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Emotional Loneliness in Sexual Murderers: A Qualitative Analysis

NCJ Number
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 285-296
Jacci Milsom; Anthony R. Beech; Stephen D. Webster
Date Published
October 2003
12 pages
This article discusses levels of emotional loneliness between sexual murderers and rapists that had not gone on to kill their victim(s).
In previous studies, the most significant characteristic of the men that had killed in the course of sexual attack was their lifelong isolation and lack of heterosexual relationships. It was suggested that social and personal isolation was the most important component for this type of sexual offender, particularly when combined with sadistic fantasies. A clearer understanding of how these men become isolated in the first instance may help with the question of why some men with sadistic fantasies rape and why some murder. This study further explored this idea by examining levels of emotional loneliness in the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of sexual murderers. The hypothesis was that sexual murderers would report feeling more isolated in all periods of their lives than men that had raped but had not killed. Nineteen sexual murderers and 16 nonmurdering sex offenders took part in the study. A semi-structured interview consisting of nine key questions was developed to specifically examine emotional loneliness in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in the two groups. Once the qualitative interview data had been collected, it was transcribed and then subjected to a qualitative method of analysis known as Grounded Theory. This approach is defined as the breaking down, naming, comparing, and categorizing of data. The results found that sexual murderers reported feeling significantly more peer group loneliness than did rapists in adolescence. The other main findings were that sexual murderers reported significantly higher levels of grievance toward females in childhood and significantly higher levels of self as victim stance in adulthood than did rapists. In terms of interview data regarding emotional loneliness in adulthood, both groups reported high-level fear of social intimacy. Nearly two-thirds of the sexual murderers group reported perceptions of self as victim/poor me attitudes in adulthood. It appears that the concepts of self as victim, grievance, and loneliness may be correlated. This is an empirical question that needs further examination. 2 tables, appendix, 18 references


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