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Symonds, M. (1975). Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 35(1):17-18.

(1975). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35(1):17-18


Martin Symonds, M.D.

Papers that study the dynamics of criminal behavior are particularly relevant in today's society where so-called senseless violent crimes are increasing. Dr. Ruotolo's paper serves an important function for us in providing fresh and innovative psychoanalytic insights into the dynamics of a violent criminal act leading to murder.

In recent years my special interest has been with the psychological rehabilitation of victims of violent crimes. This has required substantial contacts with criminals in order to fully understand the criminal-victim interaction. I have interviewed individuals who have committed acts of street violence, mugging, robbery, and burglary, as well as those who have committed murder.

There seems to be a common psychological thread in those individuals who persistently commit violent crimes. This common thread is their alienation from, or unrelatedness to, the plight of their victims to whom they have caused serious harm and sometimes death.

In a taped confession, a young murderer who subsequently hanged himself, stated he had committed many burglaries and rapes, and he wondered whether or not he could kill someone: “I wondered if I had the capability to kill someone.” One evening he drove around looking for a victim. He wanted to kill a woman. In order to avoid any retaliation, he decided that she had to be alone. Such a woman was getting into her car in a parking lot. Driving next to her, he stopped his car and shot her five times. He stated: “My first shot was in the center of her spine, the next was in her arm between the elbow and shoulder, and I don't know where the other three shots went.

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