Sexual Murder: Catathymic and Compulsive Homicides

By Louis B. Schlesinger | Go to book overview

The Place of Sexual Murder in the Classification of Crime

3

Sexual murder cannot be understood in isolation from other types of crimes and homicides. Thus, a broad appreciation of crime theory and classification of offenders is necessary to fully grasp this or any other type of criminal behavior. Theories and classification systems of crime developed slowly over the course of many years, as did various laws to govern such conduct (Garland, 1990). For example, in early tribal cultures normative behaviors became ritualized and primitive punishments were assigned to unacceptable actions. Later on, Biblical laws developed and specified various crimes, along with accompanying retribution. In medieval society, crime was equated with evil. As human behavior was supposed to be guided by free will, a criminal act was a free choice by an evil person. As society developed further, governments-rather than unorganized groups-enacted laws and carried out punishments.

During the 19th century, various scientific theories of crime began to be expounded. These theories can be generally divided into three groups: biological, psychological, and sociological.


3.1

Theories of Crime

3.1.1

Biological Theories

Among the biological theories of the 19th century, the most prominent was the “criminal activism” doctrine of Cesare Lombroso (1876/1911). Lombroso believed that certain hereditary and constitutional characteristics prevented a criminal from advancing as far along the evolutionary scale as a normal

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