Serial killers, rapists, and other criminals who have committed violent sexual crimes are not inherent monsters, said a man who was executed 20 years ago for murdering numerous young women across the United States.
"We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families," said 42-year-old Ted Bundy one day before his execution by electric chair.
Though the 20th anniversary of Bundy's death on Jan. 24, 1989, may get little, if any, attention this weekend, the man and ministry behind Bundy's final interview less than 17 hours before his execution are hoping to reinforce the truth Bundy spoke two decades ago – that pornography is corrosive to individuals and to society.
"Bundy wanted to talk about the role media violence and particularly violent, hard-core pornography had played in his years-long killing spree, and he knew the mainstream media wouldn't report that story," recalled Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.
It was between the years of 1974 and 1978 that Bundy murdered at least 28 young women across the United States, bludgeoning his victims, then strangling them to death. He also engaged in rape and necrophilia.
In his final interview with Dobson, Bundy said part of the tragedy of the whole situation was that he grew up in a "wonderful home" with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of five brothers and sisters.
"We, as children, were the focus of my parent's lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home," Bundy told Dobson. "I'm not saying it was 'Leave it to Beaver,' but it was a fine, solid Christian home."
Then, when Bundy was 12 or 13, he was exposed to softcore pornography. That, he said, was when he was "snatched."
"It (pornography) snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago," he recalled. "As diligent as my parents were – and they were diligent in protecting their children – and as good a Christian home as we had, there is no protection against the kinds of influences that are loose in a society that tolerates."
Though Bundy made clear that he was not putting the blame on pornography and that he took full responsibility for his crimes, he also made clear how pornography contributes and helps mold and shape violent behavior.
"Once you become addicted to it – and I look at this as a kind of addiction – you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material," he said. "Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far – that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it."
Bundy also noted how, after spending more than a decade in prison, every single man he had met who was motivated to commit violence was also deeply consumed by their addition to pornography.
"Sadly, Bundy was right," says Dobson, who is scheduled to appear Friday evening on Fox News' "Glenn Beck" program to discuss Bundy's historic final interview. "Pornography has been found in the possession of almost every killer where sex was the motivation, including two of the most notorious serial killers of the last two decades: Green River Killer Gary Leon Ridgway and BTK Killer Dennis Rader."
"Objectification, the making of a person into a thing, is the prerequisite for all kinds of violent acts," explains Christina Traina, an associate professor of religion at Northwestern University, who took part in a panel discussion Thursday titled "Pornucopia: Living in a Pornified Culture" at the University of Notre Dame.
Though modern pornography has existed for about 300 years and sexual images for much longer, pornography has become ubiquitous in today's culture. For the first time in history, the American culture has point-and-click pornography; porn stars have MySpace pages; and the Internet and reality TV have provided new platforms for young women to flaunt their sexuality.
Though not everyone who uses pornography becomes a murderer, as Dobson pointed out, "there are serious consequences to pornography addiction."
Since his interview with Bundy, Dobson says studies have documented the corrosive effects of pornography addiction on marriages and families, such as increased marital distress and risk of separation and divorce; decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction; and a devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child-rearing.
And so Dobson's latest effort is not so much to warn against the potential violent and criminal outcomes that could arise from pornography viewing. It's to warn of the general destructive nature of such activity.
People think the images will bring fulfillment into their lives, but the opposite happens and the human is reduced to an "object of flesh," says Father Nate Wills, an associate pastor who also attended the panel discussion at Notre Dame on Thursday, according to The Observer.
Though footage of Dobson's interview with Bundy has already been made public through Focus on the Family's 1989 release of a videotape called "Fatal Addiction," the ministry has made never-before-seen footage available to the production team of Fox News' "Glenn Beck" program, which airs weeknights at 5 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel.
Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family, says the ministry found "some very interesting segments in the vaults featuring Bundy talking in more detail about the things that fuel a serial killer's actions."
On the Web:
"Fatal Addiction: Ted Bundy" at focusonthefamily.com