It’s been used by the U.S. Supreme Court police to assess threats against Justices, by the U.S. Capitol Police to assess threats against members of Congress and by police protecting governors of 11 states. Now, Gift of Fear author and renowned security issues specialist Gavin de Becker has made his threat assessment tool, MOSAIC, available online to the public at no charge. Turns out, its widest use has been in assessing cases of domestic violence.
That’s according to retired Los Angeles Police Department police captain and senior advisor for Gavin de Becker & Associates, Bob Martin. De Becker designed MOSAIC some 30 years ago, says Martin, mostly to evaluate threats made to public figures. Now that it can be accessed online, Martin says domestic violence advocates and survivors alike are finding it useful in helping assess possibly lethal situations.
Using a series of questions, each weighed by MOSAIC in relation to their importance (for instance, someone having access to a gun is weighed more heavily than someone’s age, explains Martin), the tool then assesses how similar a situation is to other situations that have gotten worse. It’s not profiling a person, de Becker stresses on his website; it’s profiling a situation.
Reading the Signs
The detailed report compiled immediately after completing the assessment tells survivors, advocates or law enforcement how a survivor’s situation compares to others like it, rating it on a scale of 1 to 10. When DomesticShelters.org filled out a test evaluation using answers a domestic abuse survivor might give, the assessment was a six.
“ Based upon the information you have provided … this situation appears most similar to cases that have worsened and escalated. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being assigned to situations that have most of the factors experts associate with escalation), this situation is a 6. Some similar cases have escalated to include worsening abuse and substantial violence.”
Creators emphasize that the assessment score doesn’t indicate whether a survivor should necessarily stay or go. “ It is not the purpose of this report to tell you what you should or should not do in your life. Rather, the purpose is to organize your own information in a way that helps you see and evaluate the possibility of danger in your relationship. Think of this report as a diagnosis rather than a prescription,” reads the report’s disclaimer.
Much like De Becker’s book Gift of Fear stresses the importance of listening to one’s intuition when fear signals arise in the body, in order to avoid dangerous people and situations, “MOSAIC is artificial intuition,” says de Becker in one of his online videos. He says the test takes all the pieces of a potentially dangerous situation and puts them together, like a mosaic, to see what image emerges.
As an example, says de Becker, if someone is making threats to kill another person, “you need to determine if it’s just words or whether this threat is actually linked to an outcome like violence. Does this situation have the pre-incident indicators that would end in violence if there’s no intervention applied?”
Putting Things in Context
Martin calls MOSAIC an “eye-opener” in that it can help survivors more clearly see the reality of their circumstances, and helps advocates come up with the best safety plan for each survivor.
Rita Smith, consultant and national domestic violence expert, says the tool has become more effective over time.
“In the very early versions of MOSIAC, it was good at determining danger for public figures but not a great tool for relationships where DV was present. De Becker revised it after getting feedback from domestic violence advocates and these later versions are a much better assessment tool of the danger that abusers were to their victims.”
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Martin agrees. “MOSAIC looks at the key elements of domestic violence and all the factors relevant to safety and puts them in context with each other. In the process, it helps filter out personal bias and denial.” And what does he mean by that? Explains Martin, “One of the questions is who controls the money. If you ask that of a survivor, she might say something like, ‘He does, but that’s because I’m not good with money.’ MOSAIC doesn’t hear anything past the ‘but.’”
While many of these things in isolation aren’t a problem, says Martin—after all, in many partnerships, one person takes care of financial matters because the other simply doesn’t want to—putting different pieces together that seem unrelated can add up to something more troubling.
“One of the other questions has to do with weapons possession. In that spectrum, a recent acquisition of a firearm is the worst offense. In my background [as a police officer], it would not alarm people to know I just bought a new gun. But if you also found out I started drinking, am having trouble at work and am controlling in other ways, like the above question about money, and you put all these pieces together, it becomes very significant.”
To learn more about MOSAIC, visit MosaicMethod.com.
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