Criminal profiler Pat Brown has made it her life's work to catch the perpetraters of violent crimes. In her latest book, "How to Save Your Daughter's Life," she has turned her attention to helping prevent acts of violence. Read an excerpt.
Whenever young women meet tragic ends — a jogger who is raped and murdered by a serial killer, a teenager who is killed by her boyfriend after she breaks up with him, a high school girl who gets beat up by a group of girls she thought were her friends, or a series of prostitutes go missing after advertising on Craigslist — my phone starts ringing. I spend the next few days on The Today Show, The Early Show, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Inside Edition, FOX and Friends, Dr. Drew, or HLN’s Prime News talking about what kind of person would commit such a horrendous crime. I often discuss how the poor woman or girl ended up a victim and give advice to other females on how to avoid a similar situation. I hope to save lives by sharing some thoughts that maybe haven’t occurred to some of the viewers or that might remind them of certain behaviors or choices that can put them in harm’s way.
Usually after the shows, I get e-mails from many people thanking me for sharing information that can keep them or their loved ones from harm. Here are two e-mails I received following my July 2011 appearance on The Today Show when I spoke of the brutal murder of high school graduate Lauren Astley by her ex-boyfriend:
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I just saw you on The Today Show speaking about a recent tragedy involving the violent murder of a recent high school graduate by, police believe, her boyfriend.
In that interview you spoke directly to girls who have recently broken up with their partner, advising that if that partner requests a meeting post-breakup that it not be done privately because the partner is counting on the fact that she’s nice and will agree to meet.
I can’t agree with you enough!
I fear however that we — in particular women — don’t actually teach our girls that it’s okay to refuse that “one last time” or that it’s Okay and likely wise to break up in a public place or over the phone even, when one’s partner exhibits dangerous traits.
Moreover, we don’t even do a good job of teaching our girls how, in the depths of teenage love, to spot the subtle signs that scream “danger.” Nor do we teach them how to put words to those gut instincts that tell us something is amiss with our partner and relationship, or, simply, that we deserve better than what we’ve been experiencing in the relationship at hand. We do, however, do a great job of teaching them that it’s important to be nice, understanding, caring, and nurturing without also teaching them to be wise and deeply instinctual, as though the former and latter attributes are mutually exclusive.
So thank you for your very frank statement. It is my sincere hope, however, that you are able to carry that statement widely to girls and women everywhere as I truly believe we are needlessly losing our sisters to the false idea that our gender requires us to be “nice” and “nurturing” in all circumstances.
Best regards, Aurora Vasquez
Dear Ms. Brown,
Thank you for being the only voice [I hear] in the media calling domestic and dating violence what it is: power and control. Anchors and interviewers insist on trying to spin the “he just snapped” angle . . . “he was a great kid, great guy, wonderful man . . . what caused him to snap all of a sudden?”
You made that point this morning on The Today Show, countering the therapist’s comments and speaking directly to girls and women. Giving them information that could save their lives.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU . . .
Sincerely, Tina Tucker
Lincoln County Community Educator, New Hope for Women, P.O. Box A, Rockland, ME 04841-0733
And then I get hate mail from angry people claiming I am blaming the victim. They think I am saying it is the woman’s fault for what happened. They truly feel I am implying the victim deserved what she got and that I am taking away the responsibility from the perpetrator. They write that the victim is not at fault in any way, no matter what she did or where she chose to go or with whom she had a relationship at the time.
Well, I agree that the perpetrator is entirely to blame for committing the crime. Violent crime is illegal, inhumane, and immoral. And it is true no one deserves to be murdered, even if she was out selling her body on the street or was buying drugs in a bad part of town or was cheating on her boyfriend with his brother. But there are behaviors victims engage in that may bring them into harm’s way, and it’s terribly important to be honest about this; how else can we save women’s lives, especially our daughters’ lives, if we refuse to recognize or admit that there are things they might do that will get them raped or murdered? Young people need to hear the message loud and clear—and so do their parents. After years on the front lines profiling criminals, I know that parents and their daughters need specific facts about how one becomes a victim, and they need guidance to help avoid such a fate.
To put it bluntly, talking about the perpetrator may be fascinating and educational, and we can rail about changing the system, locking these monsters up, and preventing them from being created in the first place, but it isn’t going to do much to save your daughter’s life today. It is like this: Suppose a young girl goes out on the African plain alone for a walk in nature. She gets eaten by a lion. Should I speak about how bad the lion is? How he shouldn’t have eaten the girl? Should I go talk to that lion and the other lions and tell them not to eat people? Are those lions going to pay me any mind?
Murderous psychopaths, like lions, don’t care what I have to say. I can’t stop them or teach them to do right. I can’t stop a lion. I can’t stop an inhumane human. Unless I can lock them all up right now (that is, if I even knew which ones were lions or about to become lions), some girl, somewhere, is at risk. That girl might be your daughter. I can’t make quick changes to get rid of all psychopaths and predators out there, but I can educate mothers and fathers on lion behavior and lion territory and help them help their daughters avoid these beasts and defend themselves, if they must.
In this book, I hope to help you understand the world of psychopaths and criminals: how they think, where they lurk, and how they lure and grab victims. Then you can make your daughter’s world safer and teach her how to avoid those exact situations in which she might end up being harmed by a psychopath or someone who does not have her well-being as his or her concern. I will discuss what kinds of choices and defenses will protect her and which ones are dangerous. Each chapter in this book also has suggestions for the more willful child, and at the end of the chapter is a “Letter to My Daughter” that even a defiant daughter may benefit from.
I urge you as you read this book to recognize that I am not trying to insult you or your daughter in any way by talking about parenting decisions and teenage behaviors. We do the best we can with what we know, and kids will be kids and that is why they need parents. The fact that you are reading this book shows me you care about your daughter and you know it is a rather scary world we live in. Let’s make it safer for her.
Excerpted from "How to Save Your Daughter's Life" by Pat Brown. Copyright © 2012 by Pat Brown. Excerpted by permission of HCI. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive