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Denying the Darkness: Exploring the Discourses of Neutralization of Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA 22601, USA
Societies 2019, 9(2), 46;
Received: 15 January 2019 / Revised: 17 May 2019 / Accepted: 26 May 2019 / Published: 11 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identity, Stigma, and Social Reaction)
PDF [245 KB, uploaded 11 June 2019]


This exploratory study analyzed how three serial killers (i.e., Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer) potentially rationalized and justified their murders by applying techniques of neutralization. This paper discusses how the use of these neutralizations also functions as a form of stigma management assisting in the maintenance of a positive presentation of self, thus mitigating responsibility for their crimes. This study conducted a content analysis of data comprised from interviews and case histories of these three serial killers. Based on these analyses, the impression is conveyed that these killers used neutralizations to manage their identities (i.e., present “normal” selves), mitigate responsibility for their actions, and minimize the stigma associated with being labeled a serial killer. View Full-Text
Keywords: neutralizations; serial murder; stigma management; symbolic interactionism neutralizations; serial murder; stigma management; symbolic interactionism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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James, V. Denying the Darkness: Exploring the Discourses of Neutralization of Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer. Societies 2019, 9, 46.

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