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September 25, 2023

Opinion: There is an upside to America’s true crime obsession

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This summer, the world was captivated by the Gabby Petito mystery and the ensuing manhunt for her alleged killer in the following months. There have always been true crime cases that fascinate the nation; the O. J. Simpson case, the murder and trial of Laci and Scott Peterson, the murder and mystery of JonBenét Ramsey, the entire Ted Bundy case and many more. Why are audiences fascinated by true crime cases (often the more gruesome, the better) when they highlight the worst of humanity? 
It is as simple as curiosity. In an article by the Cleveland Clinic, psychologist Chivonna Childs, breaks it down. “Watching true crime doesn’t make you strange or weird,” Dr. Childs says. “It’s human nature to be inquisitive. True crime appeals to us because we get a glimpse into the mind of a real person who has committed a heinous act.” 
True crime cases are fascinating to many, especially women, because they provide a window into a reality in which we could be victims. Research even points to women being the biggest fans of true crime.  Many people may assume that men, being the traditionally more aggressive sex, would likely find gory topics interesting. However, a study by Amanda Vicary and R. Chris Fraley suggests that women enjoy this genre more than men. Female consumers of the genre often visualize themselves in a similar situation to the victim and wonder what they might do.
For many, the need for closure or a better understanding of those who commit gruesome crimes keeps consumers tuned in. “If we can’t understand why these killers do what they do, that fear is never abated,” says Dr. Scott Bonn, a criminologist and author of “Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers”, “If we can wrap our minds around it, it somehow seems less frightening.”
While some consumers are abhorrently against true crime, there is an upside to the genre full of evil.True crime raises awareness of domestic violence in seemingly ordinary interpersonal relationships. Many true crime podcasts and shows focus on interpersonal violence, often referred to as intimate partner violence, domestic violence or battering. Interpersonal violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power or control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Because so many true crime cases stem from interpersonal violence, listeners can learn to recognize and report signs of abuse. Even more, podcasts like “CrimeJunkie” and “Morbid” list resources for survivors and victims of interpersonal violence to use in abusive situations to get help, like hotlines and safe homes. 
True crime even helps survivors find a community after traumatic events. A study by Kelli Boling showed survivors of domestic violence who listened to true crime podcasts felt they had become a part of “collective identity and a virtual community where their voices are heard, and their stories are normalized.”
While true crime indeed focuses on the worst of humanity, there is some good in the genre. True crime helps women feel safer as they learn what to do in threatening situations; it allows victims to feel like they’re not alone and the genre provides the resources to help victims get out of abusive households. While true crime consumers should not glorify the gruesome crimes and horrific offenders, true crime doesn’t hurt!

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