That was the frantic voice of Teri, a mother of two who should be dead but survived, says Oprah. Oprah is so tired of seeing headline after headline of women hurt or killed at the hands of their abusive partners. Based on the statistics, Oprah assumes everyone is with, or knows someone who is with, a man who is capable of becoming violent. That is why she is really happy to have Gavin De Becker back who has advised everyone from the CIA to World Leaders on how to be more safe. His book, which he wrote 10 years ago “The Gift of Fear”, is a gift that Oprah thinks everyone should give their daughter. Gavin says when a man kills his spouse or girlfriend, it is often predictable and preventable. He has developed MOSAIC, a new tool that will save lives. Oprah welcomes him back. This is his passion in life, if he was to be killed by a bus tomorrow, this is the thing which he would be most proud of, he says. It is artificial intuition, basically. It takes the factors of a situation and breaks them down, and sees the pieces of the puzzle and puts them back together so a woman can see the full picture for the first time. Say a woman is interviewed by the police and she says, yes he hits me but only after he has been drinking, or yes he is sexually abusive but only after a hard day at work, with MOSAIC there is no way to back away from the issues, they are addressed one by one. The early versions were used to assess threats for justices or the CIA, and all of a sudden it hit Gavin that these people were not getting attacked very often and he thought that the strategy should be made available to women, as one is killed by a partner every 4 hours. Oprah says that the stories we see on the news again and again scare women; being abducted or attacked by a stranger, but most are killed by someone that they know. Particularly women, says Gavin. If you look at the 3100 women who are killed each year in the US, the majority are killed by a husband or boyfriend. You can use the MOSAIC questionnaire for yourself or on behalf of someone else, it is totally anonymous. The link is on Oprah.com, it is a series of 48 questions which help assess how much of a threat an abuser poses to a family.
What is so interesting to Oprah after many interviews with domestic abuse victims, is that women always says that he doesn’t hit, but he does push- there is something that makes women think it is ok as long as there is no actual hitting. Gavin says that this is just one of the indicators- others include symbolic violence (tearing up wedding pictures or gowns), another is the pace of the relationship- when it is accelerated in the beginning that is a control strategy, another is persistence. We often confuse perseverance and persistence. Perseverance is good, but persistence does not mean that you are special, but that he is controlling. Oprah never forgot The Gift of Fear (which is now on Kindle and all women should read), if you say no to anyone in any situation and the other person persists, then you should ask why are they trying to control me. Gavin says that anyone who persists after no, be it salesperson or 2 year old, they are trying to control you. Gavin says that when a man says no it is the end of the discussion, when a woman says no it is the beginning of a negotiation. A man learns that if you buckle at the beginning of a relationship, it can cycle on- he learns that your no does not mean no, it means start the negotiation. Oprah says wow, how fantastic to have that information.
Terri, the caller in the 911 call earlier, is what Gavin calls a textbook example of how an abusive relationship can escalate to homicide. First, see what happened when Teri took Gavin’s MOSAIC test the other day. Teri answers the questions revealing the situation prior to her being beaten with a baseball bat and shoved into a garbage can and left for dead. She had a restraining order and a divorce… MOSAIC expresses results on a scale out of 10- Teri’s situation was ranked at a 9. Had he abused alcohol, a serious factor, it would have been a 10, says Gavin. Oprah asks Gavin if he agrees that Teri sitting here is a miracle. He says it is. He says it is chilling and macabre but the reality is they study thousands of women who are killed; he has never interviewed someone who basically was killed- only by medical intervention and great policework is she alive. Oprah welcomes Teri and says that she knows that the story will save many people. They will probe into Teri’s story so that the audience can apply that information into their life.
Teri, a mother of three, came dangerously close to becoming a statistic. When she met David, she thought he was the perfect mate for her, “Good job, churchgoing, fun-loving, wanted kids,” she says. “What else could I ask for?” After three months of dating, Teri says David started talking about marriage. “I wasn’t really ready for that. It was too soon. But he persisted and persisted, so of course I said yes.”
Teri had doubts before the wedding. Her parents and friends saw the warning signs, and she did too but she didn’t want to acknowledge them.
On her wedding day, Teri says her dad asked her to reconsider. “He turned to me and said, ‘We can turn around and walk out the door,’” she says. “I thought to myself, ‘It’ll be fine.’ She thought once they were married, everything would work out well.
Teri and David’s Hawaiian honeymoon should have been paradise.. “Probably about the second day we got into a dumb little argument about what to wear on a hike. He said: ‘I’m your husband. You listen to me. You do what I say,’” she says. “Because I said no to him, I got a couple blows to my head with the palm of his hand.” Teri says she tried to write the incident off as a fluke. “Maybe that’s all the stress that was built up from getting married,” she says. She thought maybe she could make it all better.
