Chessler, Phyliss. “Requiem for a Female Serial Killer”, World Encounter Institute/New English Review Press, 2020.
Into the Mind of Aileen Wournos
Aileen Wournos was a unique female serial killer. She was a prostitute who murdered seven adult men and her case issues raised issues that are still unresolved today. I found myself challenged by my ideas of how I thought about prostitutes, serial killers and American justice.
Author Phyllis Chessler knew Aileen Wuornos and was involved with her and she speaks in Wournos’s voice as well as her own. Wournos, while at outlaw, was also a damaged person filled with anger and rage, the subject of childhood and women’s abuse. Chessler has been haunted by her association with Wournos whom we see here as a woman who was broken. She was impaired cognitively, an alcoholic and suffered traumas in life. She, quite simply, had had enough and the results of that were deadly. Yet, here the portrait that we get of her is quite different from what we have seen before. We go behind-the-scenes and are introduced to her with great sensitivity yet Chessler manages to somewhat detach herself from the woman. We cannot help but question if Wournos suffered post-traumatic stress after having lived a life of hell. She was certainly affected by what she experienced as a prostitute but was she evil before that? How did she become a predator after having been prey for so long? What happened to the system that was supposed to protect her? These questions are left to the reader to answer.
We get “both an imagined interpretation of the crimes of Aileen Wuornos, the female ‘serial killer, ‘ and a description of the way that feminists in the US responded to her trial and execution.” We also see how prostitution can severely damage a person. Probing the issues of life and death, madness, justice (or the lack of it) and the trial for justice, the death penalty and trauma from rape, we get a new look at the Aileen Wournos that we thought we knew.