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How We Can Better Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse

By Diane Cole

July/August 2019


Review. No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know about Domestic Violence Can Kill Us. By Rachel Louise Snyder. Bloomsbury. 307 pages. 978-1635570977

"Man kills wife, kids, and self.” Unfortunately, such gruesome headlines have become familiar in our culture. Yet even to people closest to the victims, the why and how behind this most brutal form of domestic violence nag uncomfortably with guilt-ridden questions about missed clues and unheard cries for help. But as journalist Rachel Louise Snyder points out in her unflinching exploration, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know about Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, such crimes don’t lack clues so much as their seeming invisibility can make us all seem clueless.

That’s why Snyder takes great pains to pick apart the vicious cycle of silence that so often pervades and shields intimate partner violence from detection. Her extensive case histories and conversations with experts reveal a pattern of silence shared by victims, perpetrators, and even unsuspecting (or willfully blind) outsiders. First, victims learn to conceal their traumas out of a double-barreled sense of shame and realistic fears that divulging the truth or pressing charges might provoke their partners to further violence. Meanwhile, if or when confronted, perpetrators deny the seriousness of their actions as they minimize (“it was only a slap; she wasn’t hurt”), rationalize (“I didn’t stab her; she fell on the knife”), or…

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