Friday, 19 November 2010

Infanticide - Womans Hour BBC Radio programme.


'Its an act which seems to go against nature, which is why cases of women killing their own children always cause such a stir.'

Interviews with Fiona Brookman a forensic scientologist, and Anne Carpenter a criminologist at the University of Glamorgan.

Interviewer to Brookman: "Not every case where a woman kills her child is murder. There are other legal catagories arnt there?"

Brookman: "Yes thats correct. The broad term for taking a life illegally is 'unlawful homicide', and within that are the catagories of 'murder', 'manslaughter', and 'infanticide'."

Interviewer to Brookman: "What about babies killed in their very first day of existence?"

Brookman: "That is almost exclusively commited by the natural mother. Very often pregnancy is denied, is unknown untill its almost happening, and its quite often very young immature women who cant accept the pregnancy, and then either abandon or sometimes smother, or even drown the infant very quickly. What we dont know, is how many of those infants might have been stillborn."

Interviewer to Brookman: " And some of them may have been?"

Brookman: "Absolutely."

Interviewer to Brookman: "I know that in the past you have written about what you call 'The Dark Figure of Infanticide'. What did you mean by that?"

Brookman: "Its a term used by criminologists to describe any crime that doesnt come to the notice of the police. Either because the public dont report them, or because the police make decisions not to record them. And in the case of infanticide its particularly salient. One of the reasons for that, is that we dont know if theres been a life some of the time. The only person that will know that a life has been taken is the mother in many of those cases. But even with older children between naught and one year, its very difficult to determine wether that child has died of natural causes, accidental, or has been the subject of foul play, and one of the major difficulties there, is around the issue of 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome' (SIDS), often called 'Cot Death'. Simply, the medical professions dont know why that infant has died, and very often, its indistinguishable from cases where a carer may have smothered the infant."

Interviewer to Brookman: "Are you really suggesting that some of those cases of cot death were nothing of the sort?"

Brookman: "There is research that would suggest that. Some estimates suggest 15% of SIDS may infact be homicides, some peoples estimates have gone as high as 40%.

Anne Carpenter: "Perhaps often theres a huge control element over the fact a woman has the power to give birth and to give life."

Interviewer to Carpenter: "So you believe that is essentially what is going through the mind of a woman who has these babies and who keeps their bodies close to her, in some cases for years?"

Carpenter: "Yes, absolutely. Women that have had children know what a powerful act that is, and if we think about it psychologically, theres something very powerful in being able to be pregnant, to be able to give birth to a child, and then be able to take it away. Its a very controlling element. Its almost a sort of sadistic element potentially within that, and thats extended in this desire to have the children near to them."

"I think society has a real problem understanding that women commit these offences, but I think we're often in danger of thinking that there are lots of rational reasons behind women doing it. There are some women who sadly commit horrific acts because they simply lack empathy. I think we have a real problem because we have a notion of women being warm and cuddly, and we make soup, and we care for them (children), but there are a number of women who arnt like that, sadly."

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