Female Serial Killers: New Book Explains How and Why Women Become Monsters

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Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters is a new book looking at the history and psychology of female serial killers. Criminal justice historian Peter Vronsky demolishes some common myths about female-perpetrated serial murder from ancient times to the present.

Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters by Peter Vronsky is a new book exploring the history and psychopathology of female serial killers. It reveals that in the USA nearly one in every six serial killers is a female either acting alone or as an accomplice. Vronsky writes that society is generally conditioned to think of serial killers as "he" and victims as "she." But since the 1970s, the number of female serial killers has been doubling every two decades. Vronsky cites a study that identified 62 female serial killers in the USA between 1800-1995, accounting for some 400 to 600 victims in total. His book lists the names of 140 known female serial killers from around the world. Most of the female killers made their appearance since 1970.

"This partly has to do with women's increased role in society in general. Women become more assertive not only in business and the arts, but in murder and mayhem as well," says Vronsky, a PhD candidate in criminal justice history at the University of Toronto. "But this is only part of the story. Much of it has to do with our perception of gender roles and of female criminality and predatory aggression."

According to Vronsky's book, Aileen Wuornos is hardly America's first female serial killer, as the Florida prostitute who killed nine men and who was portrayed in the movie Monster, has been touted to be by the media. Because female serial killers often kill close to home or at work as healthcare or childcare workers, they attract less attention than male serial killers who tend to leave bodies by roadsides that alarm the community. Female serial killers, according to Vronsky, are "quiet killers" who statistically go undetected twice as long as their male counterparts.

"It's a myth however, that females kill only for profit and that they usually target male lovers or spouses -- the so-called Black Widows," says Vronsky. "In fact, strangers are marginally the most preferred victim of the female serial killer today, and 53 percent of them have murdered at least one woman among their victims and 39 percent, a child. These statistics challenge our common perception of female serialists as primarily luring males and killing them for their money."

Vronsky's book, which features numerous case studies of female serial killers, reveals that women kill often for the same reason that male serial killers do -- for power and control. The difference is how they express their addiction for power over a victim. According to the book, male serial killers tend to express power through confinement, sexual assault, torture and mutilation, while killing is often an afterthought for the male. Female serial killers, however, express their craving for power and control through killing itself and seizing the victim's property. Torture and sexual assault are rarely part of the female serial killer's signature at a crime scene. "This has often led us to believe that females kill only for material need, but we are now beginning to understand that their quest for material comfort is often a psychopathological expression of control over the victim -- similar to some male serial killers' collecting trophies from a victim," explains Vronsky.

Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters, is Peter Vronsky's sequel to his best-selling study of male serial killers, Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, both published by Berkley-Penguin Books.

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