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Book review: 3 takeaways from ‘No Visible Bruises’

Knowledge and awareness can make domestic violence response safer for the men and women on the frontlines


Rachel Louise Snyder outlines a template for a thoughtful, planned and coordinated response to domestic violence.

Hot off the press and coldly sobering, Rachel Louise Snyder’s “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us,” will ignite lost empathy and renew our spirit for justice.

This book is a detailed look at our culture’s response to domestic violence, offering both tragic anecdotes and stories of collaborative success. Snyder’s hard-hitting prose delivers many revelations, but I’d like to offer three simple takeaways that remind me why I do this work.

1. Business as usual is no longer acceptable

The way law enforcement traditionally handles domestic violence incidents is fast becoming obsolete. Unique from other crimes, domestic violence calls for service require a thoughtful, planned and coordinated response. As a template for such a response, Snyder discusses the concept of high-risk teams and how they work.

The consequences of not taking the time to develop an effective response are deadly. Snyder walks us through several heart-wrenching tragedies of system failure, from the murders of Michelle Monsoon Mosure and her two children, Kristy and Kyle, to the murder-suicide of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter and her abuser, which took place in front of their 11-year-old daughter.

2. Domestic violence is more than just an incident police respond to

Snyder reminds us that domestic violence is an environment of daily exposure to emotional humiliation and control, abuse, threats and intimidation that changes the way victims think and behave to the point where the individual bows down to the demands of her abuser.

Sometimes, when law enforcement responds to allegations of domestic violence, they do so through the lens of the precipitating incident, seen mostly as physical in nature. However, assessing the precipitating assaultive incident is only the tip of the iceberg. Officers should not trivialize the cumulative environment of emotional coercion. Assessing for intimate partner battering cannot be satisfactorily resolved by assessing only the precipitating incident.

3. Differing perspectives

This is a well-researched book. Snyder spent hours interviewing dozens of people to offer the reader differing perspectives. She went on many ride-a-longs with law enforcement agencies throughout the country, interviewed academic leaders and researchers, and spent countless hours getting inside the heads of convicted abusers trying to turn their lives around as they struggle with the conditioning of violent upbringings.

She spoke with people trying to find effective interventions for abusive behaviors such as ManAlive founder Hamish Sinclair and Sunny Schwartz with the RSVP program.

She consulted with people on the front lines such as hostage negotiations expert and DPREP Training Manager, retired Sacramento Police Lieutenant, Gary Gregson.

She discusses ways to construct collaborative case planning with Kelly Dunne who works with the country’s first Domestic Violence High-Risk Team, a collaboration established in 2005 as a result of the Dorothy Giunta-Cotter tragedy.

She brings us advice from the amazing advocate for social justice, former San Diego County prosecutor and City Attorney, Casey Gwinn, who was the inspiration for the Family Justice Center Alliance. And Snyder lets us live vicariously through Cleveland’s Police Detective Martina Latessa who works on the Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Unit.

These are only a few of the many people you will meet in “No Visible Bruises.” We all know officers, advocates and prosecutors who make a difference every day. Working together to change the way we respond to domestic violence is a must. Recognizing the vast implications of domestic violence, not just the physical manifestations represented by the precipitating incident, is imperative. People like Rachel Louise Snyder can inspire law enforcement to work collaboratively to save the lives of those threatened by domestic violence.

Knowledge and awareness can make domestic violence response safer for the men and women on the frontlines. It helps with better reporting, better delivery of services and more prosecutions ‒ which is a win-win for all of us. Stay safe!

David Cropp is a retired sergeant with the Sacramento Police Department and has a combined 35 years of law enforcement experience. He is a regional domestic violence expert witness and consultant, holds a POST Master Instructor Credential and a Master’s Degree in Behavioral Science, and is board certified in Domestic Violence by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

Contact David Cropp