An Ohio woman who called 911 pretending to “order a pizza” is being hailed this week for the brave actions she took in helping to save her mother from a brutal attack as it was being carried out by a man who now faces domestic violence charges.
PEOPLE is not identifying any of the individuals involved in the incident, which occurred in the town of Oregon, Ohio.
The dispatcher who took the call spoke to local media, and admitted it took him a while to catch on to what the woman on the other end was trying to communicate.
“I would like to order a pizza,” the caller said, giving an address to dispatcher Tim Teneyck, who replied, “You called 911 to order a pizza?”
The caller kept insisting she had called the correct number, telling him he was “understanding” her. But before long, Teneyck caught on, recalling a viral social media post that advised domestic violence victims to phone 911 and order a pizza, as to not raise the suspicions of their attackers.
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“You see it on Facebook, but it’s not something that anybody has ever been trained for,” said Teneyck, speaking to WTVG. “We’re just trained to listen.”
Teneyck began asking the women questions she could give yes or no responses to, and alerted officers en route to the home to keep their sirens off, so the suspected abuser wouldn’t run.
“If it’s your only option, and that abusive person is next to you and listening to everything you say, then by all means — you call and order that pizza,” Teneyck told the Washington Post.
In 2015, a Super Bowl public service ad promoted the pizza-ordering tactic, suggesting, “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.” And listen, Teneyck did.
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The abuser was detained by police at the scene and has since been charged with domestic violence.
The alleged victim told police her abuser came home intoxicated, assaulting and pushing her into a wall.
Teneyck is being hailed for his patience and compassion.
“He picked up on a woman who was in distress, but was in a position where she couldn’t convey it to him in those words,” Oregon Chief of Police Michael Navarre told the Toledo Blade. “Chief Navarre said. “And then he was able to ask her all the right questions without putting her in harm’s way.”
Navarre admitted other dispatchers may have hung up on the woman. He also said he had never heard of the fake pizza order tactic before, and he’s been on the job for 42 years.
For those in similar predicaments, police advise that callers provide as much information as possible and avoid hanging up. Full names and addresses are most useful to responding police.
If you suspect domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.