Why are men important in murder
Why do men kill their wives? : "Pity for the ex is fatal"
Hans-Ludwig Kröber, 69, is one of the best-known German criminal psychiatrists. Until his retirement in 2016, Kröber was director of forensic psychiatry at the Charité. To this day, he creates crime prognoses for criminals.
Mr. Kröber, in how many partnership killings have you been called in as an expert?
That's more than 30 years, so certainly an impressive double-digit number.
This includes defendants who have stood trial and convicts for whom you have prepared a prognostic report at the end of their prison term. Do they all have something in common?
These are actually across the board people whose behavior towards women makes you a bit ashamed as a man that you are of the same sex. Men who have deficiencies in their social skills, their self-confidence and their independence. On the one hand, they urgently need a stabilizing relationship with a woman, but in the end they can only imagine a relationship as submission. It is not uncommon for people to be socially losers who cannot come to terms with suffering defeat in their private lives too.
[Exclusively for subscribers: seven women have been killed by their (ex) partners in Berlin since November 2019 - the stories behind the statistics]
How important is the emancipation factor?
The growth in social power for women is an important factor. At the moment when there are processes of emancipation, there are processes of friction, and the man's claim to rule proves to be presumptuous.
What does that mean in concrete terms?
When I was in Heidelberg in the 1980s, I examined a relatively large number of Turkish perpetrators who felt obliged to kill their wives because they no longer wanted to submit. Many in Germany had emancipated themselves much better than the men. They went to work, had a driver's license, made friends, became autonomous and more powerful than the men who had to watch the women outgrow them and their domination. This creates conflict materials that are less pronounced in a homogeneous, pre-democratic society. Which the men who cannot accept this should not excuse.
Is there such a thing as a typical process?
I have often seen - with Turkish, Arab as well as German men - that there was a lengthy phase of separation before the killing. Where it goes back and forth, the woman breaks up and then tries again. In this time of uncertainty, the man grows hate and anger, which is not allowed because it puts you in the wrong. That rocks up, comes to a head. The men shoot themselves completely at this conflict, live in a bubble and at some point believe that there is no other solution.
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And at some point there will be a showdown?
I experienced a fatal situation again in this constellation: women who felt sorry for their ex after the breakup. They worried that the man would get something to eat and the laundry would be done, so they came to his house to help. This leads to men hoping again, imagining they are getting a second chance. This hope is disappointed again and again and the men become frustrated. Until it really crashes.
Are the killings typically the gruesome end to an escalation of violence? Does it often start with one blow and end in murder?
In the homicides I have come across, there have been very few men who have previously used violence on a regular basis.
Do courts show too much understanding for men?
If we don't try to understand a perpetrator, we don't learn anything at all. If you understand in the process how this act could have come about, that does not mean that you punish the accused more leniently. I know a number of judgments that concluded that the defendant could not cope with the separation because he viewed the woman as his personal property. That is a low motivation and thus fulfills the criteria of murder. Sometimes the deeds themselves are insidious. The legal possibilities to try a man for murder are given.
If you listen to the defense lawyers, you can get the impression that the victims were themselves to blame.
Of course, one has to illuminate and understand the role of women in the process. A woman almost never provoked, they just often made the mistake of a lack of clarity. The abandoned man, however, feels that he has been treated unfairly and believes that he is entitled to "defend himself".
Has case law changed in the last few decades?
In the past, the - German - accused knew the whole sympathy of the long-established conservative professional judges behind them, who often came to the conclusion that the woman had provoked everything. In the 50s it was still a classic, when such men were actually deculped more often and punished more mildly. Then, from the 1970s to the 1980s, there was a tendency among defense lawyers to claim that their clients acted in a state of incapacity because they were carried away by their affect.
The men then often talk about a blackout ...
... and the memory only starts again when you are sitting in the police car. This amnesiac loophole supposedly proves the profound disturbance of consciousness. Usually that's a lie, something like that doesn't happen in reality. A classic fake defense.
There is criticism that the acts are played down as fateful private entanglements. Femicides are a mass social phenomenon. Do you agree with that?
If 120 of a total of 40 million women are killed by their husbands each year, it cannot be said that this is a typical consequence of the social structure. That is downright absurd.
What role do gender stereotypes play?
Of course, what happens is influenced by the general social conditions, by the roles a woman is assigned within society, how she can develop and unfold socially. But for us, the individual needs and weaknesses of two people play an essential role. Women who want to save difficult men until they give up, and men who fail to become sufficiently confident and responsible strong men. Most of the time there is a conflict that follows old role clichés, but which in the end has very little to do with the social structure of society as a whole.
Are these men prone to relapse after their imprisonment?
Many of these men lead relationships according to a kind of template that harbors the risk of repetition. Anyway, someone who killed their first wife is not immune from killing their next girlfriend.
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