Monday, May 02, 2011

Could One Good Outcome Of This Sad Case Be That Italy Sees Less Foreign Student Druggies?

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters

[Above: the city of Florence north of Perugia where there have been several drug-driven murders]

Chicago’s Loyola University has just done a survey of American students to see if Amanda Knox’s experience in Italy could be offputting.

Quite a few respondents said that it could. Anti-Italianism does have some traction. 

But if you look closely at the poll, it didn’t ask all of the right questions. The availability and effect of drugs was not included as a factor that might attract students to Italy.

American student buzz had long been that if you want to seriously party in your study year in Europe, Italy was an easy and safe place for drugs, and Perugia especially so.

But then Amanda Knox was widely reported as admitting to drugs on the night that Meredith died. And there have been other recent high-profile murders in Italy, also involving Americans on drugs.

Take a look at this and this.

One direct result is that there has been some high-profile tightening up on drugs lately in Italian universities.

The message has been beamed at American students that you can now get into serious trouble if you mess with drugs - and you may get no sympathy at the American Embassy.

Precisely as the Italians intended, this could be turning a proportion of prospective students off.

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters on 05/02/11 at 07:08 PM in The wider contextsItalian contextN America context

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I think another big appeal for US students, as far as many countries in Europe is concerned, is the availability of cheap alcohol, with a legal drinking age of 18, which is often not enforced stringently in many countries. I am English, but I have lived in the US. It’s not a perfect country, by any means (nor is England), but I developed a great respect for the strict US laws about underage drinking, because I have seen the damage alcohol can do. Plus, in the US, there is not a “drinking culture” like there is in England, and there is a stigma attached to drinking in order to get drunk.

I hope the Italian authorities are clamping down on heavy drinking, as strongly as they are clamping down on drugs. Both are equally damaging, in my view.

Posted by Janus on 05/02/11 at 10:01 PM | #

I’ve often wondered about Amanda Knox’s strange behavior prior to arriving in Perugia. If I remember correctly, she didn’t show up for an internship at the German Parliament.  Instead she hung out in Berlin doing who knows what.  Casting aside a great opportunity to work at the German Parliament sounds like something a person whose priorities have been corrupted by drug use might do.

Posted by Sailor on 05/03/11 at 09:33 AM | #

Excellent point Janus “coma drinking” has become ridiculously fashionable with the youth in Germany in recent years and Sailor I have always wondered the exact same thing. Living in Berlin one knows how any other person would have jumped at the chance.

Posted by shavournia on 05/03/11 at 10:07 AM | #

When one is raised by parents who aren’t connected there is usually very little real parenting happening. To this extent these two had ak and didn’t raise her with any direction. They paid for private school but obviously without a moral compass. In fact they raised a pathological lying murderer, who enjoyed sex and drugs but avoided anything that wasn’t fun. No matter how much value and life experience was to be gained at the german Parliament she wasn’t going to waste her time….caring even less for the effort of her uncle to get the opportunity for her. And make no mistake how important pleasing men sexually was to her. Bouncing from one boy to another and maintaining a scorebook shows a disconnect to men that can only come from the lack of father side parenting. Its textbook. Promiscuity to the extent she had comes from trying to replace the void of having no real connection to her father. I again end up where I always do that these two parents were so bad, they share a large part of the blame for raising this murderer that is ak.

Posted by friar fudd on 05/03/11 at 12:24 PM | #

Janus, I don’t entirely agree with you.  I am not saying you are wrong, but I wonder if you experienced a different demographic in the US than I have.  I am European as well, but I went to university in the States (full-time, not as an exchange student), and I found that for college-age kids, the 21 drinking age was the source of an obsession with partying and not getting caught.  I worked as a resident assistant in my dorm for 3 years, and I’ve had to deal with the party culture on a daily basis.  It went from innocent things, like having a couple of beers with friends and feeling all sneaky about it, to massive (and occasionally violent) parties.  I’ve had girls who were given Ro-Hypnol, others who were raped while extremely drunk, fraternity hazing resulting in one young man’s death, drug raids which resulted in the confiscation of big stashes, etc.

I think that a lot of kids who were raised in pretty strict families, and likely kept in check by their residential staff when they went to college, see Europe as a free-for-all place.  Lower drinking age, no administration looking over your shoulder, probably just a handful of staff who supervise dozens of students, etc.  The party culture is probably no worse than in the US, but the lack of supervision enables them to do more.

