Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker is a powerful book that examines the intuitive nature in all of us. He systematically explores the details of prediction and survival skills. Gavin De Becker discusses pre-incident indicators (PINs) of violence. It is an amazing book. The words written across the cover are “This book can save your life.” I am sure this book has helped many people and I encourage all to read it.

On a personal note, this book was very difficult for me to read. I had to put it aside a few times before I was able to finish. Our dojo was touched by violence in the most horrific way possible. There are two framed photographs on the dojo wall. The first photo is of an eight-year-old girl (J) wearing a karate gi. She is standing in the back yard of the dojo. The grass is green and the wind is blowing her hair. She is smiling. The second photo is of a ten-year-old boy (V). He is wearing a gi striking his best karate pose. He looks shy and slightly awkward.

V and J loved karate. They never missed a class and trained with us for four years. V and J were brought to class by their parents who would sit and watch each class. One day, V and J’s mother came into the dojo holding a PFA (Protection from Abuse) against her husband. She left her husband and took the kids. She was instructed to show a copy to everyone who routinely saw the children. Within a week of the PFA, the husband took her to court and was granted unsupervised visitation.

We were waiting for V and J to arrive at a local tournament. They never showed up that Sunday morning in March 2000. On his first unsupervised visitation, the husband drugged the children, tucked them into bed and suffocated them. He then killed himself. As I read The Gift of Fear, I could not help thinking of V and J. I think about V and J’s mother and cannot imagine how hard it must be to go on without her children. I do not think I will ever be able to get the image of V and J lying side by side in their joint coffin out of my mind.

The man that killed V and J was the person that was supposed to protect them and keep them from harm. This tragedy haunts the dojo to this day.


John Vesia said...

Those restraining orders sometimes end up to be a death knell, usually just for the spouse or partner. What a tragic ending. And what tangible protection do these court orders really provide? In the end it's just a piece of paper.

Perpetual Beginner said...

When people ask why abused women don't leave, I want to ask them why they never read the papers. It's exactly when they leave that they or their children are most likely to be killed.

What a horrible tragedy. I can't imagine life without my two boys.

Steve said...

Wow, what a heart-wrenching story. But I think the restraining order could have been all this woman had. It may have been worse to continue to allow what was going on before it. She took action. I wouldn't fault anyone for that. I would fault the government system that failed her and allowed the husband to have unfettered access to the kids.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the book reco. I am a great believer in following your intuition. A terrible story about those two poor innocent children. There is nothing that can undo the horrible tradegy that has been done but it occurs to me when you say that it "haunts the dojo to this day" that perhaps doing something positive might help clear out some of that negativity and horror that the father left behind.

I hope you do not mind if I make the suggestion that the school could offer annual scholarships to the dojo in these children's name to so that some other kids who might not otherwise be able to afford lessons in the martial arts might get the opportunity to do so. The current students could even contribute towards intuition if they wished to help defray the cost. Think of how meaningful it would be to this poor mother if she knew something her children loved to do was being carried on in their honor. If this is not acceptable at your school, doing a fundraiser and donating the proceeds to an appropriate charity also might be something that you would find helped to replace some of those sad feelings with some more positive ones knowing you helped other kids like J and V.

I do believe that even in the worst of tragedies, we can find some good, some growth, something positive even if we ourselves must plant those seeds to make it happen.

Happy New Year to you.

Michele said...

John: Gavin de Becker devotes several pages to TRO's and their effectiveness. He details when they seem to be effective and when they are not. Unfortunately, the TRO may give the person a false sense of safety. You are right that "in the end it's just a piece of paper".

PB: Ever since I read the book, V and J have been on my mind. There is a statistic in the book that states that out of all the women who are killed by their husband...75% are committed after the woman has left.

Steve: She was brave to take action. I agree that the system failed her. Her husband hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to plead his custody/visitation case. The PFA was overturned and visitation was granted.

Dragonfly: Thank you for your comments. A scholarship to the dojo is a great idea.

My husband organized three tournaments in their honor. Scholarships were given to a local high school in their name. The martial arts community was extremely supportive.

John Lyons-Sensei Universal Goju Karate School said...

If you get a chance read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink". He discusses fear and how it relates to decisions we make.

I've added you to my blogs list. This is a really nice forum. Great writing and great comments. Thanks for the reply.


Michele said...

John Lyons - Thanks for visiting my blog and for the book suggestion. I will add it to my reading list.