to name the perpetrator – a 28-year-old Australian man who broadcast the atrocities live and issued a statement outlining the white genocide. conspiracy theories. Instead, she urged the public to speak out for the victims. This was a powerful message that the offender would not get the attention he sought.

New Zealand went even further, making copying, distributing or displaying a live-action video a criminal offense, with possible penalties of up to 14 years in prison for an individual, or up to $100,000 in fines for a company. A man has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for sharing a video clip that he decorated to look like a video game, including cross-hairs and counting bodies.

Later that year, a 24-year-old woman, Michaela Dunn, was identified as the victim of a knife attack in Sydney after she was killed in an apartment in the Central Business District by Mert Nye, 20, before his knife took to the streets. and overcome it. members of the public. The victim was described by her mother as a “beautiful and loving woman who studied at university and traveled extensively”.

Publicizing violent crimes and their perpetrators can lead to further harm in the form of copycat attacks.

Nine days after the Christchurch shooting, there was an arson attack on a California mosque, followed by a shooting. The offender praised the shooter in Christchurch.

However, I hope that if Ardern’s ethics are applied to future events, our interest in violent offenders will diminish and our sensitivity to the impact of their crimes will be revived.

We can always learn from true crime events, but we must be careful to distance ourselves from the glare of the perpetrators and give due respect to the victims and their families.

Xanthi Mallet He is a forensic forensic specialist at Newcastle University

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