Liysa’s efforts to stop the abuse
In September 1996, Liysa sought refuge at George Gaines’s Mendocino County, Calif., ranch. Chris tracked her down and threatened to harm her friends if she didn’t come home. Mr. Gaines was a prominent businessman with plenty of wherewithal but this didn’t dissuade Chris from finding her and threatening to burn Mr. Gaines’s house down.
In the summer of 1997, Lisya asked Chris’s parents for help. She showed them the choke marks on her neck and told them Chris had threatened to kill her child. They told her they didn’t agree with him choking her and said they would intervene. A month later they still had done nothing and she asked them when they would help. They said they were too afraid that Chris would be angry with them, and did nothing. They were too afraid even to protect their own grandchild.
Liysa’s writing partner’s therapist suggested she get a gun and the next time Chris beat her up to use it. She got the similar advice from many other people.
When Liysa’s own therapist, Ilana Fernandez, consulted with other therapists around the island they said Chris was likely to kill her and recommended she go into deep hiding, which would have meant never seeing her family again and depriving her oldest child from a previous marriage of access to his biological father and grandparents. It also meant losing the dream house she worked hard for and giving up her career. Chris was the criminal and she had done nothing wrong. She could not bring herself to choose a life of hiding and poverty with two children when she had done nothing wrong.
Liysa tried to get Chris to go to rehab and tried to placate him as much as she could to minimize the violence because that was safer than leaving. It was when she had tried to leave that he had strangled her and threatened to burn down her friends’ houses. ( Note: it is well known that leaving is the trigger for extreme violence in domestic violence ).
She was in a hopeless, desperate, no end in sight situation. As a mother, after Chris threatened to cut her children up in little pieces so nobody would find their bodies, she felt it was her job was to make sure that didn’t happen. The State of Oregon failed in its duty to protect her but she did not fail in her duty to protect her own children.
In December 1997, she consulted with Honolulu attorney Carol Scott Landry about getting a divorce. She was told to document his drinking and drug use. They had ongoing discussions about getting a divorce and getting her and her children away from Chris safely.
In February 1999, Liysa sought advice from family therapist Ilana Fernandez, and talked about developing a safety plan.
In the spring of 1999, Liysa consulted with attorney Carol Scott Landry again, this time about getting a divorce and entering the witness protection program in the event that she testified against her husband at his Bend assault trial and needed protection from retaliation. She was advised that there was no witness protection program for victims of domestic abuse. She was advised that if she went through with the divorce her abusive husband would likely get at least some visitation with their son, putting the boy in peril, something she could not live with. She was advised that if she left with her boys she could be charged with kidnapping. Chris said he would kill her if she testified against him.
On four separate occasions from 1997 through 1999 Liysa called the police for assistance; only once was Chris arrested.
Liysa obtained a restraining order against him, which he ignored, and the police failed to arrest him.
Chris was manipulative and devious. The one time he was arrested, after Dr. Jamie McAllister, the emergency care physician, pressed charges against him for Liysa’s injuries, Chris intercepted the subpoena and was able to manipulate his way out of any consequences.
Liysa tried begging him, reasoning, placating, leaving. She tried a no-strings-attached divorce. She tried enlisting the help of his parents. She called the domestic violence hotline. Liysa tried everything she could think of, but she couldn’t escape the abuse.