“No Visible Bruises”: Intimate Partner Abuse

A United Nations report in 2018 put it starkly: The most dangerous place for a woman is her own home. Parul Sehgal, New York Times, reviewing No Visible Bruises

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by journalist Rachel Louise Snyder offers a well-researched and “powerful investigation into intimate partner abuse” (Publishers Weekly). It’s not just a domestic issue, she argues, but a public health problem. 

Parul Sehgal, New York Times, summarizes salient statistics from No Visible Bruises:

In America alone, more than half of all murdered women are killed by a current or former partner — 50 women every month. Domestic violence cuts across lines of class, race and religion; it is the leading cause of maternal mortality in cities including New York and Chicago, and the second leading cause of death for black women nationwide.

An important distinction about intimate partner violence, per the book review by Kate Tuttle, LA Times:

‘Love is what makes domestic violence different from any other crime,’ Snyder writes. ‘That the people involved have said to each other and the world, you are the most important person to me.’ For that love to end in injury and even death, she adds, ‘requires us to mentally, intellectually, and emotionally hurdle beyond what we can imagine.’

Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness, describes how No Visible Bruises is organized:

Snyder presents her findings in three parts, ordered as ‘The End,’ ‘The Beginning’ and finally ‘The Middle.’ That is, she first studies what intimate partner violence looks like at its conclusion: homicide and regrets that various systems (judicial, law enforcement, advocacy, etc.) couldn’t do more. Next, she investigates the beginning of such violence. Abusers often come from abusive home environments and, along with their victims, grow up in a society that values stoicism, control and violence in men, submissiveness and emotional labor in women. ‘The Middle’ examines how services are provided to victims of domestic violence, and what changes should be considered.

Regarding the profile of abusers, Snyder tells NPR the following:

Narcissism is one of the key components of an abuser… [Most] abusers, in fact, are not people with anger problems. Generally speaking, they are about power and control over one person or the people in their family. They’re often very gregarious. Only about a quarter of the abusers fit that stereotypical definition of someone who is, you know, generally angry. And so the narcissism plays out in the idea that they are owed something, in the idea that they are entitled to their authority, that their partners have to be subservient to them. There’s very often traditional gender dynamics in abusive relationships.

Some of Snyder’s proposals for safety (New York Times):

Prosecute cases without the victim’s help, as we do murder trials. Treat restraining orders like D.U.I.s and keep them on file, even after they have expired. Train clergy members and doctors to recognize and respond to domestic violence. Promote battering intervention programs. Choking nearly always precedes a homicide attempt; teach police to recognize the signs, and instruct doctors to assess women for traumatic brain injury. And, of course, there is the near-unanimous recommendation from law enforcement and domestic violence advocates: ‘You want to get rid of homicide?’ a retired forensic nurse asks. ‘Get rid of guns.’

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