Story by: Molly Sullivan
Award-winning journalist, author and lecturer Rachel Louise Snyder spoke in Sacramento on Friday on the heels of the publication of her book “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us,” calling for more attention, education and clarity to “a global health problem of epidemic proportions.”
Snyder spoke Friday night at the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center’s Celebration of Hope Gala, a fundraiser for the county’s one-stop resource center for domestic violence victims.
Snyder, who has written for the Atlantic, the New Yorker, the New York Times and other publications, said she decided to write about domestic violence because she was drawn to human rights stories and issues of disenfranchisement.
After returning to the U.S. from reporting abroad, Snyder said she met a woman working for a domestic violence agency and a team trying to prevent intimate partner homicides. That encounter brought the issue came into sharp relief for her, Snyder said.
“I have seen (domestic violence) everywhere and in every story and ignored it,” she said after addressing a crowd of domestic violence advocates from law enforcement, criminal justice and public assistance programs. “I mean, talk about a humbling moment, right? If someone like me who is educated, a feminist, believes in gender equality could so easily dismiss this as an issue, what did it say for the rest of the country. It was just shocking to me.”
“And if I didn’t know about this it was because there wasn’t very much attention being paid to it by the media,” she added. “And who’s the media? Me.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner each minute in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men, accounting for 15% of all violent crime in the nation, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says.
What’s more, Snyder elevated in her discussion and book, the most dangerous place for a woman living in the U.S. is her own home.
Snyder spent years researching and interviewing victims as well as perpetrators, and said she wanted to dispel misconceptions about domestic violence in her reporting.
“The biggest misconception is that (domestic violence) is a matter of bad luck and bad choices,” she said. “It’s not — anyone can be a batterer and anyone can be a victim.
“It’s not about rage, it’s about power and control. I also want people to stop asking the question ‘why does she stay?’ and start asking ‘why is he violent?’ ”
In her reporting, Snyder said she noticed small policy changes can make a big difference in helping victims who live in homes with recurring violence. She cited a law in Montana that mandated domestic violence suspects be released from jail only after they’ve seen a judge after lunch time, giving victims and advocates time to put a restraining order in place or take other precautions that prevent a situation from escalating.
Snyder is an associate professor of creative writing and journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.
Her book, published by Bloomsbury, is available in hardback, paperback and eBook form.