The Silence of the Lambs inspired not fear but a career path for Dr. Monique Boudreaux, associate professor of psychology. She paid close attention as FBI special agent Jack Crawford, played by Scott Glenn, oversaw FBI trainee Clarice Starling’s journey into the mind of a serial killer.
Years later, Boudreaux was among the last group of civilians to train under the man who inspired Glenn’s character — retired FBI special agent John Douglas. He’s the bureau’s original criminal profiler and author of Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.
“Silence of the Lambs actually had a huge effect on my decision to move forward in graduate psychology studies,” says Boudreaux, a California native. “Well, that and an undergraduate instructor at UCLA who suggested I take a psychology course to break the monotony of my pharmacy curriculum. I switched majors immediately.”
Since then, Boudreaux’s educational and professional road has taken her from UCLA to Harvard to an FBI internship in Quantico, Va., and ultimately to “Our Harvard on the Bayou,” where she teaches courses on personality and child psychology.
Boudreaux still consults for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, identifying criminal behavioral patterns to look for in investigations. Her expertise stems from her graduate research, in which she profiled 550 cases of missing and/or murdered children. With such a grim forte, Boudreaux’s spirit has been and continues to be tested.
“You need thick skin and a strong stomach,” she says, referring to the many crime-scene photos of abused and deceased children she has examined as well as interviews with convicted pedophiles. “You have to be able to temporarily turn off your emotions. Still, sometimes, frustration leads to tears, which lead to determination.”
She vividly recalls the case of a mother who falsely claimed her child was abducted. The child’s remains were found nearby, but there was not enough evidence to convict the mother. A few years later, the woman killed a second child, making the same false claims but being convicted this time.
“It made me sick to my stomach when I found out she had gotten away with it before,” Boudreaux says. “It was one of the few times I cried. When faced with brutal cases, I would often take a break, go to my FBI dorm room and listen to music or drive around to get a hold on my emotions.”
Retired FBI agents have told Boudreaux that her insights have helped with testimonies that led to convictions.
“It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve helped prevent other crimes from being committed,” she says. “But it isn’t more fulfilling than anyone else’s job. I believe that everyone’s job fulfills an important role.”
— Written by Graham Harvey
This article originally appeared in the 2012 issue of Voilà! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.