For nearly 200 years the U.S. Supreme Court was made up of men. Then came Sandra Day O’Connor.
The Justice Department estimates that three women and one man are killed in domestic violence homicides every day. Between the years 2000 and 2006, murders resulting from domestic violence claimed 10,600 lives. In response to the murder of a woman north of Boston, a domestic violence crisis center decided to try a new approach to identify women at high-risk. Police, advocates and the courts there now work together to prevent murders by predicting when they might happen. Since then, homicides have dropped significantly. Now communities across the country are trying to replicate their success.
- Rachel Louise Snyder Professor of literature at American University, author of "Fugitive Denim" and the forthcoming novel "What We've Lost Is Nothing."
- Suzanne Dubus CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Newburyport, Mass.
- Jacquelyn Campbell Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
- Bob Wile Detective in the domestic violence/sexual assault unit at the Amesbury Police Dept. in Amesbury, Mass.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The murder of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter by her husband in Amesbury, Mass. in 2002 led to some soul searching in that community. What could the police, the courts and victim advocates have done differently? Here to talk about a new approach to curb domestic homicide, Rachel Louise Snyder, a writer and professor at American University, Suzanne Dubus, CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Massachusetts and Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone, Bob Wile, a detective in Amesbury, Mass. You're invited to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. It's good to have you all with us. Thanks for being here. Good to see you all. Rachel, I want to start with you because you're the author of an article in the July 22 issue of the New York magazine titled "A Raised Hand." Talk about domestic violence, how common it has become and what we are seeing in the way of patterns.
MS. RACHEL LOUISE SNYDERYou know, it was not a subject I was particularly familiar with other than having a sort of lazy acquaintance, as most Americans do. It's bad. It's people -- you know, it shouldn't happen. And Suzanne Dubus and I have a mutual acquaintance. And I was visiting him and she pulled up in the driveway on a Saturday morning and we began talking. And she started to tell me about this program, which she'll tell you about here shortly. But it was a program that really tried to sort of predict domestic violence homicide before it happened in order to prevent it.
MS. RACHEL LOUISE SNYDERAnd my reaction was just absolute shock. It seemed a sort of minority report. You know, it seemed sort of outlandish that you could do that. But then when she told me how it was done, it seemed like one of those moments where you say, why haven't we been doing that the whole time? And so I began to research and I discovered, for example, that it's the seventh leading cause of premature death for American women. That, you know, one in four women -- and of course women are not the only victims, but one in four women will experience some kind of domestic violence in their lives. And it was prevalent.
MS. RACHEL LOUISE SNYDERYou know, the CDC says that we lose $6 billion annually because of domestic violence. That's what taxpayers pay. So it is a huge problem. And I think really, I haven't spoken to anybody who doesn't have a story, a neighbor, a family member, somebody. It touches everyone.
REHMRachel Louise Snyder, she's the author of "A Raised Hand" in the July 22 issue of the New Yorker magazine. Suzanne Dubus, talk about what happened to Dorothy Giunta-Cotter in Amesbury, Mass.
MS. SUZANNE DUBUSSure. In February of 2002, Dorothy came to our offices and she was murdered six weeks later. During that time that she was with us she reported 20 years of really abusive behavior by her husband. And it was largely undocumented because she was very afraid to tell anybody the truth and -- about what was happening. They had two young daughters. One was in high school and one was in middle school. And she was a cheerleading coach. He was -- he installed cable and he was a coach at a local sports team. And, you know, everybody thought of him as, you know, a nice guy. He was a nice guy. And so she was fairly sure that people wouldn't believe her stories.
REHMWhat kind of abuse was she experiencing?
DUBUSWell, even before they were married he was physically abusive. And, you know, she married him years after the abuse had begun because she thought this was a way to help stabilize their family. And he had already convinced her that she would never leave unless he wanted her to leave. And so I think she was trying to figure out how to make peace with that, as ironic as that sounds.
DUBUSAnd so they got married. Shortly after they were married there were lots of incidents where he strangled her with a telephone cord, where he held her hostage in her home for two and three days at a time. It just got worse and worse. At one point he did hold her hostage in their garage and he had a gun with him. And so the threat of imminent violence and potentially lethal violence was present for a long, long time.
REHMShe fled to Maine to escape him. She filed a restraining order. But what happened?
