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Two Mothers Tell Of Two Daughters Lost To Domestic Violence


People who work to raise awareness about domestic violence are sounding the alarm in San Diego this year. They point out that the old year closed and the new one began with headlines about murders and murder-suicides. The San Diego Domestic Violence Council is holding a meeting this morning to highlight these recent incidents and share the stories of those affected by domestic violence.

People who work to raise awareness about domestic violence are sounding the alarm in San Diego this year. They point out that the old year closed and the new one began with headlines about murders and murder-suicides.

The San Diego Domestic Violence Council is holding a meeting this morning to highlight these recent incidents and share the stories of those affected by domestic violence.


Dr. Dawn Griffin, Domestic Violence Council president

Marilyn Brock and Dayna Herroz, who have both lost family members to domestic violence

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. People who work to raise awareness about domestic violence are sounding the alarm in San Diego this year. They point out that the old year closed and the new one began with news of murders and murder suicides, including the tragedy of Diana Gonzalez found murdered at city college late last year, and the murder of an Oceanside woman in front of her children on new year's day. The San Diego domestic violence council is holding a meeting this morning to highlight these recent incidents and share the stories of those affected by domestic violence. Joining me now to talk about the experience of domestic violence and the resources available for those threatened by it are my guests, Doctor Dawn Griffin, president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council. Dawn, welcome back to These Days.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I have two special guests in the studio this morning, Marilyn Brock, and Dayna Herroz and share their stories and tell us why they are now advocates for people to raise awareness about domestic violence. Marilyn, good morning.

BROCK: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Dayna, good morning.

HERROZ: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We want to invite our listeners to join this conversation. Do you think San Diego has adequate resources for those who feel threatened at home? What can you do if you see a bad situation developing in the home of a friend or a family member? Give us a call with your questions and your comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Doctor don Griffin, let me start with you. Give us some idea about the incidents of domestic violence in San Diego. Is it going up? Do we know what the numbers are?

HERROZ: It actually is. You know, in October, we had a press conference where we released the rates of domestic violence. And at that time, we were showing a 100 percent increase in domestic violence related fatalities. Now that not only includes the homicides, the suicides issue but also the -- other parts that were present. So bystander children, what have you. 100 percent increase. In 2008, we had two suicides and 12 homicides. In 2009, we had eight suicides and 20 homicides. So it's just devastating. And it continues to rise. And the first week in January we were already facing several horrific deaths certainly here in our county and then a related faculty member who lived in Temecula but worked here in San Diego was also unfortunately murdered and then her batterer died by suicide. So yes, these rates are increasing. And I know your next question. Why?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I was -- I almost didn't dare ask because, do we know why?

GRIFFIN: We know that there are a variety of factors that are associated with that. I think it's more common for folks to say, you know, is it economic? Is it -- and it's all -- it can be economic. It can be mental health issues, it can be substance related issues, it can be past trauma. And it really depends on that particular situation and that family, and what we're here to really talk about is to say, listen, we have to respond differently now. We have to look at these families uniquely. Because each one of their stories is so unique. And it's hard to hear, but we have to. We have to explore these. And the [CHECK] council's working hard to not only looking at [CHECK] and say hang on, we can prevent this. So hopefully if we have time I'll talk about two innovative programs we're gonna launch this year.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I believe we will have time. Let me bring in Marilyn Brock into the conversation. I know you've become an advocate in educating families about domestic violence, and I know you do it largely through telling your own personal story of how this has touched your life, I wonder if you would begin by sharing that story with us as well, and telling us about your daughter.

BROCK: My daughter, Donna Wright, was a very, very special person to me. She had three lovely daughters, a true mother, and truly loved her job, she was murdered at her job on June 12th, 2007. They're just small signals, small little bill, that sometimes you have and don't realize that it's danger. There was no violence before this happened, but there was a subtle type of things that I noticed, and maybe she noticed but didn't realize it would be fatal to her.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you something. Your daughter, Donna, was killed by her boyfriend.