Oprah says that nothing that she says here today is meant to be in judgement of Teri, Teri nods. Oprah knows that Teri is here to help people. Before the wedding, Teri thought: ‘I don’t know if I want to do this. I’ve seen his temper. My parents told me they didn’t like him. He wasn’t very respectful to my parents or to his own parents. And I saw this. But being the type of person I am, I thought ‘Well, I’ll marry him and I’ll fix it. I’ll make him happy. He’ll be a better person when he’s married to me.’ I fooled myself.” Oprah asks Gavin to walk us through the red flags. First Gavin says that “being the type of person I am” is now the type of person that Teri was. Now she has the courage to do what she is doing. Intuition is there, showing the warning signs. Teri knew that things were not right. It is not typical for a father to say that they can leave just before the wedding. Gavin says there’s a big difference between cold feet and running for your life. “If you say: ‘I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I want to be in a marriage,’ that’s a different animal from: ‘I have fear. I have fear of this person,’” he says. There’s no role for fear in marriage. Fear is the real indicator there. The other thing is the profoundly accelerated pace. You don’t have to do it if it is too fast.
Oprah asks Teri what questions stood out for her when she took the MOSAIC test. The huge standout for her was, Does he take responsibility for his actions. He never did, with her, his job, with anything in his life he always blamed others. Oprah says that she never gets the moment that you are hit it is humiliating and degrading- what did Teri tell herself to overcome that? Teri says “The first thought that came into my mind was, ‘I’m leaving,’ But he had the flight tickets. He had the credit card. He had everything. I felt sort of stuck.” “But then I started thinking, logically, ‘Well, my parents don’t want to come down to Hawaii and get me.’” Then she thought maybe she’ll listen t him and do what he wants next time to make him happy and then it won’t happen.
Oprah asks if her danger signs went off. The first thing she did was to pick up the phone to call the police but she didn’t know if 911 worked in Hawaii. Gavin says all her original instincts were correct. “So it comes up into your mind, which is a total gift, these ideas, these plans, and then we start to debate and prosecute our own ideas and go through this process that lets us stay in situations we don’t want to be in.”
Oprah says that Teri was divorced, is it true that most spousal murders happen after the spouse leaves? Absolutely, Gavin says, most spousal murders happen after the woman leaves. “About 77 percent of the time,” he says. “That’s why you need help because separation, estrangement, that’s the time that the homicides happen.” Oprah asks if the situation escalated after the divorce? Teri says yes, it continued to escalate. “We had police intervention many times. We shared custody of our two daughters, so there was always that back and forth. We always had to see one another,” she says. “The name-calling, the hitting—it just continued to get worse and worse. The thumbing the nose at the court orders. Anything he could possibly do to stay in control and to say, ‘I am in charge.’”
Oprah asks Gavin to address what people should do when they have to communicate- when there has to be contact because of the children. Gavin says that it has to be addressed and it does not lend itself well to a magazine article or TV show. The biggest message Gavin can share is you cannot do this entirely alone. The good news is you don’t have to, there are resources such as thehotline.org and women shelters in the community. Often it is the last place women want to to go to, but it is like an emergency room- you go when you have to. A battered women’s shelter knows what to do about the kids and the bank account and the emergency plan. They can help. One of the things we often hear is “I was hit” and people ask if it is a clue. It is not a clue, it is the conclusion, it is the end of the mystery. Being hit says that it is over and done. Being hit does not work in relationships and it does not usually get better. It is a rare circumstance that it happens once only and the relationship improves, says Gavin.
Oprah says that we often mistake control for being really loved- Gavin says abusers are typically controlling and exercising complete control means giving the other person a lot of attention. “We’re brought up to think attention equals love,” he says. “Control doesn’t equal love.”
Gavin De Becker has used his thirty plus years in the security business to help women find out if they are at risk of being murdered by an abuser. One Saturday, January 31, 2004, five years after her divorce, Teri drove to her ex-husband David’s Wisconsin house to pick up the girls. When she arrived, David told Teri the girls were playing hide-and-seek and invited Teri inside, which seemed odd. Oprah says that the funny feeling Teri had about that is like a little whisper to says that is strange or odd. This is what can happen when you ignore it.
“My gut was saying, ‘Why is he letting me come in his house?’” Teri says. “Right away I knew, this is kind of weird. He hasn’t allowed me in his house since the day I left. But I was cold. My car was running out of gas,” she says. “Most of all, my kids were hiding. They wanted me to come find them, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.” She overlooked, and talked herself out of, that feeling. “I walked into the foyer, and I remember saying, ‘Gee, I wonder where they are?’” she says. “And, bam, a blow to the back of the head.” Teri says David continuously struck her with a baseball bat, numerous times. “He said: ‘You always said I abused you. Now you can see what abuse really is.” When he was trying to strangle Teri. “He was saying: ‘Go to sleep. Just go to sleep. Just stop breathing,’” she says. “He was mad again that he was ordering me to stop breathing and I wasn’t.”
