de Becker, Gavin
de BECKER, Gavin
ADDRESSES: Office—Gavin de Becker and Associates, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Suite 440, Studio City, CA 91604. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Security consultant. Gavin de Becker and Associates (security consulting firm), Los Angeles, CA, founder and chief executive. University of California—Los Angeles, senior fellow at School of Public Policy and Social Research. U.S. Department of Justice, past member of President's Advisory Board; California Department of Mental Health, past member of Governor's Advisory Board; Domestic Violence Advisory Board, cochair; served at U.S. Department of State; General Services Administration/American Institute of Architects, featured speaker at Post 9-11 Forum; designer of MOSAIC threat assessment tool; principal advisor on a federal research project into mentally ill people who stalk public figures; also served as expert witness and trainer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Special award from the U.S. attorney general and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1985, for work in threat assessment; Director's Certificate of Appreciation, Central Intelligence Agency; award from International Association of Chiefs of Police; Distinguished Hoosier Award, governor of Indiana; Presidential Inaugural Certificate of Appreciation.
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), Dial Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Thinking Caps: Mind Puzzles for Sharper Intuition, Dell (New York, NY), 2001.
Fear Less: Real Truth about Risk, Safety, and Security in a Time of Terrorism, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Contributor to books, including author of forewords to Surviving a Stalker: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Yourself Safe, by Linden Gross, Marlowe and Co. (New York, NY), 1994; Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior within Women and Girls, by Ellen Snortland, B3 Books, 1998; and A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do: The Safety Chick's Guide to Living Safe and Smart, by Kathleen Baty, Rodale Press (Emmaus, PA), 2003; author of introduction, Raising Safe Kids in an Unsafe World: Thirty Proven Ways to Protect Your Child from Becoming Lost, Abducted, Abused, or Victimized, by Jan Wagner, Yellow Dyno Publishing, 2003.
The Gift of Fear has been published in more than a dozen languages.
ADAPTATIONS: The book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence has been adapted as an audio book.
SIDELIGHTS: Gavin de Becker is the head of his own security consulting firm. He has advised many international media figures, served as a presidential advisor, testified in high profile cases, and created a system to evaluate threats made to U.S. Supreme Court justices. In 1997 de Becker's first book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, was published. The aim of the book is to help everyday citizens make themselves safer from the threat of crime. De Becker promoted his book with a guest spot on the television show of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, which helped propel The Gift of Fear to its status as a nationwide best-seller. In addition, the television program PrimeTime Live aired three segments on the book, and interviewer Larry King spent two full hours with de Becker.
The main argument of The Gift of Fear is that people should follow their intuition when dealing with potentially dangerous situations. As Tom Morganthau and Mark Miller noted in a review of The Gift of Fear for Newsweek: "Don't like the looks of that seedy-looking guy in the elevator? Wait for another car. Pay attention to your gut sense that something's not quite right." Yet, in the book, de Becker differentiates between true fear and ordinary anxiety—the latter caused by too much emphasis on the spectacular violent crimes characteristically depicted in media from movies to local television newscasts. "True fear," de Becker told Newsweek, "is a signal in the presence of danger, and it is based on your perception, your environment or your circumstances.... If it's not something you can smell, see, taste, hear, et cetera, [the fear is] likely to be unwarranted."
The Gift of Fear advises readers on situations including random crime, stalking, spousal abuse, disgruntled coworkers who might go on shooting rampages, and potentially abusive child care workers. De Becker also provides what David Van Biema described in Time as "a four-part test for assessing the possibility of violence," as well as a list of seventeen signs that a coworker might take violent action and thirty factors that can predict possible murder by a spouse. Somewhat unconventional advice from the author is that victims of domestic violence can avoid what Van Biema described as "the knee-jerk use of temporary restraining orders." In The Gift of Fear de Becker notes that restraining orders "work best on the person least likely to be violent anyway." Another tip, for the target of stalkers, is not to change one's phone number, because the stalker will most likely find out the new number anyway. Instead, de Becker recommends installing an additional phone line and placing an answering machine on the original line. "The stalker won't realize you've changed, and you'll have a record of his calls if you need it," the author states.
In addition to the attention from Winfrey, The Gift of Fear has had positive reviews from other sources. Time reviewer Van Biema praised de Becker's "practical advice" and predicted "he will probably make a lot of money and save a few lives." Newsweek contributors Morganthau and Miller noted that the author "has a lot to say about crime . . . and he says it persuasively." A Kirkus Reviews critic also commented that de Becker presents his case convincingly. According to Patricia Hassler in Booklist, The Gift of Fear is "written with consummate style." Gregor A. Preston commented in Library Journal that de Becker's book is "a valuable contribution on a timely topic." BostonGlobe reviewer Zachary R. Dowdy concluded, "A page-turner, The Gift of Fear is an empowering antidote in its reasoned response to an all-too-preventable epidemic." The book also appeared in the New York Times best-seller list for four months.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
De Becker, Gavin, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
America, September 18, 1999, review of Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), p. 24.
Booklist, June 1-15, 1997, Patricia Hassler, review of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, p. 1628; May 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Protecting the Gift, p. 1557.
Boston Globe, August 25, 1997, Zachary R. Dowdy, review of The Gift of Fear.
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, June, 2002, Julie R. Linkins, review of The Gift of Fear, p. 5.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of The Gift of Fear, p. 711.
Library Journal, June 15, 1997, Gregor A. Preston, review of The Gift of Fear, p. 84.
Newsweek, July 21, 1997, Tom Morganthau and Mark Miller, review of The Gift of Fear, p. 78.
New York Times Magazine, December 12, 1999, Brett Forrest, "Risky Business," p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1999, review of Protecting the Gift, p. 61.
Time, July 28, 1997, David Van Biema, review of The Gift of Fear, pp. 34-35; June 21, 1999, Andrea Sachs, review of Protecting the Gift, p. 82K.