Famous Serial Killer Profiler Says Women Should Do This 1 Thing to Stay Safe

Dr. Ann Burgess, the subject of Hulu's new documentary series 'Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer,' opens up about what she's learned about serial killers — and how to stay safe from them

<p>Disney/Soul Brother</p> Serial Killer profiler Dr. Ann Burgess at the premiere for Hulu

Disney/Soul Brother

Serial Killer profiler Dr. Ann Burgess at the premiere for Hulu's doc series Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

Dr. Ann Burgess has certainly been in close contact with plenty of high-profile serial killers throughout her career.

The nurse and current professor is one of the world's most prominent serial killer profilers, and now she's also the subject of Hulu's three-part doc series Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer. (The series airs July 11, and is executive produced by Elle and Dakota Fanning.)

Burgess's career first took off when she worked with sexual assault survivors in the 1970s, and the FBI took notice of her ability to have rape survivors to open up to her and remember details. They then asked her to consult with the Behavioral Science Unit, where they were developing the first-ever psychological profiling for serial killers. (The character of Dr. Wendy Carr in the series Mindhunter was modeled after Dr. Burgess.)

Related: 2 Women Who Survived the Same Serial Killer Speak Out: 'I Didn't Pray to Live, I Prayed to Die'

Burgess's work has led to numerous arrests, and she still consults on high-profile cases, including those of the Menendez Brothers and Bill Cosby.

Her decades of research have led her to the following conclusions about serial killers: Their mental shifts into sociopaths usually occur around puberty, and they often have an unnatural fascination with the human body.

"A lot of this acting out starts right at puberty, right at adolescence — 12, 13, 14," Burgess tells PEOPLE. "So we know there's a real shift, if you will, in the biological neurological system. And it could be that certain parts of the brain get overstimulated because of trauma, the neurobiology of trauma."

All of the serial killers she has studied exhibit similar mental patterns, she says.

"There certainly are things they all have in common. It starts early and it starts as a thought. It develops into what is now called a fantasy, and they spend a lot of time thinking about it, daydreaming, going over it, and then they start getting as much out of planning as the actual doing. It moves from just the thought to, 'Maybe I should try this.' And they do their research — a lot of research."

<p>Courtesy of Hulu/Dr. Ann Burgess</p> Dr Ann Burgess from Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

Courtesy of Hulu/Dr. Ann Burgess

Dr Ann Burgess from Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

Burgess says many of the serial killers she studied or spoke with practiced on animals before killing humans.

"Then they would practice, A lot of them would practice with animals. I remember it was Jeffrey Dahmer said that he did it with roadkill. There's a lot of curiosity with them that we noticed... they wanted to know what's inside the body. I mean, it sounds really unusual, but certainly, a large number of them talked about wanting to explore what the body looked like."

Related: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: How the Serial Killer Was Caught

The show's director, Abby Fuller, notes that as she was interviewing Burgess and doing her own research, she realized a lot of serial killers also had absentee fathers and abusive mothers.

"There is this misogyny that develops or this acting out against women due to these mommy issues, more or less," Fuller says. "Oftentimes they were victimized, so it's like there's this idea the victim becomes a victimizer and the kind of the scene is played out, only this time they're the one in control rather than the victim. And that's not every case, but that was a pattern among many of them."

<p>Disney/Soul Brother</p> Dr. Ann BUrgess and Dakota Fanning at the premiere of Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

Disney/Soul Brother

Dr. Ann BUrgess and Dakota Fanning at the premiere of Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

Dr. Burgess says that if it were easier for kids to open up about emotional or sexual abuse, it could help stop some of the behavior before it starts.

"Certainly there is this emotional and psychological abuse. We don't talk a lot about that and it's hard for people to open up about things that really embarrass kids, or set them apart from others, especially with young men. So I feel we have to do a lot more in that area," she says.

As far as the public's fascination with the True Crime genre, she believes it stems partly from the need women have to know what to look out for so they can stay safe.

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"Absolutely," she says. "Actually some other disciplines are like that. Pilots talk about their near misses and they really do it with the intent of 'What if I find myself in that type of a situation, what would I do?'"

As far as tips for staying safe, she says to always trust your gut when something seems amiss.

Related: 2 Young Women Camping in Shenandoah National Park Were Murdered in 1996. Now, the FBI Knows Who Killed Them

"That's your limbic system reacting," she says. "It's an involuntary system that is set in us to alarm us and you should pay attention to it. I just think that's only good sense to listen to it, and not to override the system."

She says she has known of too many cases where women felt something was off, and then thought, "'Geez, I'm overreacting.' And then they found themselves in very tight positions."

Her other advice?

"Get a German Shepherd. That's the one thing I always say — a German Shepherd."

She also notes that she puts giant workman's boots outside her home when she's alone to make it look like her husband is there, since that could scare off any intruders.

"A lot of killers seize opportunity," she says. "So if they see a beware of dog sign and think that a man is there who could possibly fight them, they're going to move to the next house for the easier victim."

Master Mind: To Think Like a Killer airs on Hulu on July 11.

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