Someone recently said this about my book, Diary of a Predator: A Memoir, which is about my experience covering the case of serial rapist Brent Brents:
“Yes, he had a troubled childhood, however so many others do and don’t become a sociopath.”
That line started me thinking: Does someone choose to become a sociopath? I started looking up research, which points to three factors that contribute to someone being a sociopath:
1. Genetics. Where Brents is concerned, that’s a check. Records and accounts from family members indicate that Brents’ father was a violent, sadistic man. The two children from his second marriage were removed from the home because of his abuse, and Brents and his brother, the product of his father’s third marriage, were removed from the home but records show Brents was returned for unknown reasons.
2. Brain abnormality, either caused from genetics or brain injury. Check. When he was 12, Brents suffered a left orbital blowout fracture (his left eye socket was crushed) and he had seizures ever since. Research indicates that a sociopath’s brain is different from a normal brain–that it has little activity in the orbital cortex, the area of the brain that controls behavior.
3. Child abuse. Check. Brents’ severe, systematic abuse at the hands of his father is documented in medical records.
I’m not saying these factors are an excuse for the violence Brents upon others. He still ultimately made choices. But perhaps it could explain why someone like Brents demonstrated such violence and a lack of empathy–because his brain was predisposed toward it, lacked the ability to recognize the consequences of it on others and the abuse inflicted upon him was his model.