BROCK: Ex-boyfriend, yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ex-boyfriend. And you're saying you really maybe in retrospect saw a few little signals but nothing that alerted you at the time?

BROCK: Well, this particular -- McDowel, Mr. McDowel showed no verbal violence, no physical violence. But as a mother, an experienced mother, I noticed subtle things that I didn't notice at first. Butch a mother's instinct. And I didn't like him, but didn't realize they would be fatal to her.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the way that your daughter was murdered at work, you told the story before about the way her murderer approached her.

BROCK: Yes. That was another terrible thing. She was the work like anybody. Work is usually your safety zone, you think. She worked as a medical -- she was actually an office manager for a doctor. Walked in, had a bunch of red roses, then took the weapon out and shot her, from the neck up, several times. She didn't have time to escape. She didn't have time to do anything. It's something that I'll never ever forget. It's just something that no one expected because she had no idea, she was actually almost five months pregnant with her fourth child when this happened. Never again will I hear her voice, and never again will I expect something [CHECK] to happen to anyone's life. No one should ever have to go through such a tragedy. I lost my daughter, and I lost my fourth daughter because of this incident.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What happened to the man who shot your daughter?

BROCK: He was later sentenced to life in prison. He'll never get out to harm anyone else in his lifetime.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you for sharing that story. And I want to talk to you more later about your advocacy. Dawn Griffin, are there sometimes no signs?

GRIFFIN: Sometimes there are no signs. Sometimes very much like what Marilyn was talking about, Donna, you know, may have felt something was a bit off. And often these signs can be jealousy, but you know, you just can't -- you put it off as, well, they're just jealous, and for some people having a jealous partner may feel good. Oh, they actually care about me. The reality is, of course, jealousy is not good. And so the no signs, I should say, there are small little bells. In fact, we put out a press release with Bonnie Dumanis, and it was actually inspired by Marilyn. And it was listening to those small bells.

BROCK: Excuse me. I think everyone has those small bells. Donna was no longer involved with him at all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: She was -- she had left him.

BROCK: She had left him. They were Xs, they were not going together. He had visitation of his daughter. And that still connected him with the mother. But there was no -- no relationship at all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And it's just watching for -- for those things that you would --

BROCK: It was unique. There was no signs.


BROCK: No signs. Very quiet but violent man as we found out. Those are the ones, that don't show any type of verbal or physical violence. Those are the ones that you have no warnings. But your intuition is your best guideline. Your intuition will come to save your life, maybe. And that's what I'm doing now as an advocate. Trying to tell these women, or even men, it could be men, that there are small bells that we have in it us.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That intuition that's there.

BROCK: It's intuition.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Very important. Very important.

BROCK: It is.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to remind our listeners we are asking you to join the conversation at 1-888-895-5727. I want to move to Dayna Herroz, am I saying your last name correctly?

HERROZ: That's fine.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're here, you're also working for domestic violence awareness after your terrible loss, the loss of your daughter and your infant grandson. Tell us about that if you would.

HERROZ: My daughter was having problems with the biological father. He had falsified two paternity tests that were male, and his best friend -- they had swabbed his best friend and sent in his DNA. That way he would come up as not the biological father of might have grandson. And they were supposed to go and meet for dinner on the 26th of July, 2006. And we really pushed for this, because we wanted her to go to court and get a paternity test done through the Courts. And here was my red flag, which I did not take at the time, and she had said you don't understand, you don't understand what he's capable of you. You don't know what that family's capable of. And I thought that was drama. Saw the news that night, saw that a mother and child were murdered, got a call the next morning, and she didn't show up for work. And I called nine -- I called her best friends and he said haven't they contacted you? And I said who, and he said the police. Tory and Dean are dead. He had gone up to the apartment and my daughter turned around to go down the hallway to get her son, and he knocked her unconscious, and then strangled her. And then he went down the hallway, and he hung my grandson. He was ten months old that day. He hung him in his crib. And that's how the police found them. She was my only child. I was thrilled to be a grandmother. And it has completely devastated everything that I look at, the way that I look at things. I want to prevent this from happening to someone else. Because once you're standing over their grave, and visiting them at the grave, there's no turning back. We didn't really have major warning signs. My daughter was an adult. She lived on her own. However when I got together with some of her friends and I heard the same things, then the warning bells and the red flags -- if only we had gotten together before this.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dayna, let me ask you, how do you survive and go after getting news like that? What kind of support system did you have?

