When I received my doctorate in clinical psychology in 1981, I was already enamored with the world of criminal forensics. The popular television fare of “Investigative Reports” the “New Detectives, ” “Forensic Files, ” and “CSI” were still years away, but I picked up a book that profoundly shaped my intellectual journey: Psychopathology of Homicide by Eugene Revitch and Louis B. Schlesinger. It was a classic.
Drs. Revitch and Schlesinger had set aside descriptive diagnoses and instead developed a motivational model to help understand why people intentionally kill each other. The reasons for murder are always overdetermined, but here were two gentlemen who proposed an elegant schematic that ranged from purely situational causes for killing to the unconscious psychodynamics of certain murders which appear, at first glance, to be inexplicable. I soon came to learn that Dr. Revitch was a distinguished forensic psychiatrist and had pioneered some of the earliest investigations of the sexual killing of women. One of his first papers, “Sex murder and sex aggression, ” was printed in 1957 in the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey.
I was equally impressed with the work of Dr. Schlesinger, a student of Dr. Revitch's, and my propensity to idealize authorities in the field as a young psychologist was bolstered by his subsequent work, particularly in the area of “catathymia, ” a word quite foreign to me at the time. Dr. Schlesinger does not know this, but I was deeply honored when I finally met him several years ago when he attended a workshop I was giving. We are great sources of intellectual stimulation for each other, and our mutual respect continues.
Sexual Murder: Catathymic and Compulsive Homicides will take its place alongside Cleckley's Mask of Sanity, Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, and Ressler et al.'s Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives as a classic in our specialized field of criminal forensic psychology. This is not marketing hyperbole, and as an expert witness, I hope the foundation for my opinion is persuasive.
Unlike most contemporary forensic psychiatry and psychology research, which is largely descriptive and behavioral, Dr. Schlesinger is interested in the inner life of the sexual murderer. Although his internal world may be populated by sexually violent and bizarre fantasies that are anathema to the conscious