Killers explored by Roehampton specialist for TV

The lives of notorious mass-murderers Fred and Rosemary West have been explored by Roehampton psychologist Christiane Sanderson, in a three part documentary for Channel 5.

Posted: 24 November 2014

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Christiane Sanderson, from the University of Roehampton, who has contributed to a re-assessment of the lives of Fred and Rose West for Channel 5

The documentary series Fred and Rose explores how the couple were able to claim so many lives, without being detected by the authorities and how early childhood abuse and pain can lead to violence.

Christiane Sanderson was asked by Channel 5 to act as a consultant for the programme, because of her 25 years of experience working in child sexual abuse and sexual violence. During the series she assessed how Rose West's early childhood abuse and exposure would have affected her mental health, and how this would have made her vulnerable to being groomed by Fred West and becoming involved in later sexual violence.

This is a new perspective on the couple's lives. Rose West was often described as 'dozy Rosie' when she was a child, as a reference to her potential learning difficulties.

Christiane Sanderson argued she may well have been traumatised and highly dissociative, hence her being thought of as 'dozy'. In addition some people who are severely traumatised in childhood try to 'triumph' over such trauma in adult life by re-enacting their own abuse and attempting to normalise it.

She said: "It’s important society has a deeper understanding of how complex trauma can affect victims and how this affects later vulnerability, and how they manage this in adulthood. This programme has provided viewers with another perspective which has until now has not been covered sufficiently. I hope it will allow for a more meaningful discourse that explores the effects of childhood experiences."

As a result of this programme Christiane Sanderson has been asked to contribute to two more programmes for a series called Nightmare in Suburbia one which has already aired and the other is due to later this year.

Christiane Sanderson lectures on child sexual abuse, sexual and domestic violence, complex trauma and shame to both undergraduates and post-graduates at the University of Roehampton. Read about Psychology courses.

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