DUBUSSo the tragedy there is that she did have a restraining order. She was in a shelter in Maine. She was trying really hard to resist coming home. And she went to get the restraining order extended and the judge said that they didn't have jurisdiction and refused to grant it. She ended up coming back to Massachusetts. We placed her in a shelter. She had an attorney. She had an advocate. Her kids were scheduled to start receiving some services. We had done some extensive safety planning with her -- with Dorothy and her daughters.
DUBUSThe night that William Cotter killed Dorothy and himself, he knocked on the door. Their youngest daughter who was I believe 11 at the time, opened the door. He rushed past her. The daughter did what we had talked to her about, you know, what we had rehearsed with her. And she fled upstairs. She grabbed the phone. She locked herself in her room and she called 911. And so we have the 911 call and we hear him, William, go in and shoot Dorothy and then kill himself.
DUBUSAnd it was a horrible event for not only Dorothy and their daughters -- you know, their daughters lost both parents -- and -- but for the community, but particularly for our advocates as well. You know, I thought about, we had really great advocates saying, if we can't protect those that we know who are in the greatest danger, what are we doing here?
REHMAnd now turning to you, Bob Wile, you were the detective on that case. What happened after Dorothy was murdered and her husband killed himself?
MR. BOB WILEEverybody went into hiding it seemed. The papers, the new, everyone was looking to blame somebody. And no one knew what to do. It was like everybody shut down and tried to take a step back to try to figure out, you know, what was going to be the next step. And it happened. I mean, we started talking more. We started looking into things. We just started to do more research on how we can stop this from happening because it was a travesty.
REHMDid you confront her husband?
WILEI talked to him on the phone with her in front of me the last time that I saw her in my office. We were together for just about six hours. And he told me he was going to turn himself in for the charges that I had against him, but he was going to turn himself in tomorrow. And we were actively looking for him also. And it wasn't until, you know, a while after that is when he finally turned himself in with his attorney.
REHMHe turned himself in with his attorney but it just kept on.
WILEUnfortunately, it did. It's a mindset of someone who just needs that power and control to survive over somebody. It's hard for them to stop. Sometimes they can't stop.
REHMAnd Suzanna, I know you and the entire community took that death personally.
DUBUSYes, we did. I remember standing in the church -- there was a community service for her and I remember standing in the church and looking out at the very full pews. And there was media there and I remember saying, she will not have died in vain. And I didn't have one iota of an instinct about what that meant. All I knew is that we had to work smarter and work harder. But I didn't know what that was because it felt -- you know, at that point it felt like everybody was really doing their job and they were doing it as well as we could.
DUBUSAnd so it was, you know, a bit of a mystery about what we were going to do. And it was shortly thereafter Kelly Dunne, our chief of operations, went to see Dr. Campbell at a conference and heard all about her work.
REHMAnd Jacquelyn Campbell of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, let's bring you into the conversation. You are widely recognized as one of the country's leading experts on domestic homicide. What was the talk you were giving?
DR. JACQUELYN CAMPBELLOne of the talks that I give when I speak about domestic violence is around risk of homicide. I developed the danger assessment back in 1986 as the first copyright. I worked on it in the '80s spurred on by both A. knowing someone personally who got killed by her boyfriend and also my work in domestic violence homicide, my research. And when I talk to abused women in shelters -- I did support group for many, many years -- they would sometimes tell me their story and I would think, oh that sounds terribly dangerous. It sounds much like some of these homicide cases that I had reviewed, but yet I'm more scared than she is.
DR. JACQUELYN CAMPBELLAnd that's one of the realities that women, although like this case in Massachusetts, she knew at some level she was at risk to be killed. She was very afraid of that. Oftentimes abused women underestimate their risk, or we as a system are not sure the height of their danger.
REHMJacquelyn Campbell, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. We'll talk about the kinds of systems that have been developed to highlight those at risk. Short break, right back.
REHMAnd just before the break, Jacqueline Campbell, you were talking about the kind of profile you were trying to develop to help people understand not only the risks but how that risk might be diminished and those people who are in danger somehow protected.
CAMPBELLWell, what I started doing is I developed the danger assessment and with the purpose to help abused women more accurately determine their level of danger, so that they would have that information along with their other, you know, decision points, their other information.
REHMTell me what went into that.
CAMPBELLSo I developed it first with the homicide data, my first homicide study, and then talking to abused women. And it's interesting given this case that involved a prior strangulation that it was abused women who told me one of the things that scared them the most is when they were strangled, although they use the choking oftentimes, to unconsciousness by an abuser. Sot that was added to the danger assessment.
