Daily we are bombarded by news of horrible events. Technology provides continuous fodder for our curiosity, and many of us are both drawn to and repelled by what is presented on our computer or plasma screens.
Josef Fritzl, his wife Rosemarie, and their daughter Elizabeth are at the center of a much publicized news story from Austria. Josef kept his daughter locked up in the basement of their apartment building for 24 years, using her as a sex slave — she mothered seven of his children. She was eighteen when her captivity began.
There are volumes being written on this story every day, but it seemed relevant to try to identify just what motivated him. At the moment, he is getting a psychological thrill from having his picture and information about himself appear on every major newspaper and news source around the world. He takes tremendous pleasure in his infamy.
Josef is a sadist. Sadists enjoy and live to inflict pain on others; seeing victims suffer is sexually arousing for them. It is also about control of the victim. Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist, describes sadists as "bad, not mad." Fritzl is in no way psychotic or crazy. He knew exactly what he was doing and his acts were premeditated. He is not sorry and he cannot be rehabilitated.
Sadism almost always begins in childhood and adolescence. Those who torture helpless animals are at high risk to become sadists. Viewing violent pornography (snuff films) has also been linked to this disorder. Sadistic behaviors are chronic and increase in severity as time passes. When the sadist is humiliating, dominating, controlling, or inflicting pain on someone, he experiences a rush of those "feel-good" brain chemicals called endorphins.
According to reports released by the police, Josef had been sexually abusing Elizabeth since she was eleven. Sexual abuse does not happen in a vacuum, nor is it a solitary event — the signs are often myriad and obvious. So where was her mother?