Psychologist tells how to assess threats regarding gun issues

Given recent tragic incidents involving guns and domestic violence, Wilton’s Domestic Violence Task Force will hold two meetings on Thursday, Jan. 10, at Wilton Library. There will be one at 10 a.m. and one at 7 p.m. Two meetings are planned to enable as many people as possible to attend.

Threat assessments, possible gun legislation, and violence against women will be among the topics of discussion as task force members will be joined by a forensic psychologist, representatives of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and the Domestic Violence Crisis Center of Norwalk.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence is seeking to start a chapter in Wilton, according to Jen McNamara, chairperson of the Domestic Violence Task Force. Two Wiltonians involved in the process — Lucy Davies and Harrison DeStefano — will speak at the morning meeting and Ron Pinciaro, executive director of the organization, will talk at the evening meeting.

Also speaking at the morning meeting will be David Bernstein, a forensic psychologist who has been featured on national media and has commented on cases such as the Annie Le murder at Yale University. He will give a half-hour presentation on threat assessment.

Susan Delaney of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center will also talk.

Danger signs

Dr. Bernstein, president of Forensic Consultants LLC in Norwalk, said he will go over “some of the warning signs or what we call red flags that parents, school officials and police should be aware of in school violence … those who pose an internal risk … students, faculty and staff.”

While he will focus primarily on school violence, Dr. Bernstein said red flag behaviors can extend to situations involving domestic violence.

“When someone does something that is particularly egregious, they feel there is no other recourse for them, in their mind,” Dr. Bernstein said.

“We are often talking, quite frequently in terms of a perpetrator, about a controlling individual … and you are taking that control away,” he said. “They’ll do anything to keep that control … whatever strategy works.”

Often there is a “grooming process,” Dr. Bernstein said. He used the following as an example.

“You have a guy and he goes out with 10 women, and to those 10 he says something off the cuff that is inappropriate. Of those 10, five may say, ‘Lose my number,’ and of the five remaining he’ll up the ante and call one a swear word, something completely inappropriate or vulgar. Three others will say, ‘I don’t think so,” and eventually to the two remaining the guy might do something physical. And only one is going to stay and the guy figures ‘this is the one.’

“It’s a process. They pick their victims.”

Dr. Bernstein’s company has expertise in managing workplace or school threats, sexual harassment, safe terminations, disciplinary actions, and actual targeted violence assessments. The website is

Gun violence

Next week’s event at the library grew out of a meeting Ms. McNamara, Ms. Davies and Mr. DeStefano attended in Westport last month in response to the shooting in Newtown. Organized by Westporter Nancy Lefkowitz, that meeting drew some 250 people, including Congressman Jim Himes (D-4th District).

Ms. Davies said she and Mr. DeStefano connected with Ms. Lefkowitz “and talked about going long-term with this. We’re not experts on guns or gun violence, but we’ve been learning a tremendous amount in the last few weeks.”

The two friends — Ms. Davies and Mr. DeStefano — have been using Facebook to generate interest.

“We invited 50 local friends who might be interested,” she said. As word spread, there are now “close to 300 people who were invited to be in the group,” she added.

The Jan. 10 meeting “will be the first official thing we are doing,” Ms. Davies said. The group is still in the information-sharing stage and is looking to “empower people to become informed and take little steps. Everyone we’re talking to is overwhelmed by the emotion of this thing.”

She and Mr. DeStefano are planning a PowerPoint presentation of gun facts: “What really goes on in the U.S., why the rate of gun violence is so high.”

Mr. Pinciaro, of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said he will talk about the upcoming state legislative session and legislation that might result from the Newtown tragedy.

“My sense is a lot of people may not be very knowledgeable about this issue and might want to learn more,” he said. “Certainly I’ve found in this period of weeks people are very emotional about it, want to talk about it. What can we do is clearly on their minds.”

Mr. Pinciaro, who lived in Wilton “most of my adult life,” and whose children went to school here, said, “There will definitely be legislation introduced. … I think Fairfield County will generally be favorable to improved gun safety legislation. The sad part about this is we’re one of the states considered to have very strong gun legislation.”

Connecticut Against Gun Violence is planning a March for Change at the Capitol in Hartford on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 11 a.m. Information will be available, and if there is enough interest, a group could leave from Wilton for the event.

Information:; Lucy Davies:

Domestic violence

Two recent incidents in which guns were at the center of domestic violence rocked Wilton: a double shooting on Grumman Avenue in November (see related story on page 2A) and the murder of Cider Mill music teacher Svetlana Bell by her husband.

According to the United Nations, they are just part of a trend in which one in three women around the world will be beaten or killed in her lifetime.

That statistic has given rise to One Billion Rising, a global campaign to heighten awareness of violence against women that will take shape on Feb. 14 with demonstrations worldwide.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Center, which helped 3,521 people affected by domestic violence last year, is coordinating area efforts in conjunction with One Billion Rising.

Ms. Delaney, of the crisis center, will discuss those efforts at the morning session Jan. 10.

“We would love to do a rally here, in town center and in the schools,” Ms. McNamara said. She has reached out to First Selectman Bill Brennan and schools Superintendent Gary Richards to try to give the effort some traction.

“We want to start the conversation about the One Billion Rising campaign,” she said.