Nursing Book Club

No Visible Bruises By Rachel Louise Snyder

A Study of Intimate Partner Violence

Statistically, the chances are we all know someone who has been touched some form of intimate partner violence (IPV). The numbers are staggering: In her new book, No Visible Bruises, author Rachel Louise Snyder tells us that between 2000 and 2006, about 3,200 American soldiers were killed. During the same period, according to the FBI, “domestic homicide claimed 10,600 lives” — a figure that, by the Bureau’s own admission, is likely an underestimate.

Looking at it in another way, 20 people in the United States are assaulted every minute by an intimate partner. How can this possibly be true? In No Visible Bruises, Snyder seeks to understand where IPV begins, how it escalates, whom it affects, how it can be predicted and what can be done to prevent it.

Divided into three major parts, the book begins with a familiar story we’ve probably all heard before: A young woman falls in love with a charismatic older man. He isolates her from her friends and family. They have children; she doesn’t work outside the home. First, there is emotional abuse, then physical. The court system is of minimal help. When she prepares to leave him, she’s at greatest risk. It’s all too clear what the ending will be.

No Easy Answers

Parts two and three describe cultural and political movements dedicated to addressing domestic violence in the U.S. For example, Snyder discusses how the O.J. Simpson trial of the ‘90s and the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson brought attention to the issue of domestic battery and set the stage for the present #MeToo movement. Snyder also interviews abusers at length to determine what they have in common.

As Snyder explains, advocates and experts have approached the problem in a number of ways, including developing tools to help assess the level of risk, attempting to retrain law enforcement to better assess the volatile domestic situations they investigate and holding classes to help abusers develop healthier ways of managing their own stressors.

Nursing Education

Still, in IPV situations, the deck often seems to be stacked against victims, which often has tragic consequences — for the victims and sometimes even for those around them. We live in a country where mass shootings have become commonplace, and domestic violence is often a warning sign if not a trigger. In 2017, a gun control advocacy group estimated that domestic or family violence was involved at the outset of 54 percent of mass shootings. In other words, IPV puts us all at risk.

Snyder is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in various well-respected publications. She is also an associate professor in the MFA program at American University in Washington, D.C. She initially became interested in violence against women while reporting on developing countries, but soon recognized that it’s a problem without borders.

This is not an easy book to read, and if you have been through an IPV situation yourself, you may wish to steer clear. However, it highlights an enormous and ongoing public health problem. How can we continue to look away?

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019)


Christine Contillo, RN, BSN, PHN, is a nurse with more than 40 years of experience, ranging from infants to geriatrics. A graduate of Cornell University and The Catholic University of America, nursing has taken her from inner cities to Central America.


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