CAMPBELLAnd then I tested it in a national study to see not only which were the most important risk factors but how much we should weight them. For instance, should we weight a being threatened with a gun? How much should that be weighted in comparison to the threats to kill or the man threatening to kill himself?
REHMOr even a good push against the wall.
CAMPBELLRight. Exactly. And the majority by far, 72 percent in our data, of women who are killed by a partner or ex-partner have been physically assaulted beforehand. Now the risk of homicide is when those physical assaults get worse over time, when they get more frequent over time and when they escalate to things like strangulation, to things like forced sex or rape. That's when it gets dangerous.
REHMNow, Detective Wile, let me bring you in on this. To what extent would a person who has been threatened in ways Jacqueline has just describe come to you as a detective and say I'm scared, I need help, I need protection?
WILEUsually that starts with the frontline offices that respond to the calls. The way that the person is treated makes my job easier when I come in and I have the ability to sit and talk to them for a while. What I do is we have our risk assessment tool that we use on scene and that I will also do when they're sitting in the office with me. And, you know, we talk about the dangers of staying in relationships and getting and everything that's involved in it.
WILEAnd it's no easy -- it's not just you take a small step and it's done. There's a lot that needs to be done, there's a lot of safety planning they need a lot of help with, speaking to somebody, which is why having the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center so close to me, it's amazing how much it's helped. I mean, I will at times walk people right down and bring them right in so that the process gets started.
REHMAll right. And I want to mention that the danger assessment tool is available online at www.dangerassessment.org. And of course it talks about the risks that perhaps you may be feeling in your own home or seeing in someone else. Suzanne talk about the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center and how that weighs in here.
DUBUSWell, it's a really important factor because one of the protected factors that Jackie uncovered in her work was victims accessing services. And so we've worked for a long time to make sure that we have a variety of really kind of professional services. We have attorneys on staff and we have clinicians who are trained in trauma to work with children. And we've got great support groups.
DUBUSAnd so we feel like our responsibility is to be responsive to the needs of victims, whether they're high danger or low danger, whether they're just leaving the relationship or they're coming back five years later because their kids are starting to show some signs of trauma. And without those kind of support services, only half of the job is being done. And that's the beauty of the High Risk Team Model is that we are focusing -- while our criminal justice partners and courts are focusing on containing the offender, we are focusing on really helping survivors and their children build back up.
REHMAnd, Rachel, doesn't the risk level even go up when you have a woman or man who feels abused trying to leave the home?
SNYDERThat's one of the amazing things about the research, research largely done by Dr. Campbell. I should mention that they put a timeline on these cases and realized that there are moments when the danger is much, much higher. So, as you say, when a victim tries to leave, that's one of the big ones. And we saw in the Dorothy Giunta-Cotter case. The first time she tried to leave, she told him, she told William, I'm leaving you. I can't take this anymore.
SNYDERAnd his response was to up the violence. In the world of domestic violence advocacy, they call it retribution violence. So the next time she tries to leave, she doesn't tell him, she just leaves. And that's...
REHMAnd she takes her children with her.
SNYDERNo. She -- yes, she took her children with her, but then she had a job, so she had to go to work. And he went to her job, her children were in daycare. He went to her job and kidnapped her, held her hostage overnight in a warehouse. She couldn't pick up her children from daycare. And so they had to call the emergency number at the daycare and no one knew where she was. And he held her there overnight in this warehouse.
SNYDERSo, what they discovered is that for the first 90 days after a change in circumstances, an abuser, you know, loses her job or his job or a victim tries to leave or there's a new baby, any of these, the danger levels are very high for 90 days, remain high for about a year and then they drop off precipitously. Dr. Campbell, you might want to even add to that.
REHMTell me why the arrival of a baby in the house would up the risk factor.
CAMPBELLThat may sometimes trigger more abuse in a highly jealous abuser. One of the risk factors for that would be if he actually hit her during pregnancy, that this is one of the risk factors for homicide. And we now find in this country that homicide is the leading cause of maternal mortality of death to women while they're pregnant or immediately after a baby is born. Now, that's where it's been looked at carefully.
CAMPBELLLike in the state of Maryland, we've looked at all the Maryland records around that. And the majority of those homicides were indeed domestic violence homicides. So part of the reason for that is other causes of maternal mortality have gone down precipitously. We do a much better job in this country of keeping women safe through childbirth. But the homicide remains an issue.
