Ex­tra­or­di­nary new book dis­man­tles the myths around do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight - BY PARUL SEHGAL

Be­tween 2000 and 2006, 3,200 U.S. sol­diers were killed in com­bat. Dur­ing that same pe­riod, in the United States, more than three times as many women died at the hands of their hus­bands and boyfriends.

In her ex­tra­or­di­nary new book, “No Vis­i­ble Bruises,” Rachel Louise Sny­der re­ports on what the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has called “a global health prob­lem of epi­demic pro­por­tions.”

In the United States 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.

A United Na­tions re­port in 2018 put it starkly: The most dan­ger­ous place for a woman is her own home.

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence lurked in the back­ground of ev­ery piece Sny­der re­ported, as an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist for pub­lic ra­dio, from Cam­bo­dia to Hon­duras. “An un­for­tu­nate fate for the un­lucky few,” she used to think, “a mat­ter of bad choices and cruel en­vi­ron­ments. A woman hard-wired to be hurt. A man hard-wired to hurt.”

Griev­ous, com­mon er­rors. This book, win­ner of the pres­ti­gious J. An­thony Lukas Work-InProgress Award, takes apart the myths that sur­round do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, many of which Sny­der her­self once be­lieved: Re­strain­ing or­ders and shel­ters are al­ways ef­fec­tive re­sponses. Abusers never change. Vis­i­ble signs of vi­o­lence point to the great­est threat.

Far from be­ing a pri­vate or iso­lated act, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence – or “in­ti­mate part­ner ter­ror­ism,” as Sny­der prefers, ar­gu­ing it more ac­cu­rately de­scribes the psy­cho­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics – has links with mass shoot­ings and is a direct cause of home­less­ness for more than half of home­less women.

She pow­er­fully dis­man­tles the ques­tion of why women seem to stay in vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ships: “We mis­take what we see from the out­side as her choos­ing to stay with an abuser, when in fact it’s we who don’t rec­og­nize what a vic­tim who is slowly and care­fully leav­ing ac­tu­ally looks like.”

Like Michelle Mon­son Mo­sure. At the heart of “No Vis­i­ble Bruises” is the story of the 2001 mur­der of Mo­sure, a Mon­tana woman, and her two chil­dren by her hus­band, Rocky Mo­sure, who then turned the gun on him­self. Michelle was barely a teenager when she met Rocky. He was older and vo­latile; he be­gan to con­trol how she dressed and where she went. He be­gan to beat her in front of their chil­dren.

And then there was the rat­tlesnake. Rocky sup­pos­edly kept one in a cage in the liv­ing room. He threated to slip it into her bed while she slept, or drop it in with her while she show­ered.

In se­cret, Michelle took classes and planned an es­cape. She ran away only to re­turn, filed charges only to re­cant – be­hav­ior that might look weak or mys­ti­fy­ing, but Sny­der re­veals how care­fully she was try­ing to as­sess the risks to her and her chil­dren. She was try­ing to pla­cate Rocky un­til she felt safe enough to make a move. She was re­ly­ing on the tools that had kept her alive.

We meet oth­ers mak­ing these ter­ri­fy­ing cal­cu­la­tions. Sny­der trav­els to shel­ters and along with the po­lice. She en­coun­ters so many women, so many hol­low-eyed chil­dren. There’s an im­me­di­acy in these scenes, the raw, ragged tension of peo­ple ex­hausted by fear, that re­calls Donna Fer­rato’s por­traits of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in “Liv­ing With the En­emy.” I read Sny­der’s book as if pos­sessed, stop­ping for noth­ing, feel­ing the pulse beat in my brain.

What did I miss? What could I have done? Michelle and Rocky’s par­ents churn over these ques­tions ob­ses­sively. Sny­der wants us to share in them, make them our own.

There is so much that can be done; for all the suf­fer­ing in the book, it is also full of ac­tion­able changes.

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ini­tia­tives, af­ter all, are fairly new in this coun­try; un­til the 1990s, we had more an­i­mal shel­ters than women’s shel­ters.

Sny­der takes us through the his­tory – how the O.J. Simp­son trial and the pas­sage of the Vi­o­lence Against Women Act, in 1994, trans­formed the un­der­stand­ing of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence – and up to the se­ries of steps that can save lives to­day.

No Vis­i­ble Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Can Kill Us By Rachel Louise Sny­der; Blooms­bury; 307 pages; $28

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