There could be a different path for me in life, the one to a different kind of fame. The more I read about serial killers as research for Janna, the more I see the characteristic killer-making patterns that were present in my life and that could push me in that direction but never did. For every badness that came my way there was always some goodness that canceled it. And then I fled. I learned to flee early, first out of my body, then together with my body out of my country, and twice out of my marriages. Maybe that's what kept me sane. My therapist told me that all signs were there for me to turn out bad but that I somehow miraculously avoided it. It other words, I was fucked up but didn't turned out fucked-up in the head.
I'm reading an excellent book right now on female serial killers by Peter Vronsky, about deadly women who overthrow our conventions and social constructs on who a serial killer is or could be. It's no longer just a white male in his late twenties who stops killing around his 40s, it is also a woman in her thirties who kills up to her 60s and 70s and beyond, getting only better and better at it, until apprehended.
There is no solid body of study on female serial killers so not much can be glimpsed about how one becomes a serial killer. Much of what we know is unclear and not backed up with enough data. Some things seems to stem from the environmental damage, some are congenital. We simply don't know why some battered lonely disadvantaged children grow up to kill, and others don't. Why? What factors contribute to pushing one over the edge?
From what I've read so far, it seems that there is a pattern, things that are typical and are present in almost every serial killer's childhood.
YOU HAVE A HIGER CHANCE OF BECOMING A SERIAL KILLER IF:
1. As an infant you were estranged from your parents, particularly your mother.
This happened to me. I was often cared for by my grandmothers and sometimes didn't see my mother for weeks if not for months. When the bond between a child and a mother never develops, the infant might never learn emotional attachment, the trait of the psychopaths who comprise the majority of all serial killers.
2. You were neglected, abused, and traumatized, often, severely or systematically.
I don't remember most of my childhood but my medical history provides me with what I need to know, like the blood transfusion I was given when I was 9 months old (or around that age) because I was dying of malnutrition (!!!). My mother told me I refused to eat. So it was my fault. A family story survives on how she and my dad left me alone in the crib for hours to go to a party and returned to me eating my poop and smearing it on the walls. Lovely. And how about several hospitalizations with bloody diarrhea? And incontinence problems? Add to that conventional beatings and scolding and sexual abuse, and it seems I've got the entire bouquet. But not bad enough. Thank God.
3. You experienced head trauma.
Well, I know nothing of one that I sustained at the hands of someone except my grandmother beating me on my forehead with a spoon to make me eat (it didn't hurt as much as it humiliated), but when I was 11 or so I fell flat on my back on the asphalt road as a dare. I think I had a mild concussion. So not quite bad here either. Nobody beat my head on the floor like my grandparents did with my mother.
4. You had the Macdonald triad present in your childhood, a set of three behaviors: animal cruelty, bed-wetting, and arson.
I have walked a thin line here. I've witnessed my grandmother drown puppies. It was routine. I've seen boys burn frogs and hurt cats. I was experimenting with making the leeches die in the sand, and when I was 10 or so I brought a kitten home and released it to our four dogs who promptly bit it to death. In my late teens I bought two puppies which at one time I locked in an apartment for a couple days and when I returned, they were hungry and there was poop all over the floor. One of the puppies I gave to my father's family and another one I took with me into my new family, when I married and gave birth to my daughter at eighteen. A year later or so I trained the dog to stop and run at my hand signal and then one night I accidentally flapped my hand and my obedient dog ran straight under the moving car and died in my hands. I was in so much pain that to this day I can't look at that street. So that means I felt remorse. Still, I should've known better and used a leash. I also wet the bed around the time my father hurt me. I was five, six? Something. But I never set anything on fire.
5. You exhibited early promiscuity.
This is a clear sign of sexual abuse. I drew pictures of penises, I talked my sister into showing me her private parts and was caught by our father (don't remember the punishment), I did the same with boys and my grandmother caught me and whipped my naked ass with nettles. That hurt, though I don't remember the pain. I became sexually active at 16 and at 17 I was pregnant and at 18 a mom. It could be worse.
6. You suffered from acute loneliness, social isolation, and had an involved fantasy world.
I've been ostracized and bullied since I started school and because I was hurt both at school and at home, I learned to escape into my head, into my own private fantasy world. It never really blurred the edge of reality, never did what it does for serial killers, when their fantasy overwhelms their reality and becomes a plan. I did, however, fantasize about brutally eviscerating my father while watching for pain in his eyes, I imagined castrating him and mutilating him in a variety of ways. But all those fantasies did was made me turn in on myself and make me want to cut myself open with a kitchen knife. That's when I decided that suicide was not the way out and that I must live. Have I not turned it on myself and have I not for some reason stopped, I could've used a knife to different purpose. And I will use it, in my book. Thankfully, it's not real life.
7. When triggered, you directed your violence at others since an early age.
The three pillars of serial murder are fantasies (see above), facilitators (alcohol, drugs), and triggers. I have never gotten to drinking or using drugs, either because access to it in Soviet Union was limited or because it wasn't typical in my family (though plenty of pills that my grandmother smuggled from her psychiatric work and gave to my mother to treat her fits and sometimes to me). And when I was triggered, I directed my anger at myself. A powerful trigger is key for the first murder, and it's usually emotionally charged. The first murder is a shock to the killer, and it's the second murder that makes a killer a serialist, as observed by serial killers themselves (fascinating to read them writing about it). My biggest trigger happened on my trip to Russia about six years ago. I got angry at my father for chiding my sister in the presence of her fiancé. I spoke up, trying to protect her and to deflect his chiding (sadly, this is the same sister who denounced me when I went public about my father sexually abusing me). To calm me my father kissed the top of my head and laughed at my anger and said not to get so worked up, said that he loved me. This is what he did after he hurt me which I vaguely remember. He'd kiss the top of my head and laugh at my crying and tell me that he loved me. I came back to US and it all came rushing back at me and I wanted to kill myself. If I were used to direct my anger at others, it could've been a trigger to kill someone else.
8. There was already bad blood in your family.
Many serial killers come out of the families where the moral compass is already skewed and killing or raping or stealing or destroying property is a norm. I was born into a violent family but it was covertly violent on my father's side and chaotically violent on my mother's, and it wasn't as bad as it could be. My mother's family side was the poor uneducated one, and my father's family side was the Soviet middle-range intelligentsia. Both my parents loved art, and it was that love for beautiful things that they instilled in me and that saved me many times. How ironic. My father is a writer and he writes crime novels. Wrote, I should say. Now he is into compiling non-fiction books on historical figures and world renown tyrants and the like. My mother is a self-taught fashion designer. Her whole life she was sewing or knitting, and she is still knitting some fantastic pieces but her health is poor now. I have inherited both. I write, and sometimes I knit. I don't kill, though, only in books.
As you can imagine, most of this stuff will make it into Janna. Or maybe only some of it. There is so much that I think it might take me several books. I don't know. I do know that I'm in the way of liberating myself from this junk that's been weighing me down and dragging behind me. If writing books is what will take me where I want to be, I say it's good. It's only an imaginary murder, right? I knew you'd understand.