HERROZ: I'm -- I believe that everybody has to have a really strong support system. I had a lot of friends, and my daughter's friends came out of the wood work. And they held up until we could stand. And then I went looking for support, like a support group, that would concentrate on the violence. Not -- 'cause our deaths were violent. And so new I facilitate a group at the [CHECK] has either lost a child to murder or suicide or drunk driving. But it's all to violence. And it's a place where we can go and speak from your hearts, where in a lot of places it's inappropriate for us to give the details as to how our loved one died, because it is graphic. But it is our story. And we can't help that our story is graphic. So you need to find a support system that -- or support group that specializes in that. And that can handle that because there's a lot of anger, there's rage. There's questions, confusion. Where do you go from here? ?

A. We have to take a short break. I want to thank both of you so much for going to that place, telling us this story. I know it's terribly difficult for both of you still. When we come back what I'd like to do is talk about your advocacy and the kinds of resources that are available in this community to help another mother from suffering what you're going through. I want to remind our listeners that our number is 1-888-895-5727. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we're talking about an increase in domestic violence in San Diego, most especially an increase in lethal domestic violence here in San Diego County. My guests are doctor Dawn Griffin, she is president of the San Diego domestic violence council. And Marilyn Brock and Dayna hairs on, just shared their very, very personal and emotional stories with us about their family members who were lost to domestic violence. And Dayna and Marilyn, I want to start out again, if I may, with you both. And I want to hear about how you educate the community about domestic violence. What are some of the things, Dayna, that you tell people?

HERROZ: That you have to -- when you're dealing with, especially if you're dealing with your child, there's so much shame involved with domestic violence. And I think that it's becoming a silent epidemic because people don't want to look outside themselves and admit that something is going wrong. And we have to listen with our judgment. I wanted to fix everything for my daughter. I'll go over there and you know, I wanted to put a Band-Aid on it, I want to fix it because I'm her mom. And I didn't listen. I listened with judgment. I didn't think it could happen to her. I never thought in a million years that this could happen to her. But if it could happen to someone hike tory and an infant like dean, it could happen to anybody. And that's what I try and stress is that nobody is immune to this. Not everybody has a warning sign. It's not like the movies where you see people constantly black and blue. Sometimes there's no signs whatsoever. So you have to really listen carefully.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Marilyn, what do you tell people after you tell them your story?

HERROZ: I actually also tell them that they have to listen to those bells, those little bells. And Donna was such a sweet person. She was a type that was your average, goodhearted person, took care of her three daughters, a good mother and a good daughter. And the particular person that murdered her, I would never thought it would happen. If the audience doesn't -- you have to cross that line, you have loved ones, you have daughters, you have anyone that you love. If you see this happen, reach out. There are lines -- domestic violence hot lines that you can call. You express to that person, it's in confidence, if you're afraid to tell someone that this is happening to you or some loved one, they can help you. They can lead you to possibly saving your life or that person's life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Marilyn, do you tell us that Donna was a really good mother and a good woman.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Because there is perhaps this idea people have that victims of domestic violence are doing something wrong?

