Female Serial Killers: Not as Notorious But Just as Deadly
Sun, April 18, 2021

Female Serial Killers: Not as Notorious But Just as Deadly

One of the reasons why female serial killers are not well known compared to men is due to how the news and entertainment media perpetuate stereotypes / Photo by: ostill via 123RF

 

While it’s true that men spill most of the blood in history books, we must also recognize the existence of evil in some women. Many of us are more likely to name Ted Bundy, Dennis Raider, and Jeffrey Dahmer when we talk about serial killers but women don’t usually cross our minds. However, history shows us that there were a lot of women who committed serial homicides too. It seems society tends to sink into “collective amnesia” when it comes to female-instigated violence. 

The Atlantic, an online site that provides its readers with articles related to literature, political science, cultural trends, technology, and more, reported that the number of serial killers declined by 85 percent in three decades. Today, they only account for fewer than 1 percent of killings. Females comprise less than 15 percent of all serial killers, but they are extremely effective in their work. Unlike men, they usually use quieter and less messy methods to kill. 

One of the reasons why female serial killers are not well known compared to men is due to how the news and entertainment media perpetuate stereotypes such as serial offenders are all men and that women do not engage in horrible acts of violence and murder, which is not true. In fact, the Victorian era saw a "surge" of female serial killers in the US and Britain. During this period, women tended to kill their husbands and children to free themselves since they had very little control over their lives.

What’s more interesting is that the most prolific serial killer in history was a female, Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed. She allegedly sexually assaulted, tortured, and killed hundreds of girls and young women. However, the countess was never tried or convicted of any crimes.

Experts agree, however, that female serial killers are generally clever, seductive, reckless, self-serving, and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.

Why Females Become Serial Killers

Female serial killers differ from the men on why they kill or how they approach their victims. Previous studies showed that they tend to take a much more pragmatic approach to their killings compared to men who are frequently driven by sexual lust. They are more likely to kill for profit or revenge and target those who are emotionally and physically closest to them, particularly husbands or lovers. While male serial killers murder for their entertainment, the females generally kill to improve their lifestyle.

A recent study published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences said the difference in how male and female serial murderers target and kill their victims is due to thousands of years of psychological evolution. The researchers stated that the men are considered the “hunters,” who follow their prey as they did in nomadic communities. Meanwhile, female serial killers are the “gatherers,” which means they target people they already know, often for financial gain.

Female serial killers differ from the men on why they kill or how they approach their victims / Photo by: Sergiy Tryapitsyn via 123RF

 

According to QZ, an online site that aims to serve a new kind of business leader with bracingly creative and intelligent journalism that’s built for users first, the researchers used media reports going back to 1856 to compare 55 male and 55 female serial killers in the US. They found out that 80 percent of female serial killers knew their victims while 72 percent killed at least one person in their care. About 51.9 percent of women murdered for money. 

Also, 65.4 percent of male serial killers stalk their victims, while only 3.6 percent of female serial killers engaged in this behavior. “In our sample, there were two female serial killers who engaged in stalking-like behavior during their crimes. Interestingly, reports indicate that men were also involved in those crimes,” Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, said. 

Additionally, female serial killers have a high interest in material things, which is why they are involved in theft, fraud, or embezzlement before becoming serial killers. Research showed that some of them murder people for the attention and sympathy they receive following the death of someone they cared for.

Researchers did find a common ground between male and female serial killers. All of them are victims of physical and emotional abuse, social isolation, instability, and general familial dysfunction. They also kill for the same primary motive that males do: control.

Why There Are Fewer Female Serial Killers

Traditionally, women are perceived as being nurturing caregivers. They are raised to be polite, feminine, and accepting. As a result, they are less aggressive. This is why they are the last ones to think of when a murder case comes in. For many people, the notion of a woman as a predatory life-taker is difficult to envision or nearly impossible.

Eric Hickey, a criminal psychologist and author, stated that one of the reasons why there are fewer female serial killers than male ones is because they are simply more difficult to identify. Also, they tend to be “quiet killers” who only target family, children under their care, and people with whom they already have a relationship. 

Also, the way people and the media perceive each gender of a serial killer is a great factor. According to ZME Science, an online site that publishes daily news and features about the latest research in science and technology, the media has been consistent in the patterns of nicknames they gave to male and female killers. 

“Women were more likely to be given nicknames that denote their gender, like Jolly Jane or Tiger Woman. Men were more likely to be given nicknames that suggest the brutality of their crimes, like the Kansas City Slasher,” Harrison said. 

Although female serial killers are rare, they are just as notorious as their male counterparts. They may differ in motives and approach, but they are also living proof that humanity can expose the worst in them. 

For many people, the notion of a woman as a predatory life-taker is difficult to envision or nearly impossible / Photo by: Volodymyr Melnyk via 123RF