Teri says David then duct-taped her wrists and ankles and her entire face. “He then had this big garbage can. I could feel he was putting me in it,” she says. “I’m bleeding everywhere. I’m in this garbage bin, and he’s filling it up with snow. What started going through my head was, ‘I’m going to die today.’”
Oprah asks what happened next. Teri says she didn’t die. “He put me on the back of his truck and actually he went back in the house and I knew it had to be to get the kids,” she says. “Knowing that they were 4 and 6, it would take a few minutes.” Remembering she had her cell phone in her pocket, Teri managed to dial 911. She tells people to practice dialing 911 with their eyes closed. “It took just a few minutes and I heard sirens. But by that time, he came back to the truck, started it up and we were on our way,” she says. The police were looking at his home for something and didn’t know that we were on the road. “I heard the sirens pass me right up.” Teri didn’t know but when she was in the back of the truck, David went to Milwaukee and dumped her car. He went through a drive through and had the girls in the cab at the front. “At one point I thought, ‘I’m going to stick my hand out, because the lid wasn’t on the garbage can, and somebody is going to see a hand hanging out and call the police,” she says. “His truck stopped after that. He came back. I was either hit in the head with a baseball bat or kicked.” At that point her phone rang, she doesn’t know who called and none of her friends will admit to it. “He took the phone. He got back in the cab, drove around. I was blacking in and out. I had no idea how long it was.”
As she learned later, David had driven across state lines to Illinois and stopped at a storage locker. She was lifted up inside the garbage can and dragged into the locker. He left her inside an unheated storage locker in January. “All I remember is boxes and all these things being slid against the floor,” she says. “I had no idea where I was.” Teri says intuition told her to play dead. Then, Teri says David stacked anything he could on top of and around the garbage can. “There was no way I was getting out of there,” she says. She heard the door closed and figured that he had left. Teri was trapped for more than 20 hours in the freezing cold. Doctors estimate Teri only had an hour left to live when she was discovered—her body temperature dropped to 84 degrees.
Det. Chris Schooling was one of the police officers on the case and he is in the audience. Oprah asks how they found Teri. He says there was an amber alert put out. Authorities were tipped off by Teri’s first call, which they interpreted as a woman who had difficulty breathing. The deputies made forced entry into the home and they saw signs of struggle and some blood. Interviews with neighbors escalated suspicion as one reported seeing Teri’s car hitched to David’s truck. An Amber Alert was issued. David was arrested at work right after leaving Teri in the storage locker. Teri eventually lost all of her toes to frostbite. Oprah asks what happened after he was picked up. “He’s picked up, and he’s real matter of fact,” Det. Schmaling says. David was very articulate, they told him that ‘There’s an Amber Alert. Where’s your wife? Where’s your kids?’ and he said, ‘I just dropped my children off at Elmwood Park, Illinois, to a girlfriend’s house’ and hasn’t seen Teri since the Wednesday prior.”
Oprah asks Gavin how women can stay safe if they still have to see their exes because of the children. Gavin says that it is the toughest question. Gavin says all abuse cases are tough, but it’s even more difficult to leave when there are children involved. Seek help, Gavin says. Women looking to leave a violent situation with their children can turn to TheHotline.org, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or contact a local battered women’s shelter. “There is no other way to develop all that you’d have to do,” he says. “It’s like going into the witness protection program. There are so many parts to an escape plan.”
Oprah says that the most important thing to say to women in this situation is that you have to have a plan, and the shelters and hotlines will help you to get a plan. Gavin says that a relationship that is difficult to be in, will also be difficult to exit. That leverage is often used to keep women in by the men. Most often, women are told that they will be killed if they leave. It takes courage and you can not do it alone.
Oprah says that what most people didn’t realise is that the option is you will be killed if you leave or you will die a little every day that you stay. Gavin says that he interviewed a woman who said that she feared she might be killed. Gavin said that he asked what advice the woman would give her teenage daughter, and she said she would tell her daughter to leave. The woman didn’t know what the difference between her and her daughter was- Gavin told her that the teenager has the mother and the mother does not have herself. She had lost herself so much.