REHMNow, Suzanne, what could this woman have done? She tried to leave. She tried to go to a shelter. She tried to move to another state. What else could she have done?
DUBUSWell, it's the perfect question because at the time she had done everything that we had told her she could do to keep herself safe. And when she decided to move back to Massachusetts, she made a stand and she said, if he's going to kill me, he's going to kill me in my own home. I'm done running. Their daughter was about to graduate from high school. She wanted her daughter to have that experience.
DUBUSAnd their kids were suffering. They were, you know, they weren't seeing their dad. They weren't in school. They weren't around their friends. They -- so the question to ask after Dorothy's murder was, if shelter is not an option because a woman doesn't want to go to a shelter or can't go...
DUBUSBecause she's going to lose her job, because, you know, she loses all of her supports. So she's virtually, you know, got her stuff in a garbage bag, getting off of a bus, holding her kids' hands, figured out, you know, so these are the people I'm going to live with for the next few months and what's going to happen to my life. And so I think there's, you know, there are some realistic reasons why people are really afraid to go into shelter or feel like they can't.
DUBUSAnd on the other hand, I do want to stress that shelter is a life-saving strategy for thousands of victims all the time.
REHMBut is it the only one in a situation like this, Jacqueline?
CAMPBELLWell, what we're learning and what we're trying to do in this new domestic violence, homicide prevention initiative is coordinate the system. So it's not only what she should she do.
CAMPBELLBut should we do as a coordinated system to help make her safer.
REHMThe police, the shelters.
CAMPBELLWorking together on these very high risk cases so that both the system and what Jeanne Geiger has done is develop this High Risk Team Model that helps manage the high danger that the abuser presents.
DUBUSWell, and I'm going to invite Detective Wile to jump in if he wants to say anything. But really the way that we do it is our law enforcement partners, the courts, probation, batter's intervention, they work in tandem to monitor his behavior. It could be increased drive bys by the victim's home.
REHMWhy not just put him in jail?
DUBUSIt just doesn't work that way.
REHMI mean, if a man or a woman has threatened his or her spouse over and over and over again, choking, hitting, burning, pushing, why isn't that an arrestable offense, Bob Wile?
WILEIt is and it does happen. The unfortunate part is, you know, in the mindset of someone who's been abused for so long, you know, they want the abuse to stop. It's not always time. There are some good times in there. They do love the person that's doing this to them. I completely understand that I'm sure everybody sitting there with you completely understands it also. But for them just to walk away, it's hard because they look at it as they're letting themselves down, their families down. And they just want to be loved.
REHMRachel, I know you want to comment.
SNYDERI wanted to just say. Also, different states have different laws around what domestic violence is and what it's constituted. Sometimes it's misdemeanor, sometimes it's felonies. But if it's a misdemeanor, they may serve three months, six months, one month, one year.
REHMAnd then they're back.
SNYDERAnd then they're back. And you have to consider that victims are often economically dependable on those abusers. You know, Bob Wile can speak to how dangerous it is for police officers on domestic violence calls or when they show up and a victim starts screaming at the police. You know, get out of here, I didn't call you. I didn't call you. Which happens a lot.
WILEThat happens a lot.
SNYDERBecause they know that they have to live with that abuser when the police leave. They have to do it. It's a form of self-protection. So they don't, you know, there are systems in place, but, you know, they vary state by state and case by case.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Suzanne?
DUBUSI wanted to chime in here as well. So you asked why people can't be -- why can they just be arrested? And sometimes they can, sometimes some of those behaviors are criminal behaviors and they can be arrested. The beauty of risk assessment is it allows us to present to the court the context of the crimes. It's not about the one time that he shoved her against the wall, which after years of abuse, the victim may not seem to the system very sympathetic.
DUBUSShe can seem like she's making a big deal out of nothing. You know, geez, we've all done something like that. But in the context, when you really gather the information about what's happening throughout the relationship and is the violence or the abuse escalating and what kinds of thing -- what's new behavior. That's when we can present to the court a more -- a true case, that they could actually do something about.
REHMSo communication among all of you means that there's more support for the abused victim and that that can be presented to the court simultaneously. All right, I want to open the phones here. There is a question running through my callers. From Chapel Hill, NC, Paul, you're on the air. Paul?
REHMYes, go right ahead, sir.