I think that Amanda needed pretty tight supervision, which is probably why she’s doing well in prison.  The Bundestag episode was baffling to me as well.  I can understand feeling bored and lost, especially if your German is minimal, but I would have probably stuck it out for a week and tried to seek out younger staff members who could explain what was going on.  Even when I was 20, leaving the internship without telling anyone and wandering through Berlin for 3 days would have been unthinkable. She probably thought it was romantic and free-spirited, while the rest of the world thinks it was stupid and irresponsible.

I think this should be a lesson for universities who foster exchange programs, and especially for us in Europe, where student supervision is not taken as seriously as overseas.  I realize it’s a lot harder, since there are few proper campuses and students are scattered all over the city, living in whatever apartments they can find.  I think that Housing offices should make an effort to contract as many residences as possible, which they could sublet to students.  That way, they could have the occasional staff member living closely to students and serving as an emergency contact.  They should also tighten the leash, check with students more regularly, and make it clear that not maintaining a certain grade average or getting in trouble could get them sent home ASAP.

Friar Fudd, I’m afraid that I don’t agree with the promiscuity stigmatization.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex or having a number of partners, as long as you are responsible about it (i.e. no unwanted pregnancies or STDs).  There are many young women out there who have thriving sex lives, but they aren’t drug addicts, pathological liars, or murderers.  There is simply no connection between that and what Amanda ended up doing. Also, she didn’t maintain a scorebook per se, but made a list when her HIV test came back as a false positive.  To be fair, her list was at best mediocre for the average college girl.  Now when you start getting into high double-digits, there might be a problem, but she had 6-7 people on her list.  It’s not necessarily the indication of a psychological problem, but fairly normal for college students.  Colleges don’t really have a dating culture - either you hook up randomly or you become inseparable from someone for X amount of time. I just don’t think it’s fair to focus on this particular aspect.  She had much greater problems, she was good at disguising them, and the adults surrounding her until that point likely didn’t care enough to set her straight.

I am not trying to make amends for her, but when something like this happens, I think one of the priorities is making sure it doesn’t happen again.  I think there are a lot of lessons for both parents and university support staff to be learned from this event.  Girls like Meredith shouldn’t have to die again and again for the stupidest reasons. I wish that AK would give up the circus, confess to what she’s done, and spend her jail sentence trying to educate others who are in danger of becoming like her. However, I remember that MissRepresented said in one of her essays that it might take years of counseling to get her to confess.  That’s unfortunate, because I think that the only way for her to find some redemption is to work towards preventing this kind of senseless murders from happening again.

Posted by Vivianna on 05/05/11 at 05:00 AM | #

Janus, I have to say that what I’ve experienced makes me agree with Vivianna about drinking cultures.

Being French, I’ve been an exchange student in the States, living in a family during my last year of highschool. A few years later, I went to Germany as an Erasmus student.

Although my exchange family was very strict about the drinking age, there seemed to be a stronger stigma attached to being drunk in my home country than in my exchange family.

In France I had been drinking wine (a tiny bit of wine in a big glass of water) since being around 10, as a way to taste it with no health consequences. To this day I’m not partial to wine, though I can drink a glass of it to please my hosts. I never saw anybody drunk in my family ; more cheerful than usual yes, but not unable to stand or sit, nor slurring. While alcohol is freely available, one is supposed to know one’s limits and not go overboard. I was raised thinking that only alcoholics and desperate people would drink to get drunk, and that drinking in society to the point of being drunk was a sign of no self-control, or of very bad manners.

In the US in 1990, I begged, in vain, for just a drop of my exchange father’s glass of wine - I thought it was an unique opportunity to taste American wine and I was sorry to see it lost - but I saw once my exchange mother getting hammered with margaritas, on day when her friends visited. And, she explained to me she was doing it on purpose : drinking to get drunk was for her a pleasure she seldom indulged in, and today was the day. Meanwhile at school I would hear tales of the hip students parties, that were only about alcohol, and about getting the occasionnal blowjob from the drunken cheerleader.

I’m not surprised that some American students see Europe as a big drinking opportunity, but I feel, like Vivianna, that it’s because of their fascination with a good they are denied at home.

I don’t think that lax laws on alcohol in Europe are alone to blame for English binge drinking - since I’ve not seen that kind of drinking in Germany either, while I was a student there in the 90s. OK, I was a serious student, but still I had my eyes open.

Posted by Sylviane on 05/05/11 at 12:12 PM | #

Hi Janus, Vivianna and Sylviane. Interesting insights. Because of this we’ve tried to keep an eye on any relevant science that comes out, and the only survey we have linked to so far is this.

Vivianna, Amanda Knox’s description of the Berlin episode seems to be revealing in another way too. She came to realise that she had exasperated people, especially her uncle, and then acted to show strong concern and tried to make some sort of amends. She seems to have had a history of that. 

