Robert William Pickton’s murder case has become the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history. A case that quickly goes from missing persons to countless homicide, numerous women from the Downtown Eastside district of Vancouver, British Columbia have already disappeared. It wasn’t until several years later that Vancouver police began to realize that a serial killer could be responsible for such matters. Furthermore, Robert “Willie” Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder. The charges came not long after police focused their efforts on a farm in Port Coquitlam, outside Vancouver. Dozens of officers scoured the farm in search of evidence. Following these initial findings, subsequent discoveries of remains and DNA led to the identification of several women. Many additional charges were added towards his case, but the question remains: What would cause such an individual to behave in such a heinous manner? The following is an analysis of William Pickton’s behavior based on different social perspectives.
Based on a psychological perspective, it is ideal to analyze Pickton’s behavior based on Erikson’s theory. Examining the factors that dictate how he reacts under a specific set of conditions, provides insight to the results of his actions in society. As Erik Erikson mentions, human behavior can be understood through the experiences a person encounters during his/her development. As he grew up there were many connections that link his actions to his mind. In this case, William has spent his childhood where violence was occasionally seen. His life has been brutal and difficult growing up. Picktons’ father was barely in the picture, thus living with his tough mother. He was often expected to work long hours on the farm and focus more on the pigs than school. Given that, negligence from his mother may have triggered his anger and actions. Growing up on a pig farm, it is also evident that he would witness the brutal slaughtering of these animals. It was the circumstances that he faced daily that allowed him to kill mercilessly. Besides, dealing with such environment has been a factor of developing such heinous behavior. Likewise, the actions of an individual have an impact on the greater society that surrounds him/her, hence William would slaughter pigs himself at his Port Coquitilam farm. Not only, this relates to his gruesome actions of murdering women, cutting their bodies up and feeding it to pigs. Thus, slaughtering pigs as a child made killing a normal aspect of his life. Erik also believes that the person will continue to develop and progress through the other stages of life, even if the current stage’s dilemma is not well met. In Pickton’s case, he was faced with isolation in his adult years. During his development, he was not given the opportunity to be close with someone he truly cared about, or even hold strong bonds with his family. Thus, isolation from family and friends may have also produced feelings of anger which increases his tendency towards violence.
According to Sociologist Karl Marx, owning the means of production elevates a person’s class status whereas all other workers are forced to find a way to make money. In this case, Robert runned a business and owned a pig farm which made him of high class. On the other hand, his victims made money in a way that Pickton found to be of low importance. Moreover, the division of social class marks the place for conflict in Marx’s theory. Based on the perspective of sociology, Robert Pickton targeted specific groups of women rather than women in general. Pickton chose helpless areas for kidnapping and attacked lower class individuals. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside district is an area well known to be consisted of low class individuals. Since, these individuals can drift away from the system without being noticed for a very long time, people often agree that nothing may have actually happened to them and such disappearances are normal. Hence, he would specifically target women that were either prostitutes or substance abusers because their social class in society would allow him to commit murder in anonymity.
Nevertheless, based on an anthropologist’s view of this case, many aspects of society can explain his behavior. Living alone in a trailer home on the farm, Pickton seems to be a socially awkward man who sometimes exhibited strange behaviors. He was lonely and was a drug abuser himself. As mentioned, he struggled with building relationships with other women. According to Merton’s theory of functionalism, pressure on the individual to conform, forces the individual to either work within the structure society or instead become members of a deviant subculture in an attempt to achieve those goals in a different way. Similarly, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was a crime ridden community where a large percentage of the girls and women engaged in the sex trade and had addiction problems. This emphasizes the economic inequalities certain individuals faced in the society where he grew up in. Likewise, prostitution became an accepted practice of the time. Those enticed into his vehicle were taken to the pig farm and sadly faced the horrors of his actions. In other words, Robert would offer women money and drugs and lure them to his place where he would rape them before mercilessly ending their lives. Regardless, Pickton was exposed to violence and rejection at a young age, which indicates that he also accepted violence as a norm in society. Thus it is possible, that Pickton believed that this certain group does not contribute positively to the stability of society, henceforth murdering his victims.
Overall, analyzing the behavior of Robert Pickton through the following social sciences: Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology, helps determine and explain his actions through different perspectives. Though by all means these perspectives do not excuse his gruesome behavior, it is essential to be aware of his past and social influences that play an impacting role in his behavior. As a society it is also important that there are people who are living in different ways that influence their actions. Thus, exposure to certain events throughout an individual’s life is a leading cause in one’s behavior, therefore it is important to understand the actions he undertook, before jumping quick to conclusions.
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