FILE – On this April 26, 1979, file photograph, Ted Bundy leans again in his chair within the courtroom earlier than his trial in Tallahassee, Fla. Bundy allegedly acquired tons of of affection letters and presents from feminine admirers throughout his time in jail. (AP Photograph/Mark Foley, File)ASSOCIATED PRESS

Not lengthy after the February 2018 capturing at Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty in Parkland, FL, lots of of teenaged women began sending love letters to the alleged shooter as he awaited trial in jail. In response to media studies, the letters – over 200 of them – contained flattery, encouragement, and even scantily-clad pictures.

It is arduous to consider, however even males accused of probably the most heinous crimes typically have legions of devoted followers. Ted Bundy, Steven Avery, Chris Watts and Charles Manson are just some examples of convicted murderers who, regardless of killing ladies, have acquired love letters from different ladies whereas they have been behind bars.

The explanations for this are complicated, says Sarah Hewitt, a licensed marriage and household therapist in Middletown, CT.

For some ladies, Hewitt says, trauma can play an element. “When a lady has a historical past of trauma that’s associated to violence, their degree of normalcy round violence is larger,” Hewitt explains. “Ladies who come from households the place violence or crime is the norm may be interested in males who interact in comparable behaviors, even when they’re extra excessive.”

Ladies additionally are typically socialized as caretakers, Hewitt provides. Whereas males may be repelled by a lady’s felony previous, ladies usually tend to see males incarcerated or on demise row as potential companions who they will look after and emotionally “save.”

One other draw, says Hewitt, is the power to regulate. “Since these males have misplaced their bodily freedom, it is simpler for ladies to ‘belief’ them,” she says. “Ladies who’ve a historical past of traumatic relationships, both with mother and father or vital others, the place they’ve interpreted loss as rejection, may be interested in males in jail as a result of the lads bodily can’t depart them.”

Dr. Damian Jacob M. Sendler is a Harvard-educated forensic sexologist and principal analysis investigator on the Felnett Well being Analysis Basis who research ladies who hunt down lengthy-time period relationships with males in jail. And although there’s a “wide selection” of crimes that these ladies discover engaging, Sendler says, “murderers have a tendency to attain probably the most curiosity and admiration.”

The rationale for that is two-fold, in response to Sendler. “About half of our feminine members had difficulties rising up,” Sendler says. “On the one hand, these ladies need to assist these males obtain their potential. “Then again, these ladies hope to seek out their soulmate, somebody they will relate to based mostly on life’s destructive experiences.”

A small subset of those ladies, says Sendler, have one thing referred to as hybristophilia, the place an individual is genuinely sexually aroused by the considered somebody committing a criminal offense. Not all ladies who write letters to males in jail have hybristophilia, nevertheless, and easily having a relationship with somebody behind bars does not make somebody a hybristophiliac.

“Individuals with this kind of paraphilia search to satisfy their want to like a a lot stronger and extra dominant associate,” Sendler says. “Criminals are seen as robust, fearless, and detached towards the regulation or social norms. Many ladies, and a few males, idealize criminals and murderers as the kind of one that may give them help. It is like a fetish.”

Are males additionally interested in ladies behind bars for homicide? It does not occur typically, says Sendler.

“I’m positive that there are males who discover feminine criminals engaging,” he says. “The most important distinction between how men and women fall in love with criminals is that ladies search to deal with the ‘sinful,’ whereas males are prepared to forgive a legal report solely once they factor that the lady acted in some kind of self-protection.”