Gavin de Becker has made a career by evaluating threats. In his national bestselling book The Gift of Fear, he discusses the elements of prediction with the most valuable factor being pre-incident indicators (PINs). PINs are detectable warning signs that will reliably occur before the outcome being predicted. De Becker believes spousal homicide is the single most predictable serious crime in America.
In the chapter “Intimate Enemies,” de Becker outlines thirty PINs associated with spousal violence and murder:
- The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
- At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing in the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.
- He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
- He is verbally abusive.
- He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.
- He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.).
- He has battered in prior relationships.
- He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse affects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
- He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy.”).
- His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery).
- There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things).
- He uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of his wife/partner.
- He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a “tight leash,” requires her to account for her time.
- He refuses to accept rejection.
- He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life,” “always,” “no matter what.”
- He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.
- He minimizes incidents of abuse.
- He spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about his wife/partner and derives much of his identity from being her husband, lover, etc.
- He tries to enlist his wife’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
- He has inappropriately surveilled or followed his wife/partner.
- He believes others are out to get him. He believes that those around his wife/partner dislike him and encourage her to leave.
- He resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.
- He identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction, or history. He characterizes the violence of others as justified.
- He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry, or depressed.
- He consistently blames others for problems of his own making; he refuses to take responsibility for the results of his actions.
- He refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.
- Weapons are a substantial part of his persona; he has a gun or he talks about, jokes about, reads about, or collects weapons.
- He uses “male privilege” as a justification for his conduct (treats her like a servant, makes all the big decisions, acts like the “master of the house”).
- He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.
- His wife/partner fears he will injure or kill her. She has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of her death (e.g., designating someone to care for children).
De Becker says, “They won’t all be present in every case, but if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern.” His advice to a woman who thinks she might be killed by an intimate partner is: “Seek and apply strategies that make you unavailable to your pursuer. If you really believe you are at risk, battered women’s shelters provide the best way to be safe.”
De Becker has also made his groundbreaking computer-assisted method for threat assessment, MOSAIC, available online.