Oprah asks Det. Schooling how they found David. After six hours of interrogation, which was basically begging and pleading on the part of the police, David wouldn’t tell them. David asked for a break at 3.30am—and detectives went through his wallet, which was packed with business cards. “He goes back to his cell, wraps himself in a warm blanket and falls fast asleep. Unbeknownst to us, she’s lying there dying,” he says. “So we go back, we take a look at this wallet, we find a business card. That business card is to a storage facility in Wheeling, Illinois.” They were suspicious that a Racine County, Wisconsin man had a storage locker in Illinois. Wow that is good detective work says Oprah. The crowd applaud. Det. Schmaling and his partner, Det. Keith Dobesh, called the number on the card. “The storage facility said he had been there the prior day,” Keith says. “They had gone out to the unit, and they had actually heard her voice inside the unit pleading for help.” Wow, says Oprah. They told the facility to hang up and call 911 and that is when they found her.
Wow, says Oprah. She asks Gavin what we learn from this. As always the message is to listen to your intuition. “We learned that being out of a relationship, particularly if there’s custody and children, you’re not really out of it. You’re just out of it on paper,” he says. “Getting truly out of it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort, and you can’t do it alone.” Oprah asks if you are ever truly out of it when someone is violent. In cases where men don’t let go and persist, there are cases where women relocate to different states. It is like the Witness Protection Program. There are so many extreme answers, and we look for the simple answers. Questions are complicated, not simple, especially when you have kids. “The best thing is identifying these warning signs before you get into relationships and before you get kids, when it’s possible,” he says. Oprah says that she never forgot from Gavin’s book, that we are the only animals who will have that feeling of intuition and walk into the fear. Any other animal without reason or thinking will leave. Gavin says that an antelope does not go and check if a lion is in the bush, if he feels it is the case. That is where it is about instinct says Oprah. It is about intuition and respecting your opinion and recognizing that your opinion is as valid as his opinion, says Gavin. Which is not how it culturally works.
Oprah asks Gavin what Teri could have done to prevent this form happening. Gavin says that earlier in the relationship, it would have be eneasier to end it. “At those times, the men are usually less invested emotionally. It’s much easier to end a relationship early than it is to end it later on because of that emotional investment.” Gavin says, “I often say the first time a woman is beaten, she is a victim. And the second time, she is a volunteer,” he says. “That’s a very controversial thing for some people because they think I’m blaming the victim. But what I’m actually doing is saying, ‘If you don’t recognize that staying in that relationship is a choice, you’ll never recognize that leaving the relationship is a choice.’” Staying in a relationship for a long time is the number one thing that people can do differently. A lot of people believe that they can’t leave. The history of marriage is about property, the woman is the man’s property. Gavin had a case recently where a 24 year old man was having sex with a 17 year old girl. He is going to do 28 years in prison because of that, if she had been 18 there would be no crime, because at 18 you don’t belong to your father anymore- you are your own property. Gavin is not saying that marriage is bad, he likes marriage but he does not own his wife, he does not own his kids. The culture says that she doesn’t have the freedom when she is married, she is led to believe. There was a part of Teri that believed David when he said she was married now to him and that he was in charge. It’s like you are bought and paid for, says Teri. Wow, says Oprah.
David is now serving a life sentence for kidnapping and attempted murder. (The crowd applaud) Though he’s behind bars, Teri says she still fears him. “He’s an angry, bitter person that will never ever change,” she says. He is not trying to be a better person. Teri says he never showed any remorse in court. “The judge even said to him, ‘Would you like to say anything?’ And he said, ‘Not at this time.’ And the judge said, ‘This is your time,’” she says. “He didn’t even have the decency to get up and say, ‘I don’t care about Teri, but I’m sorry what I did to my kids.’” Nothing. Thank you Teri, your story is going to save some people today, says Oprah. Oprah is glad that Teri is alive to tell her story.Oprah says so many women stay because they say that he is doing this to me but he cares about the kids, what does Gavin have to say about that? Gavin says that a relationship that is violent is not good for anyone. As a young girl sees her mother receive those blows, so is she likely to in the future. As a young boy sees the father deliver those blows, so is he likely to. That is what you are teaching your kids. Kids don’t do what you say, they do what you do, says Oprah. Thank you Teri and Mr De Becker, says Oprah. Gavin’s cutting edge MOSAIC assessment is available to everybody watching today for free, it may save a life. Go get this book, the Gif of Fear, it is a must read. Everybody in the audience gets a copy (they cheer). Oprah also says that she sounds like a nag but make your car a no-phone zone. Bye everybody.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
If you say no to anyone in any situation and the other person persists, then you should ask why is that person trying to control you.
When a man says no it is the end of the discussion, when a woman says no it is the beginning of a negotiation.
There’s no role for fear in marriage.
Your instincts are a gift, follow them.
A relationship that is difficult to be in, will also be difficult to exit.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
We are the only animals who will ignore our intuition and walk into the fear: every 4 hours a woman in the US is killed by her partner.