Britain's Darkest Taboos

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Emma Kenny

Emma Kenny has spent 16 years working in therapeutic intervention.Emma spent many years working in the inner city on projects aiming to reduce crime and increase community cohesiveness.
Emma works with individuals and families who have been affected by abuse, crime, relationship issues and other associated concerns.Having studied psychology, followed by years training in counselling and a masters degree at Manchester university, in spite of her media career Emma continues to practice therapeutically.
Emma works on screen as resident psychologist for This Morning, Daybreak and Lorraine and has presented several television series.

Q&A with Emma Kenny 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in psychology?As a child, I remember being fascinated by the differences and similarities between people. Human beings, for me, are intricate webs of emotion, connection, physiology, spirituality and shades of good and bad. Working in therapeutic intervention has allowed me to be part of another person’s journey of discovery in understanding these shades.
Are there any themes apparent in the series?The main theme that we see unfold in the series is the profile similarities of the perpetrators, the egocentric and selfish personal traits that each of the criminals display. We are also introduced to the vulnerability profile of the victims and this is a message that will hopefully be recognised by some viewers as traits of their own, leading to them make positive choices about their life situations.
What lessons can be learnt from the cases investigated in the series?We can learn to notice more, to recognise that these victims are often our neighbours, our friends, people we see regularly at the shops. They are the individuals that we know are in pain and yet feel unsure how to help. I believe that as a society we can extend more care to those who appear to need it.More and more we are becoming closed and at times afraid to intervene in others lives, but on many occasions such intervention can prevent tragedy. There is also hope in seeing cases where families have refused to be broken by the callous actions of others, and this reminds us of the human capacity to heal, even in the face of great tragedy.
Why do you think it is important for these stories to be shared?These victims were people with meaningful lives and relationships: they had hopes, dreams and aspirations, and they had worth. So often we see only the headlines and we forget to explore the depth beneath them. These documentaries are allowing the victims to be known more fully, to demonstrate how incredibly important their lives were and to expose those who stole their lives publicly.So many people are affected by tragedy and it’s the courage shown by those who took part in the series that unites many others with similar experiences. I also believe that individuals who themselves have the capacity to harm will be reminded of a system determined to bring them to justice.

What are the common psychological reasons for people committing crimes as seen in the series?In these cases, all are motivated by power. All involved men exerting control over vulnerable women, resulting in tragic consequences. It's clear that the killers were concerned only about their own personal worlds and sense of ownership over their victims. This level of narcissism is rare, but is exhibited by all the perpetrators.
Crimes committed by teenagers such as Joshua Davies or David Jaggers tend to shock us more than adult crimes. What influences do you think are contributing to crime in young people?Young people are less likely to have consequential thinking and therefore may act in an immediate way without considering the after effects. What is shocking in these cases is the level of pre-meditation that occurred before the crimes were committed. Both these cases show psychopathic behaviour with no regard or care for their victims’ lives, personalities, relationships or dignity. These traits see perpetrators lack empathy, which enables them to act outside of moral codes and boundaries.In both cases we have no evidence of any terrible traumas occurring in either killers’ childhoods, and this compounds the difficulty in understanding the motivation within these crimes.
Do you think that the parents of a teen can ever be blamed for a crime at such a young age?I believe that the way we are brought up has a direct impact on who we become. That noted, many people I have had the pleasure of working with over the years have experienced the most terrible traumas, abuse and family experiences, yet they are caring, warm and moral people. Parenting plays a role in criminal behaviour, but to see that as the main cause is short sighted. Young people can have the best parents in the world and carry out terrible crimes. Peer groups, mental health issues, media influence and genetic predisposition can all affect behaviour.
How does your work help the victims’ families and loved ones come to terms with the crime?The catharsis of talking about such tragedy enables loved ones to slowly piece their lives back together. Often, the vulnerability of the families and loved ones’ worlds are affected so devastatingly that going on feels almost impossible.Through therapy, those affected can start to shift the focus from the death of their loved one onto the life that preceded it. This, in turn, helps to lessen the trauma and reclaim the worth of the victim’s life journey.
What advice would you give anyone suffering domestic abuse or suspects a loved one is suffering?Communicate it, don't sit and wait or feel you are interfering. People are killed, lives are ruined and all because everyone is too scared to say what needs to be said.People who are being abused feel ashamed and embarrassed, and therefore it's essential to make it clear that you do not judge them. An 'open door policy' is so important; somewhere they can seek refuge and talk about their situation.Very often domestic abusers rely on a silent partner; this way they can perpetuate the violence without a fear of consequence. It’s important that they recognise that they are being watched and their behaviour noted.