I’d been meaning to respond to the first Anonymous comment on my Three Names I’ll be Watching post (regarding the Fort Dodge, Iowa, youths who set opossums ablaze and videotaped the entire incident while laughing in the background), but now that a second Anonymous has responded to the first one, figured I’d better get busy so they know I “do” read my comments.
First, I’d like to thank both anonymous responders for their comments, and can see this is an issue important to many, with repercussions that ultimately have the ability to affect us all. For a brief recap:
Anonymous #1 said…
I’ve known David Bendickson since I was 11 years old. He’s been one of my best friends. He’s someone that a person could look up to and he’d be there for you. I admit what he did was stupid and immature… it’s not something you can really make excuses for. David grew up on a farm where animals are slaughtered all the time, it’s just a part of life, and that can really desensitize a person to that kind of thing.
All I know is that when David realized how big of a deal this made, he didn’t eat or sleep for three days. David would be the furthest person i could think of to a murderer, or a baby killer. I’m sorry you think this of him and the other two. I’m not trying to say that what they did wasn’t wrong, i’m just trying to let you see it from another point of view.
Evidently, Anonymous #2 “did” have another point of view. He said…
Someone you could look up to? Wow. What your friend did was not stupid and immature. It was cruel and evil. There’s a big difference. Also, there’s a big difference between the way animals are slaughtered on a farm versus what he did. Farm animals are not slaughtered by dousing them in lighter fluid and setting them on fire — and then laughing and filming the whole thing. Oh, boo-hoo, David didn’t eat or sleep for three days?! Wow, those innocent animals won’t ever eat or sleep again! There are numerous ties between cruelty against animals and cruelty against people.
“…every time we hear of a young person abusing an animal, it is explained away by family and often authorities as a ‘youthful indiscrection’…What the authorities and parents of these young men fail to realize is that their behavior may signal that something is wrong with these men, which could very easily escalate into something much worse. The evidence is not just anecdotal; numerous studies, including the 1998 work of Randall Lockwood and Frank R. Ascione (“Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence,” Purdue University Press), have shown that children who engage in animal cruelty are more likely to commit more violent acts as adults. There is also a strong link between abuse of animals and domestic violence, with animal abusers much more likely to batter their wives or girlfriends as well…
Youthful violence toward animals is a very serious issue, and it needs to be taken seriously by not only animal advocates like myself, but by those who are concerned about violence in our society.” – Margo DeMello, Ph.D.
You should find someone else to look up to. He’s not worthy. BTW, lots of people never thought Ted Bundy would be a murderer either.
Although I have to admire Anon #1 for sticking up for his friend (all of us, at one time or another, can always use a steadfast friend when we do something “stupid and immature”), Anon #2 pointed out many things I’d had in my draft that made these youth’s actions cross a line between immature and evil.
Anon #2 hit the nail on the head, and the point I’d also wanted to make was that adult serial killers almost always have a childhood history of torturing animals. (See Katherine Ramsland’s excellent article on The Fledgling Psychopath at Court TV’s Crime Library.)
Violent acts toward animals have long been recognized as indicators of a violent psychopathology that does not confine itself to animals. Humanitarian Albert Schweitzer wrote, “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” And, according to Robert K. Resler (who developed profiles of serial killers for the FBI), “Murderers…very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.”
Anon #2 was also correct in that there are numerous studies out there by sociologists, lawmakers, and the courts that acts of cruelty to animals definitely deserve our attention. It’s often the first step in what becomes a very long road of violence throughout the rest of one’s life. The FBI also has found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appears in its computer records of serial rapists and murderers (Daniel Goleman, “Child’s Love of Cruelty May Hint at the Future Killer,” The New York Times, Aug. 7, 1991).
Examples could fill a book, and though they’re extremely difficult to read, here are a mere five:
1) Brenda Spencer — who opened fire at a San Diego school killing two children and injuring nine others — had repeatedly abused cats and dogs, often by setting their tails on fire. (The Animals’ Voice, Fall 1990.)
2) Albert DeSalvo — the “Boston Strangler” who killed 13 women — trapped dogs and cats in orange crates and shot arrows through the boxes in his youth. (International Association of Chiefs of Police.)
3) In 1987, three Missouri high school students were charged with the beating death of a classmate. They had histories of repeated acts of animal mutilation starting several years earlier. (International Association of Chiefs of Police.)
4) Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had impaled dogs’ heads, frogs, and cats on sticks. (Daniel Goleman, “Child’s Love of Cruelty May Hint at the Future Killer,” The New York Times, Aug. 7, 1991.)
5) Earl Kenneth Shriner — who raped, stabbed, and mutilated a 7-year-old boy — had been widely known in his neighborhood as the man who put firecrackers in dogs’ rectums and strung up cats. (The Animals’ Voice, Fall 1990.)
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once noted, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”
Research also shows that those abusing animals may be repeating lessons they’ve learned at home. Violence is often directed to those more vulnerable than the abuser. It’s a “pecking order” that’s been documented time and again.
Though this is long, I want to reiterate that I commend Anon writer #1 for standing beside his friend, even though he knew what his friend did was wrong. It is people like you who often are able to redirect the paths their friends follow; peer pressure is a powerful thing, and it sounds as if you have a lot to offer your friend. If you’re there for him, steering him in the right direction, perhaps there’s hope.
If children and youth who abuse and kill animals don’t have a support or intervention system — either through family, friends, their community or the law — the statistics, sadly enough, are stacked against them from the beginning.
Thanks to both of you for writing. And to Anonymous #1, I encourage you to visit some of the websites referenced herein, print them out, and discuss them with your friend. He’ll thank you in the long run, and you may just save a life (or two).