I recently read an online entitled ‘How to spot a serial killer – Five key traits’. The traits were:
- A power junkie
- A manipulator
- An egotistical bragger
- A superficial charmer
- An average Joe
It struck me that these traits are the same traits often seen in perpetrators of domestic abuse. The Freedom Programme covers all of these, albeit named slightly differently, their meaning is the same. I have often wondered how many people who are abusive to their partners, go on to be serial killers? Yes, I know it is not particularly a light-hearted thing to think about but when you do the job I do, there is a temptation to look at everyone and wonder if they are a perpetrator. Although I honestly do try to resist that temptation!
When I was researching this topic I came across hundreds of articles on the internet which highlighted the links between Domestic Abuse and Animal cruelty. Of course, those of us who work in the field know that this is accurate and there is a very strong link with these two things. But I was surprised at how very little there was on the links between Domestic Abuse and Serial killers. Is it just part of ‘the big cover up’? I wondered. By that, and at the risk of repeating myself as I do go on about this! I mean the way in which the words Domestic Abuse/Violence are still seen by many in the media to be ‘taboo’ words that you dare not say, never mind print! as I have written about before. How many times do we read the paper on the way to work, and see stories of women being killed in their homes sometimes followed by ‘police are looking for the woman’s partner as someone they are interested in speaking to’. Those of us who do this work know instantly it is a Domestic Homicide. But anyone else may not read between the lines as we do.
If we as a society broke down those taboo’s and actually said the words ‘Domestic Abuse’ more often, if our media outlets printed those words more often, then people would come to realise just how common Domestic Abuse is. They may be more likely over time to report it if they see or hear it. Women who are experiencing it may be more likely to report it. And the corridors of power may be more likely to stop cutting the funding of valuable organisations that support victims and survivors and perhaps more importantly, support perpetrators to change their behaviour and understand that what they are doing is wrong. We see it a lot in the sector – organisations closing, having their funding cut, forcing the organisation to make staff redundant. In my opinion this is because they simply do not know the scale of Domestic Abuse. It is something that happens to other people. Something that doesn’t happen in ‘our area’! But if we put more money and time into supporting perpetrators to change their behaviour and hold them accountable for their actions, we would be literally saving lives not to mention millions of tax payers money. Take this example –
In 2000 I was working in a refuge as a refuge worker. I was supporting a young woman who had fled her abusive partner and come into the refuge with her two small children. Once or twice, I took her children into a busy city shopping centre away from the area of the refuge, so they could see their father. He presented as a pleasant man. Charming and friendly. He missed his children and his partner so much. Not that his pleasant demeanour ever fooled me. For I knew different. My client had confided in me and told me of all the unspeakable things he had done to her. What has this got to do with the article link?, I hear you say. The father was Levi Bellfield.
Imagine my horror when I saw his face on my television screen a few years later. At the time of his original conviction, there was some mention of the fact that he had abused his former partner. But only briefly and remember, I was looking out for this. When we see pictures of this man now we instantly think of him as a serial killer. We wonder, what made him do this? Is he mad?. Was he on drugs?. The answer is much closer to home. He was a perpetrator of Domestic Abuse and he was never held accountable for his actions then. He committed these heinous crimes simply because he could! He abused his former partner, simply because he could and no one told him otherwise!
What if someone had told him otherwise back in 2000? I don’t need to expand on the answer to that, do I?
I make no apology if this article has shocked and/or upset anyone reading it. Because as I have said before, if more people spoke about what is deemed to be taboo, victims and survivors of domestic abuse would be much safer.
Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services