PAULI just wanted to bring up for your panel kind of the overuse of tools like the DVPO by divorce attorneys in terms of child custody.
REHMSir, I'm not sure I understand the DVPO.
PAULOh, I'm sorry. Domestic violence protection orders. It used to be -- I'm from a -- I'm a single father from an abusive relationship, but I escaped. And the claims of abuse, I understand that women are victims of abuse far more than men, but men have very difficult time proving abuse especially in the cases where they're maybe defending themselves from a violent spouse.
REHMAnd are you saying that you were a victim of abuse and are now a single father with custody of your children?
PAULAbsolutely. But it was a very difficult battle because a restraining order was used to keep me away from my children because there was a claim of abuse against me, which is a very simple claim to make from a mother, in my experience.
REHMRachel, do you want to comment?
SNYDERWell, you know, that is -- I don't think that that is overlooked, the fact that men are the victims of abuse generally about 25 percent of the time, I think. Although 85 percent of the homicide victims are women. I know the High Risk Team, for example, has had one case of a man. And I think there is, you know, that falls into this sort of cultural stereotype that we hold. Paul has an unfortunate situation, but I think that is a case where it's important to know the timeline.
SNYDERIt's important to know the history and the context. It's not always physical abuse, it's power and control. And certainly women are just as capable as men. I know that -- I believe Dr. Campbell has some research on that too, so you may want to jump in.
CAMPBELLWell basically, I was just going to say the same thing that when -- the domestic violence homicides happen far more often to women than they do to men. And even when men are killed, there's been domestic violence against the female in about 75 percent of the cases. So although what Paul says happens and it's absolutely and orders of protection sometimes are used back and forth in custody disputes, it does happen far less often.
CAMPBELLBut we need to provide services to men also.
REHMJacqueline Campbell, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Short break. More of your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd here's our first email from anonymous. She says, "I grew up in a domestic abuse household. Everyone in our town knew what was going on. My father was a police officer in the county that we lived. So when my mother would call the police they wouldn't do anything. They were all people he worked with. My mom is still to this day terrified of him after 20 years. My question is what are the police doing about other police who abuse their wives and family?" Bob Wile.
WILEWe're holding them accountable. I'm sorry that people had to go through something like that, but -- and even with training the young officers when they come on the job is, you know, if it's happening, you see it happening or you know it's happening you've got to do something to stop it. If you go to a call where it is a police officer don't put your job on the line for someone who's doing something like that.
WILEI mean it's about you and your family. And not only that, but you got to keep the victim safe. It's just -- I like to think that those days are over and everyone's doing what they need to do in order to make that start because it's just -- not only is it bad for the victim, but it gives -- it gives the police a bad name. And if you can't trust the police then you're never going to be able to get help.
REHMLet's go back to the phones unless you want to make a comment, Rachel.
SNYDERI was just going to add to that that this is where the high-risk team that the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center has created is really helpful because it gives alternatives to victims. There are lots and lots of people who will have eyes on the case not, you know, it's not just the police, the crisis center, the district attorneys. He may be required to go through a batterer's intervention which is, in most cases, nearly a year long program.
SNYDERSo there are other possibilities, hopefully, that are available.
REHMYou wrote in the New Yorker story about a dangerous hearing, dangerousness hearing. Describe what happened.
SNYDERWell, that is -- that is something that is unique in Massachusetts. And that was sort of the bane of my research when I was reporting this story. I thought that I was having nightmares about, you know, the accuracy and so the dangerousness hearing is a hearing specifically for determining level of dangerousness.
SNYDERMost often when someone is arrested regardless of what they're arrested for they have a bail hearing. And so the dangerousness hearing is a bail statute in Massachusetts that determines if someone is dangerous enough, and that's proven, they can be held pretrial by, you know, prison, by a psychiatric unit if they have mental health issues or whatever. You know, it's controversial because you're holding somebody before they've been found guilty of a crime. I mean, you know, I don't want to shy away from the controversy of what it is, but it also is -- been proved to be very useful with the high-risk team and with cases that they've had in Massachusetts. Suzanne, you might want to talk a little bit about how you use it.
DUBUSYeah, and the way that it's useful is, you know, what we know is that when the victim comes forth in an extremely dangerous case like Dorothy's was the risk of violence increases. So if we can contain his actions and his access to the victim during that time, that immediate, you know, that immediate impulse that he has is contained. And she is able to -- he or she is able to get the services they need, the support they need. You know, figure out if they're going to be moving. Are they taking their kids out of school? You know, what are her next steps? And it gives her the time and the place to just stabilize and begin to formulate a plan.