HERROZ: The average person, they think that that person is doing something wrong. They're living like the average person lives every day. Go to work, come home to their family, they're good citizens. Those are the ones that are pretty much victimized and killed. And I would just let them know that if most likely you do know someone out there that's violently approaching someone that you love, listen to your bells, listen to those warnings. Of call a domestic hot line, and let them know when you're feeling inside, how can you get help? Sometimes you don't know where to go. You figure, I can take care of myself. You cannot go to the experts. They can guide you through this hideous -- don't let it happen to someone that you love like it happened to my daughter. It's not -- I lived with this forever knowing that she doesn't have those signs. Sheave didn't know it was gonna happen to her. And the ones that do have those signs, follow through with them. Of get help. Don't be Ashamed to get help. It could save that person's life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Ireny, I hope I'm saying that correctly, from Mission Hills. Good morning. Welcome to These Days. Are you on the line? Okay. Let's move on. I think perhaps somebody's listening to us on the radio, not really realizing. I want to ask you, Dawn, after all this time, we've been talking about domestic violence, you've been talking about it for quite some time. Why are people so unwilling, you think to hear -- to listen to these small bells that Marilyn tells us about, or to see the red flag warnings? Where is there still this unwillingness, do you think?

GRIFFIN: Well, first of all, I do want to clarify, we're talking about two women and a child that was murdered, but I want to make it very, very clear that victims can be men.


GRIFFIN: Women, children, pets. So it's really -- it's important to understand that, and there in lies a possible portion of an answer to your question. You know, a lot of folks who are living with domestic violence do come from trauma backgrounds. A lot of folks, this has been, you know, fairly common in their family. Intergenerational. Not everyone, there is no cause and effect with that. But the likelihood that this is their norm, that this is how they love, that this is how they communicate, that really needs to be looked at. And look to options for adopting healthier communication styles. Look for the social connectedness that is absolutely critical. Domestic violence breeds in silence. The silent epidemic is all too real. We see time and time again that there's warning signs. And there's certain risk assessments that are out there that we can utilize to say listen, this person is at a [CHECK] to those high risk, but which is absolutely critical and really important. But we also need to work to prevent those lower level signs.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tow they don't escalate.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Kiara is on the line from San Diego. Good morning, Kiara, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks for taking my call.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're welcome.

NEW SPEAKER: My mother was a victim of domestic violence for several, several years. The thing is that she tried to get help, she said that I don't want to go to a shelter because I don't want to be surrounded by people that pity me, I just want to get on with my life. She put it off she put it off, she put it off, then finally she did go to a shelter. And that's exactly what they did. A bunch of people surrounded her saying oh, pity, pity, pity, it's not your fault, and she just couldn't take it. She's like, this is not how I heal. This is not why I'm here. And so she left, went back home, and we had to do it all over again. My question, why do they do that for women when not all women heal the same?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's a fascinating question. Thank you, Kiara, do you hear that because women sort of don't want to go to shelters because they don't want that kind of pity? They want to feel strong?

GRIFFIN: Well, first of all, I do need to say both men and female victims, they do heal in different ways. And I think a great motivation for all of us that are a part of the domestic violence systems and our response and our caring facilities, which include shelters, which include some of the social service agencies that are out there, we truly need to look at these cases from an individual, ecological perspective. And so the caller's point on that we do have a tendency to put everyone in one box. And that doesn't work. And it's not to the fault of these agencies or our systems because we're a part of it. It really is an archaic way of thinking. And we're on the verge of now starting to see there's another way. And that way more complicated, will probably take more time, but in the end, we're gonna understand individuals who are living with violence better, partner with them, authentically, in order to address those fundamental reasons why they're engaged in violence.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: James is on the line with us from San Diego. Good morning, James, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, the yes. Good morning. I just wanted to make a comment, first of all my condolences to the mothers of those victims. That's an absolutely tragic situation. I just wanted to give a little bit of a message of hope for victims of domestic violence. My older sister was in a very similar situation. You know, we come from a middle class family, and she was definitely being abused at home. And we saw a few of the signs, and finally she decided to leave after he -- he choked her in front of her child. Of she left, and got help, he got help, and now with her now life, it's a whole new lease on life. And she's in a much better place. She's in a better place, and the child is also in a better place. Soap there's definitely hope beyond the moment of wanting to leave. A lot of victims are afraid to leave because they don't know what to do, or the next step. So I just wanted to give a little message of hope to people who think they can't get out of the situation and they can't change. They have absolutely can. [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you James. Thank you for that comment.

