Welcome to my Forensic Mental Health Blog! The blog provides information and insight into all matters of relevance to Forensic Mental Health. This will range from mental health tips and suggestions, to forensic profiles and offending behaviours.
It may not be for everyone, so please consider that matters relevant to Forensic Psychology may be upsetting for some people. If this is you, it may be best to avoid posts that discuss forensic matters.
Between 31 August and 9 November 1888 at least five women were killed in Whitechapel by someone given the sobriquet Jack the Ripper. The true identity of this individual remains unknown, as does the exact number of victims. However, it is generally accepted that the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper were Mary Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Kelly (Jones, 2019). The murders occurred in the East End of London, specifically Whitechapel. An area commonly known for its overcrowded conditions, and abject poverty. It was grim, void of sanitation, and surrounded by immoral and criminal behaviour. The murders occurred within a small localised area, and the victims, lived among the common lodging houses to the east and west of Commercial Street (Jones, 2019). Those local to this community were among the lower division of Victorian society.
The serial murders occurred at a discreet time and place. His motivation remains uncertain, however the mutilation of their bodies, and focus on sexual organs suggests a sexual element to his offending; as well as a need for excitement (e.g., hedonistic type) (Canter & Youngs, 2009). He likely used the bodies of his victims as a vessel to act out his most deprived fantasies; their mutilation submits a victim as object offending style. The attacks are of high intensity and evidence the complete destruction, dehumanising and de-identification of his victims. The victim is not perceived as human, but rather as an object to be explored and played with. There is a distinct lack of trepidation for, or interest in, the responses of the victim (Canter & Youngs, 2009). When considering the role of his victims as an object, the Rippers personal narrative of criminal behaviour coincides with a professional adventurer (Canter & Youngs, 2009). The roles in this classification capture the sense of satisfaction, competence and power achieved from directing environmental conditions. Offenders in this category would be expected to describe their activity as exciting, fun and risk-taking. There is also an element of calmness, and a neutral approach to criminal activity (Canter & Youngs, 2009).
Consistent with the prototype of a typical psychopath (Hare, 2003), the Ripper could be expected to display antisocial, interpersonal, affective and lifestyle characteristics inconsistent with conventional standards. The manner in which he treated his victims evidenced a lack of remorse, shallow affect, and callousness (Hare, 2003). He can be expected to have displayed aberrant sexual interests. He may have had an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners, and/or displayed a propensity for prostitutes. He is expected to have demonstrated an ability to converse easily with others, albeit superficially. He would have been someone with few close connections. The nature of his crimes suggest an air of perceived self-importance, and arrogance; he placed himself in an environment where detection was possible. Yet, he continued his behaviour regardless. He did not just kill his victims, he mutilated them and carried some of their organs from the crime scene. He treats his murders as though a career, one with status. I suspect he was parasitic, and capable of exploiting the weaknesses of others.
The manner in which the Ripper dealt with his victims was sadistic. His murders were planned, and goal-directed. Sadism is the derivation of arousal from imposing pain, cruelty, deprivation, and or humiliation on others (Mokros, Osterheider, Hucker, & Nitscke, 2011). Research has found that murders committed by psychopathic criminals are more instrumental than those committed by non-psychopathic criminals. Additionally, psychopathic criminals exhibit more gratuitous, sadistic, and sexual violence in their murders (Woodworth & Porter, 2001). According to Schlesinger (2007) sadistic features are environmentally determined and originate because of early developmental experiences. These environments may be charcaterised by physical violence, lack of emotion, struggle for scarce resources, and parenting by emotionally distant and indifferent fathers (Ouimette & Riggs, 1998). Perhaps the Ripper was raised in an emotionally deficit, neglectful and abusive environment?
Consistent with witness statements, the Ripper was a moustached male of average height, medium build, and fair complexion (Jones, 2019). He is expected to be in his 30s, which is consistent with studies completed by Hickney (2003) that the average age of a serial killer is 28. He is expected to have a criminal record for previous convictions, and/or a juvenile history (Canter & Youngs, 2009). The average home-to-crime distances for serial murders in the United Kingdom was 9km and 18km, respectively (Lundrigan & Carter, 2001); suggesting the Ripper offended close to home. As the series lengthens, serial murderers commit crimes further from their homes (Snook et al., 2005). The Ripper is excepted to have lived in Flower and Dean Street Whitechapel (Jones, 2019), which would contradict the research that as the series lengthens, serial murderers hunt and kill further from their homes. Despite this, based on the studies completed by Lundrigan and Carter (2001), the Ripper is expected to have lived within the vicinity in which he hunted.
Jack the Ripper was, and remains one of the most notorious serial killers known to date. While many have attempted to create a profile to expose his identity, it remains a mystery. What we can surmise from crime scene evidence, and other available information is that Jack the Ripper purposely selected his victims to make it easier to commission his offences. He is likely to have experienced difficulty within his family of origin, and lived a solitary life. The manner in which he mutilated, and dehumanised his victims evidences the behaviour of a sadist. As someone who lived where he hunted, he likely enjoyed the publicity and the perceived status it afforded.
The need to belong is a driving force behind the motivations, thoughts, and behaviour of us all. These sentiments are echoed in the literature, and consistent with the premise that every child is born with the capacity to connect with others to increase a sense of belonging.
We rely on our connections with others to develop a sense of self and to formulate views, and beliefs about the world around us.
As I reflect on my work with clients, and personal experience; these sentiments seem accurate. It stands to reason that when we feel disconnected from others, we become more vulnerable to emotional distress, behavioural difficulties or sensation seeking practices. While people may be individuals, we operate within a larger social system. Our relationship with families, community, and the universe in general, influences how we choose to live our life; which in turn, impacts the experience of those around us.
So how can we all live a more meaningful life. According to the work by Felicia Huppert and colleagues, five categories significantly impact emotional well-being:
1) Connections with others;
2) Activities - enjoying physical activities with others;
3) A state of mindfulness - increased awareness of sensations, self and experiences;
4) Learning - learning opportunities stimulate the brain; and
5) Giving - acts of kindness increased emotional well-being.
While in-depth analyses are beyond the scope of this entry, it is often helpful to reflect on our behaviour, and explore the motivations for the things we do. It is not uncommon for people to find a relationship between their behaviour, relationships, and a need to belong. We can then often develop healthy, and adaptive techniques to improve how we feel about ourselves, which in turn successfully impacts our behaviour and relationships with others.
I encourage everyone to pay mind to the five categories above and consider creative ways to improve feelings of belonging and acceptance. Perhaps, working on relationships with family members may be improve well-being, and increase social interest; or perhaps working on a relationship with a significant other (friend, romantic interest) may be of benefit, or a sense of belonging at work may improve life experiences.
Whatever it may be, acknowledgement of our primary need to belong cannot be discounted as a significant contributor to our emotional well-being and happiness.
Be aware and stay present!!!