Psychologists we’ve quoted have said that can be revealing of a degree of psychopathia - that no sense of wrong is experienced at the time but once disapproval swings their way either they then lament it or they act innocent in spades. Amanda seems to have revealed both modes and this great post by a professional in the field suggests her swings probably aint done yet. 

Her parenting was very lax (she almost never saw her father, and her mother worked all the time) and then she moved to a house just off-campus where she seems to have got to like drugs a lot - quite possibly without either parent ever realising, and none of her peers saying “enough”.

And then Knox’s stay in Perugia was almost uniquely unstructured. Stewart Home told me maybe only 1% of foreign students in Perugia have no structure at all and no assured funding.

Meredith and the Italian girls were expressing disapproval in their low-key European way - Meredith told someone she hoped Amanda would get over her early hyper state - but the exasperation level had not yet peaked. She was losing all her friends and her job. The reason for that might eventually have sunk in - but right then, of course, she met Sollecito.

Two train wrecks that might have happened turned into one train wreck that certainly did. And poor Meredith died.

The post at top here suggests the wrong lesson is being learned. But that is not entirely true. Italian and American universities have both tightened up. And an Italian media site checked enrollment statistics, and found American students are still arriving at the same rate.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/05/11 at 02:39 PM | #

Sylviane, your experience mirrors my own exactly.  It must be the Latin cultures we come from.

As far as her stay being uniquely unstructured, I can’t dispute what people familiar with the Perugia situation say, since I’ve never been to Italy myself.  I’m sure Stuart knows what he’s talking about, and I suspect that American students may be more closely monitored than others.  But we do have a bit of a problem with lack of support/supervision here in Europe.  I was going to give some examples, but I realized I was getting on a soapbox which is not really pertinent to this case and which has more to do with some frustrations I’ve experienced since I came back to Europe after about 9-10 years overseas.

I think that AK’s parents made a grave mistake when they allowed her to go off on her own.  I cannot fathom how they didn’t understand that she was not responsible, that she prioritized attention and approval over doing the right things, and that she needed discipline and supervision.

What I’m wondering about is whether this case has had an impact on people who may be identifying more strongly with Meredith than with Amanda.  No one will miss the handful of out-of-control kids who choose not to go abroad because supervision is tighter.  But it would be a pity if brilliant young women thought twice about pursuing their dreams because they are afraid of becoming victims themselves.

Posted by Vivianna on 05/05/11 at 05:57 PM | #

Oh, dear! Sex, alcohol, drugs… Amanda.

Posted comments I have read carefully & with appreciation.

My view (at age 79) is that Amanda’s sex life is a prime aspect of her manifest pathology. Its character is that of conquest, hence also the alleged trait of manipulation.

I would be very much surprised to learn, if ever we could learn, that she had a normal capacity for enjoying intercourse whose sacramental aspect she has so debased. For Amanda Knox, on available evidence, sex is a tool.

I further posit (as hypothesis) that in the rape she engineered & carried out with so much violence & brutality she came as close to a kind of psychic orgasm as ever she came to orgasm in any form.

A derangement so elemental in the psyche of an attractive young woman may well point (& my guess is that it does point) to an early sexual abuse which has left her—not scarred, that’s just the wrong word here, but distorted, violent, incapable, vindictive.

Simply as hypothesis but as a matter of course, based on experience & widespread knowledge of cases, Amanda’s immediate family cannot be ruled out of possible abusers.  That is not an accusation, however, & much less a “fact” as far as our knowledge goes.

Amanda’s pathology is so deep, her distortion so gross, & yet all of it so well hidden within her attractive exterior, that the deepest injuries to her infantile psyche must be sought for.  TOO BAD that isn’t being done in a serious & searching way by genuinely competent psychologists—but of course that takes money & time.

Drugs represent merely release, the lowering of the last threshold of inhibition.  It is pathology which is the key.

As to the Loyola survey done in Rome & with Italian cooperation, I think little enough has been established by it.  From reports elsewhere I gather, too, that Amanda plays a minor role in the decrease of the American tourist dollar in Italy.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 05/05/11 at 06:09 PM | #

@Vivianna - Knox’s apparent hyper-sexuality and stranger sex (remember the middle-aged man on the train?) reveals a serious lack of judgment, recklessness and imbalance. Knox’s attitude about sex and her escapades do not indicate a responsible and “thriving sex life,” imho. It doesn’t make Knox guilty, but it’s another piece of the puzzle that incriminates her.

