Should I Feel Sorry for Serial Killers?

While watching the documentary, “Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial

Killer”, I realized the film was just what I was looking for. When I first started writing about serial killers and people who have been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, my greatest concern became the possibility of exploiting these people for my personal gain, something I was not interested in doing. I have always believed there is good in everyone, even the ones deemed evil by society. When dealing with the ones considered to be the sickest, I became more interested in finding the good in them. While listening to Aileen Wuornos, who is considered to be America’s first female serial killer, speak, I felt compassion for her, something I hope my audience feels for my serial killer characters.

Aileen Wuornos had a difficult life. Being abused for most of her childhood, she became promiscuous at a young age with her brother then with whomever gave her attention or provided money or gifts in exchange for her services. Due to her wild behavior and having a baby (which she gave up for adoption) at age thirteen, her grandfather kicked her out of the house. With no place to go, she lived on the streets. Knowing only how to please men in a sexual manner for material gain, she turned to prostitution to support herself. This remained her profession for a number of years before she acted out murderously for the first time.

When questioned why she killed her victims, she told investigators it was self-defense. I believe her. Nearly no one else did. A Christian couple read about her in the local newspaper and made contact because they believed her. They ended up emotionally supporting her in her pursuit of avoiding the death penalty. Unfortunately in the end, Wuornos felt as though she had once again been exploited and used by the only people whom she thought cared for her. In the end, they abandoned her, and she was executed in 2002.

Before she was put to death, she gave a final interview explaining what happened and why she felt she should be spared. She freely admitted to killing seven men but said she regretted doing it. She would have rather not killed anyone but did not feel as though she had a choice. According to Wuornos, her first victim intended to kill her after torturing her. She carried a gun for protection, as necessary in her line of work, and when faced with her own murder, she shot him repeatedly.

Wuornos continued to work as a prostitute before she was caught. She stated all of her victims defiled her in some way, usually through some form of torture. According to Wuornos, the murders were not premeditated. She did not dismember them or eat their flesh. She was just trying to survive.

While I do not condone any sort of violence or killing, I do believe there are people who are put in situations, whether through their fault or not, who have to make a difficult decision, killed or be killed, just like animals in the wild. Wuornos had been deeply scarred, even diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder due to the damage done to her during childhood. During her trial, one expert stated she had the mind of a child filled with rage and could not grasp the idea of the finality of death (unknown).

It is widely accepted that abuse begets abuse. Aileen Wuornos was severely abused during her developmental years and most likely developed a disorder because of it. If she had not been abused, she may not have killed over and over again. She may not have even become a prostitute.  She felt murder was her only option.

In my novel, the main character, Elizabeth, becomes a serial killer. She is severely traumatized when she is young by witnessing the murder of her mother and sister. Soon after, she is committed to a mental institution where she suffers under the hand of an abusive orderly. Her personality splits, and eventually, she becomes a vigilante. I am currently researching vigilantes because some people agree with vigilantism, even if they object to serial killing. My hope is to find what is considered by certain sects of society to be acceptable reasoning for killing.


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