REHMAll right, to Toledo, Ohio, hi, there, Kristy.
KRISTYHi, Diane. I love your show.
KRISTYThis is such an important topic.
REHMIt is indeed.
KRISTYThe reason I was calling was I grew up in a home where my father was financially controlling. My mother had a high school degree, minimum wage job. She could never get any access to the main family funds. He was also emotional abusive, as well, and borderline physical abuse. This went on for 30 years. We finally, last year, were able to remove my mom from the marriage on her -- with her help, but the issue we continually encountered was because my father made so much money and she had no access to this. She could not get legal aid. She could not get any sort of public help from any organization because she was considered upper middle class, even though she, herself, did not have access to any of that money.
REHMGosh. What do you make of that, Suzanne?
DUBUSYou know, I'm shaking my head because...
REHMYou've seen it.
DUBUSOver and over and over. It's why early on our organization decided not to -- we had a little bit of money and so were we going to build a shelter and have a couple of beds or were we going to hire an attorney. And we went with the attorney because we know that it is one of the most critical services and that women very often are blocked from the financial resources or are included in the financial resources that block her access to services. So it's terrible that that's happened and I think it's probably one of the least funded services for victims of domestic violence.
REHMSo, Jacquelyn, what recourse does Kristy's mother have?
CAMPBELLWell, she can start with the National Domestic Violence hotline, which is 1-800-799-SAFE. And they will help refer her to domestic violence services in their locale. And hopefully there will either be attorney services that -- or there -- that shelter will know attorneys who do pro bono work for domestic violence victims who are -- it's incredibly important that the attorney that is engaged knows about domestic violence, knows all these issues.
CAMPBELLOtherwise they're not going to be very helpful.
CAMPBELLSo that's a place she could start.
REHMTo David in Oklahoma City, you're on the air.
DAVIDDiane, you're a personal hero of mine and NPR is such a national treasure. I'd like to thank the panel for this important topic. I just wanted to say I've worked in social services for a quarter century and worked closely with victims of abuse and domestic violence. So it's an issue close to my heart. I just had a quick comment. I recently went through a training on the subject and one of the articles, I wish I could cite it, but I can't, but one of the articles we read for the class mentioned that in the United States there are three times as many animal shelters as there are domestic violence shelters.
REHMSomehow I'm not surprised. Somehow I'm not surprised. Suzanne, you yourself were a victim of abuse. Why is it that women stay with their abusers?
DUBUSLots of reasons and some of them have already been talked about, but, you know, for me, I had the vision of the happily ever after. I was in my 20's and I just kept thinking -- and I believed the messages he gave me, which was I was saying things wrong or I was doing things wrong or I looked wrong, but everything was my fault. And I believed it because it has this kind of ladder. It's the scaffolding effect, you know.
DUBUSAnd so by the time it occurred to me that the way I was being treated was abusive I felt so low I wasn't sure I could do anything about it. That's one reason. And so it's really -- you have to kind of pierce a victim's belief about themselves and help support them in speaking the truth and reaching out to other people and that there are free and accessible services available to them.
REHMAnd, Rachel, you interviewed a number of batterers and you found them surprisingly charming and interesting.
SNYDERI have to say that was -- I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts with an amazing group called Emerge and I walked in there and thought I would go out for a beer with any of you guys. I mean they were funny, charming, self effacing and David Adams who started the country's first batterers intervention group and was running the group that I sat in told me later, you know, that is a hallmark of abuse.
SNYDERPeople confuse domestic violence with anger management. In fact, it's not -- these are not abusers who are angry at the world. They are oftentimes very charming people, very smart and they are -- it's an issue of power, control and coercion about one specific person. And that's why you see news articles all the time about, you know, a domestic violence...
REHMPeople in high places.
SNYDERSure. Domestic violence homicide where the neighbors come out and say, gosh, he seemed so charming. I had no idea.
REHMYeah. And he was holding such a high government position. Jacquelyn, you and I remember the former Securities and Exchange Commission head who had abused and controlled his wife for years.