Photos of Casey Anthony dancing with friends at clubs are going to be used as evidence against her in a trial for murder. Is that fair? Despite that many young women like to dance at clubs, the prosecution will use it as incriminating evidence in the context of the situation. Scott Peterson was having an affair - many men have affairs - but it was used as evidence against him at the trial in the context of the situation and deemed relevant to the case.

I agree that every assessment of the case should be made so that a horrible murder doesn’t happen again as it did with Meredith Kercher.

Posted by giustizia on 05/05/11 at 06:18 PM | #

@Ernest Werner - I respect your age and life experience, but I think you are very mistaken in linking Ms Knox’s crime and sexual behaviour to possible early sexual abuse by her family - incest.

Childhood sexual abuse by non-family members has dire consequences on adult life - if one is lucky enough to reach adulthood : a strong propensity to commit suicide, a high risk of being further abused in relationships (re-victimization), sleep problems, triggers, PTSD, depression, chronic pain, addiction, self injury… Incest has the same consequences, only worse (

Though psychologically and sometimes physically scarred, the great majority of incest survivors have nothing in common with the behaviour exhibited by Ms Knox. They are not “distorted, violent, incapable, vindictive” as Ms Knox seems to be. You may want to read survivors’ blogs to educate yourself on what having survived incest really is like (

On Ms Knox specifically, I don’t know enough of her background to entirely rule out childhood sexual abuse - but she would be a very uncharacteristic 20-years-old female survivor, who not only would stand hearing about rape without becoming physically ill, but who could even write an essay on it - and of course who could initiate one, and who could actually participate in one. Of course everything can happen - but what she has done doesn’t point to having suffered incest.

I agree with you that Ms Knox is deeply unbalanced, as most killers are. Had she not been so pretty, I think what she has been convicted of would have caused onlookers less of a shock, and there would have been less white knights, and dear Meredith’s parents would not have experienced the added pain of Ms Knox’s unwarranted celebrity. All the same, I don’t think that the fact that angel-faced Knox murdered dear Meredith, needs such an explanation where she would have been destroyed by the vilest crime, in order to become such a monster.

I think she’s been a child who’s been taught early that lies are OK unless you get caught, that if children must obey some rules, adults are quite entitled to dispense with them, and that whatever happens to others as a consequences of my acts or lies is their problem, not mine. In short, I believe she’s been raised as her parents’ daughter.

Posted by Sylviane on 05/06/11 at 01:07 PM | #

Hi Peter Quennell - Thank you for your kind welcome. I’ve been a longtime reader. In showing who Meredith was, I like the way this site makes her feel much more alive than her murderers.

I hope my children will grow up to be decent human beings like Meredith.

To sort of answer Vivianna’s concern about what Meredith’s murder will change for serious students, I’ve always planned to encourage my children to go study abroad, when they are old enough. As a serious parent I will still encourage them to participate in Erasmus, but I may be more picky about whom they will share an appartment with - and I will probably tell them to stear clear of drugged or bizarre fellow students, and to move out at all costs if there is one where they live - and faster yet if it’s an American.

I’d hate to discriminate like this, I’ve loved every bit of my stay in the States and I’ve met no creeps there, but I’m a mother and I can’t deal with the prospect of an American kid running amok on my children, with so many murders committed by American students both in America and in Europe.

Posted by Sylviane on 05/06/11 at 02:10 PM | #

Thanks for your corrective & yes, I may well have overstated the case in expressing what is plainly (& only) my opinion.

The pathology derives (on hypothesis) from the brutality of a murderous rape whose probable course has been reconstructed by the forensic experts: 43 injuries all told, including a livid bruise on the thighs, other bruises & many cuts. Description of the final knife thrust is appalling. Evidence, too, of throat-grasping, hair-pulling, head banging on wall & floor.

Compare also Amanda’s published rape story, of which I have seen only quoted snippets. She at one point places the narrator’s mind inside the consciousness of the rape victim.

I meant to cast no aspersions on Amanda’s parents. My personal acquaintance with early abuse, & one case incestuous, was limited to two cases only (former university chaplain.) No such distortions occurred in those cases, as I was well aware & implicitly took into account. The sole result in both cases: these young women had discovered that they were entirely frigid.

A deep psychological study of Amanda which ought to be made (though seems unlikely) must take every possibility into account.

