Richard Ramirez is a very good example of a Mass Murder where research has uncovered many of the leading contributing causes to violence including an abusive childhood where he was badly abused in a strict Christian household. This was followed by bullying and later by violent couching from his cousin Mike. It would be foolish to base conclusions on just one case but this case shows many traits that are common among many violent crimes as well as some that are very rare. Unfortunately the traits that are rare are the ones that get the most attention and the common traits are the ones that are the most credible.
Ramirez was badly abused as a child starting with the abuse he received from his own father that was passed down through the generations. He was later subject to bullying by other students. His behavior was kept in check by strict Christian disciplinarian methods. When the discipline was no longer maintained the anger from his childhood was still there and the control was no longer available. He received what Lonnie Athens referred to as violent couching from his cousin Mike who was a Viet Nam vet. Mike told him stories about Viet Nam and Ramirez was present when Mike killed his wife. The strict disciplinarian methods that were used on Ramirez are very common among may religions and they do keep people in control to a point but they also teach people to deal with there problems through violence. These methods have a tendency to reward anyone who accepts discipline without question in many cases. This means that people often don’t check facts and maintain old beliefs without many if any to find and correct mistakes. In some cases including Ramirez it leads people to adopt fanatical beliefs. The belief in Satan is very common among Christians. This set the ground work for when Ramirez encountered another person who adopted Satanism. At the time Ramirez was going through a period where he doubted the existence of a benevolent God which wasn’t surprising since he was abused in the name of a God who uses the treat of violence to keep people in line. By adopting Satanism Ramirez may have been switching to the opposite extreme when he changed environments and wound up in a culture where there was very little control and the only way he leaned to deal with tough situations was through violence. This could be similar to the enemy of my enemy is my friend mentality. When Ramirez was raised in a violent home to worship Christ and hate Satan he may have eventually come to the conclusion that if Christians weren’t so friendly as they claim he might as well go to the other side.
There is also evidence of denial when it comes to his own abusive childhood. Philip Carlo investigated his childhood for his book and found a history of abuse but in an interview Ramirez claims he wasn’t abused:
RAMIREZ: Right, in society today. I believe that-uh-tension in the workplace, and also lack of jobs, and the way families are-are brought up, and child abuse, sure-it's like a recipe. Drugs, poverty, child abuse-all this creates angry individuals. And, then again, lust killers-people tend to lump all serial killers in the same category, but there are different types of serial killers, as you know….
CARLO: Okay. Do you think that child abuse has anything to do with the development of serial killers
RAMIREZ: Oh, it has everything to do with development of all malfunctions in the adult life. Child abuse, in its many forms, can-uh-produce many forms of-uh-life's miseries and grief’s as an adult, you know? Mental disorders and such. Me myself, I've never experienced child abuse.
Ramirez seems to understand that child abuse is a contributing cause for many serial killers yet he denies it happened to him. There are several researchers including James Garbarino, Dorothy Otnow Lewis and Lonnie Athens that have found this denial to be common place.
There is also a lot of panic and jumping to conclusions that went on during the summer when he went on his rampage. The damage done by the panic wasn’t as bad as the murders but it was still bad enough. This is semi routine when the media hypes up a serial killer. In the case of Ramirez it is hard to deny that this is one of the cases where there really was a serious threat to society out there but the way society responded to it in the short term didn’t’ do much to stop future crimes nor did it help solve other problems. One thing that is often overlooked is that when the public becomes obsessed with one subject they fail to address many other subjects and panic about the one subject they are obsessed with. On the other hand a high profile incident does often spur people to act on it. This doesn’t mean it involves activity that is as rational or effective as it could or should be but it is a start. In many cases including mass murders after the panic dies down and the public looses interest some researchers continue to study the problem and find the real solutions. The problem is that when the public stops paying attention they are no longer too concerned about solving the problem. The trick is to convince the public to pay attention in a calm controlled manner and try to set up a system that maintains programs that solve problems.
First posted on tripod on 10/30/09
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