Saturday, August 9, 2008

Women Behaving Deadly

by Robin Sax

The title is Dangerous Women: Why Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters Become Stalkers, Molesters, and Murderers, and this book couldn’t be more timely if author Larry Morris had planned it that way. In light of missing toddler Caylee Anthony, whose third birthday was today, people are scratching their heads wondering how mother Casey Anthony, if not guilty, could behave the way she does.

For those of you who can’t wrap your mind around women in the mold of Casey Anthony, Susan Smith, and Mercedes Murderess Clara Harris, this book gives valuable insight into the seldom-explored subject of dangerous women. The phenomenon is so uncharted, our own Diane Fanning's book on NASA Astronut (a Freudian typo I'll let stand) Lisa Nowak could not be more aptly titled: Out There.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Morris provides a framework to understand dangerous women and helps us understand how society should deal with them. Throughout this book, he offers a panoply of examples of women as perpetrators, dangerous to themselves and to society as a whole.

The media love to focus on crime, but pundits offer only a superficial look at femmes fatales and criminals who happen to be women on such shows as Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren. For more depth to these stories, we turn to Dangerous Women, where Larry Morris offers answers to the questions we all ask: How can a woman murder her own child? Why is a female teacher who has sex with her 13-year-old student simply the butt of jokes? Why would a woman hack off her husband’s penis? How could a woman drown not just one but five of her children? Or tie her husband to the bed and stab him nearly two hundred times? How does a little old lady become a serial killer?

What if we could understand behavior before a crime has occurred? What if we could find warning signs and use them to deter potential criminals? What if we could understand the women who might commit a dangerous act, or have already done so?

One of Dr. Morris’s objectives in writing this book is to help readers do exactly that—prevent a crime from occurring that might even include a reader’s family member or a loved one. He offers tips on potentially dangerous or antisocial behaviors that we might not ordinarily notice, such as depressions or irrational behavior, which can presage acts of dangerousness.

The author takes us through several fascinating examples of dangerous women, including Aileen Wournos (pictured far left), the serial killer played by supermodel Charlize Theron (on right). [Interesting sidebar: While Theron is widely recognized for her Oscar-winning portrayal of Wournos in MONSTER, less known is the sad fact that as a child, actress Theron witnessed her mother kill her father.] But back to the book that examines Wournos and others . . . at the end, where the women's dark tunnels converge and the reader needs to see a light, Dr. Morris concludes with the “Path to Prevention.” Not only does he examine why girls may become dangerous, he brings forward suggestions as to what we can do to prevent “bad behavior” from becoming criminal behavior.

And as a prosecutor, I couldn’t be more grateful for a book that concludes on a hopeful note. Perhaps, after all, some women—and their would-be victims—might be spared from the tragic consequences of becoming the next dangerous woman.

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