PS Curious recent fact. I read the other day that Charlie Sheen once banged a woman’s head on the floor (h’mm, was it a marble floor?) Anyway, mention of Sheen—so much in the public eye recently—allows me to add that I hold out greater hope for Amanda’s redemption than for Charlie Sheen whose choices are frozen in willful defiance. Apart from misplaced parental urgings, Amanda still has a chance.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 05/06/11 at 05:02 PM | #

@Sylviane and Ernest Werner - One of my friends had the misfortune to be pushed into a prison internship when she was doing grad work in Counselling, at a high security sex offender unit.  She said that the vast majority of people there had been abused as children and that one of the justifications was that they hurt so much and felt so alone in that hurt, that they wanted to make someone else feel it.  I think these people didn’t actually kill their victims, though, but were serial rapists.  So there is merit to Mr. Werner’s hypothesis, but I tend to agree with Sylviane that AK was probably not abused - just raised without a sense of responsibility or regard for others.

Behavior-wise, Amanda reminds me a lot of a room-mate I had in college, before I was an RA.  Mine, fortunately, limited herself to seducing the guy I was interested in. That girl also perceived herself as artsy and bohemian, had countless escapades, and got drunk often.  Her drug habit didn’t have a chance to develop beyond occasional indulging because she didn’t have the money to support it.  She was failing out of school when I met her and continued to be on academic probation afterwards.  While none of this is particularly menacing, she tried to bully me at first and then, creepily, tried to imitate every aspect of my life.  I spent a lot of time at the Honors Center, to get away from her, because it had a small computer lab and a social room where we’d hang out between seminars.  She followed me there, stalked my friends, and hit on the young men I was friends with. I think she couldn’t decide if she despised me or wanted to be me.  She also lied, was desperate for attention, portrayed herself as a victim, and showed very little empathy for others. I am not saying that she had the potential to be a murderer, but the similarities are disturbing.

I think Amanda viciously envied Meredith, and found herself supported by two spineless young men, far away from friends and family that might have helped ground her, and in a place where she thought she’d get away with everything (when in doubt, hop on a plane and go home). I think that the attack was not motivated by abuse in Amanda’s past, but by a desire to show her roommate that her perfect life could easily be shattered.

Posted by Vivianna on 05/07/11 at 05:47 AM | #

@Ernest Werner : thanks for your balanced answer. I totally agree with your view of Knox as a pathological sadistic killer. The details of the trio’s crime are chilling. I didn’t read her rape story-telling, knowing what she’s done in reality, I don’t want to.

If you ever meet other young female survivors, they might like to know that frigidity may disappear later on - unlike forgetting, healing enough to lead a meaningful sexual life with a caring partner is still possible later on.

Like Vivianna, I have met people with little to no empathy to others, but those I came to know well had been deprived from balanced parental love in their childhood : too much silly blind love, as in spoiled and prefered over the siblings, or no love, as in used as a prop for an ambitious parent - useful and pampered when there was a peer around, and discarded without feelings when that audience had vanished.

If I remember well, Ms Knox herself documented being verbally abused by Chris Mellas. That hints of not much love. A concerned mother would have known that, she would have stepped in to make her husband stop - a long time before her daughter had reached adulthood.

So I wouldn’t say there wasn’t abuse nor neglect in Ms Knox’s childhood - but incest, I think not. Psychological abuse is also a hell of a thing, that can destroy adults and prevent children from ever becoming adults.

My opinion on the crime is much like Vivianna’s : Ms Knox, raised by bullies, into drugs and away from home, with 2 men ready to please her at her orders (Rudy Guede was attracted to Amanda, not to Meredith), may well have
felt emboldened enough to treat Meredith just the way Ms Knox felt she deserved, for her everyday crime of being a well-adjusted, loved adult, who did flush the toilet - and who was becoming critical of Ms Knox.

To get out of their uncomfortable situation, the Mellas and Knox camps harass and bully everyone who dare not abide by their dogma of “Amanda is innocent”. To get out of her own uncomfortable situation, Amanda planned to have Meredith raped and tortured ; cruder way, but same way to destroy problem makers.

Maybe Amanda Knox did plan the murder too : a Halloween mystery murder must have appealed to a novelist mind. I believe that when Ms Knox called Meredith on Halloween, she was trying to lure her to her “punishment”, but her plan was shattered by Meredith not making herself available for it. By the next day, when she found herself unexpectedly released from duty at Patrick’s bar, the plan resumed.

@Vivianna : I believe your friend was in contact with mostly male sex offenders ? Male sex abused children are much more likely to become criminals, and sex offenders themselves, than female ones. I don’t know why. Here is a source that alludes to it :

Had Amanda been male, I wouldn’t have raised the issue… thanks to both of you for discussing it in a constructive way.

I suspect that many, among female offenders, have been abused, but I can’t find data on whether female sex offenders have been predominantly sexually abused or abused otherwise. Sadly, so many females are sexually abused as children, that if it lead as often to criminality, there would be more females than males in prisons.

Posted by Sylviane on 05/12/11 at 05:21 PM | #

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