GRIFFIN: Oh, I couldn't agree more. And thank you very much because often we do tend to stay on the one side of this. And you're right, there is so much that we can do now. You know, again, there's no cause and effect. So we can't help everyone. And we certainly can't help if you stay silent. But those that have reached out for help and we've been successful, you know, they live just completely different lives. Happy lives, healthy lives. And I have to say, I myself am a survivor of domestic violence. And so there's a great amount of hope.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about for someone who is a batterer? Does counseling work?

GRIFFIN: It depends on that person, if they're ready for counseling. It depends on the type of counseling. They may do better going out and engaging in, you know, a rigorous exercise program with a counselor type person. It really depends. Floor some wonderful therapy modalities, but the reality is that therapy doesn't work for everyone, just like that woman going into a shelter do not work for her. For a lot of men and women, shelters do work. There are other options for shelters. The domestic violence council has a modest fund for those folks who don't want to go into a shelter. Give you an example. Last time we were here, we were talking with Hope in the Park. That day, I had a gentleman approach me. And he walked up, you know, quite intently. And he looked me smack in the eye and he said you have no idea how much I needed this day. Two weeks later, I got a call, and it was him. And he said I and my daughter are ready to leave. But we're scared to death to go into a shelter. And so we put him up in a hotel. And we helped facilitate him engaging, and for him, therapy was right. And for his child, therapy was right. And we were able to facilitate that process.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have you heard -- there's a common belief that, you know, when someone makes that decision to leave, that is actually one of the most dangerous times?

GRIFFIN: It is indeed.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And so therefore, what precautions should someone take when they decide to take that step?

GRIFFIN: Absolutely. That is in fact one of the key risk factors. When you make the decision to leave, when you have children in common, and when you sure separate residents. There are a variety of different steps to take. Safety planning is huge. Connecting with your social network, reaching out for help. And there are so many different service entities depending on what region you're in. I want to give a couple of resources immediately.


GRIFFIN: First of all, the DV hot line, it's 188 DV links, which is 8883854657. That -- calling that line, making those connections, critical. And also the San Diego domestic violence council website. Which is a safe website. You can escape that website if you're in danger. But it does give you will the regional contacts, and that is [CHECK] listen to the mothers here today, listen to those warning signs. And take careful action.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wonder, let me go back to you for a moment, if I may, Dayna and Marilyn. First Marilyn, when you decided to start becoming an advocate and to get out the story and to warn people, has there been anything surprising to you about the number of people who are affected by domestic violence or how widespread this is?

HERROZ: I was astonished to see so many besides what happened to my daughter. There are so many. I communicate with young mothers at school. [CHECK] there are so many people crying for help that don't know how to approach it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Dayna? The same question, have you been surprised at the number of people who are touched by domestic violence or threatened by it?

HERROZ: I was surprised at the number, but I'm more surprised at the silent shame, that they don't come out screaming that they're being abused. And I don't -- and I do believe in getting the restraining order or for my daughter, the Court ordered paternity test. However, that is not a bullet proof vest, and people walk away thinking they are now protected. And you really need to communicate with your friends and your family because once you have that, if this person's gonna be triggered, this is the time he's gonna be triggered. Now you've gone to a court. Now you've done something. And so your friends and family have to embrace you and be on the look out with you.

THE COURT: I want to take the last minute we have, because you wanted to tell us about two new roars that you're introducing.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely. Well, it's actually the San Diego domestic violence council's lucky to be a part of these two initiatives. The first was brought forth by our city attorney and the chief of probation. Both are progressive thinkers willing to really engage. We're putting together a pilot project called Thrive that will look at misdemeanor cases in the hopes of preventing them from escalating to violence. This will be an authentic partnership where multiple systems come together to review this family story and partnership with the family.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we have to end it there.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm so sorry. We will have you back, how's that?

GRIFFIN: That's lovely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right, doctor Dawn Griffin, Marilyn Brock, and Dayna hair os, thank you so much.

HERROZ: Thank you for having us.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If you would like to comment, Days.

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