CAMPBELLAnd she was so incredibly brave to come forward in that, sort of, public way -- very public way -- and really put a face on the abuse that happens to middle class, resource enhanced women versus poor women. It also happens a lot to poor women and we need to not forget them, but, yes, that was a really good example. And really important, though, is although women oftentimes stay at first because of hoping for forever after because of being extremely terrified of him that the majority of abused women do eventually leave and/or manage to make the violence end. It just takes a while. It takes a while for any of us to give up on the most important relationship in our lives.
REHMYou know I find myself wondering -- you were talking about all this communication. When there had been instances of battering and the wife and the children are still in the home has there been efforts to bring in the batterer, the wife, the children, the therapist and the police in one group? Has that been done, Jacquelyn?
CAMPBELLThat's usually not done.
CAMPBELLBecause of the danger to the woman, because, like, if she says, yes, he hit me, yes, he strangled, yes, he raped me when they end up back at home, you know, it's her that there's going to be violence toward and that can be incredibly dangerous to her so even the notion of couple counseling or family therapy kind of thing is generally contraindicated in abusive relationships because of the danger to the female partner.
REHMAll right, to Toby in Baltimore, Md. you're on the air.
TOBYHi, thank you. I'm Toby Drews. I wrote the "Getting Them Sober" books and for 30 years I counseled this kind of women. I grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother who was homicidal so I know how terrifying it is, but I have a question and I'm a liberal so it's a weird question for a liberal, OK, but for women who fear -- I mean -- and I don't mean all women, but in specific cases do you find that when they're separated and running from them and they have their own place that at times it's best for them to have a gun and know how to judiciously use it?
SNYDERI'm also a liberal so I may be the wrong person to ask about this because I am married to a former British commando who taught me how to shoot with AK47, M16's and he adamantly, adamantly anti-gun in the home for the reasons that you, I'm sure, can articulate.
CAMPBELLYeah, so we have data from our homicide study that the woman having a gun neither increases nor decreases her risk of being killed. And, however, the vast majority of men who kill their partners 74 percent were gun owners before the time of the homicide. So part of the risk management is making sure that abusers do not have access to guns.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Steve in Canton, Ohio. Hi there, Steve.
STEVEHi, thanks for having me on.
STEVEI love your show.
STEVEI have worked as a police officer in the State of Ohio and we have a law here that says if an officer, you know, has reasonable cause to believe that domestic violence occurred we are mandated to make an arrest. And if we do not we have to document why and if the reason is not -- is not a good reason we could be held personally liable. So I'm not sure how those laws are played out across the country, but it seems to work well here.
REHMAll right, now I want Bob Wile to talk directly with you, Steve. Bob Wile what do you make of that approach?
WILESteve, that's the same way that things are done here. If you have probable cause to believe that there has been some sort of violence when you go on a call you shall make an arrest. And that -- we've used that for a long time and we just -- we really run it home to everybody all the time that if you go in, if you believe something's happened by what you've been told and you can put the pieces of the puzzle together to show that absolutely you make an arrest.
STEVEGreat, yeah, because I think Minneapolis P.D. had a study done where they actually showed that arresting the offender actually did decrease the number of incidence.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling and one last call from Peter in Leesburg, Va. hi there.
PETERHi, Diane, I just wanted to thank you guys for talking about this issue. I'm actually the son of Charlotte Fedders, the person you mentioned who was abused by her husband who was the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (unintelligible). I'd just like to thank you for talking about this issue and my mom has five grown sons and none of us are abusing our wives and this is an important subject that I'm just really proud that you guys are talking and I'm proud of my mom for starting it or helping to start it many years ago.
REHMIndeed she did, Peter. She was on my program many, many years ago. Tell me how she is.
PETERShe's doing good. She's got some great grandkids, two of my own and she's happy and loving, you know, her life. And we just actually celebrated her 70th birthday at (unintelligible) in Maryland.
REHMI'm so glad. Please send her my very best wishes.
PETERI will. Thank you.
REHMOK, thanks a lot. That was such a moving time to have her on this program and to have her talk about what had happened, but going forward what do you say, Suzanne, to someone in the home who's being abused now?
DUBUSI say you're not alone. I say that there are hundreds of domestic violence organizations across the country that are waiting to help. And I'd like to repeat the national hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.
REHMAnd I want to thank you all. Suzanne Dubus, CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, Rachel Louise Snyder of American University, author of "A Raised Hand" in the July 22nd issue of The New Yorker Magazine. Jacquelyn Campbell, professor of nursing at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Bob Wile, a detective with the domestic violence/sexual assault unit in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Thank you all. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.