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Rachel Louise Snyder Says ‘Allowing Domestic Violence is Like Letting a Burglar in Your House’
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Rachel Louise Snyder’s book “No Visible Bruises” goes beyond examining cases of domestic abuse to look at the abuser’s point of view and ongoing work by judiciary, social workers and other professionals to address domestic violence.
   
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

“In November 2001 Rocky Mosure bought a gun from the “Thrifty Nickel,” the classified paper where you can buy everything from a tractor to a piano,” Rachel Louise Snyder read from her book “No Visible Bruises.” “Then he went home where (his wife) Michelle had just fed the kids dinner…. Sometime after, one by one, he shot them. Michelle, Kristy, Kyle. Then himself.”

The shooting, which shocked Montana residents, followed a long string of ways in which Rocky had terrorized his wife and children. And their story, which Snyder recounts in detail, are among several cases that tell the story of domestic violence in her book.

“I write Michelle’s story not because it’s a terrible story. It is—but we can do better,” she told about 50 leaders representing Sun Valley Community School, the Hailey Police Department, government and other sectors.

Snyder came to the Wood River Valley a week ago at the invitation of The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault and The Community Library. In addition to the first gathering, she discussed her book, a New York Times Book of the Year, at The Community Library.

“When I started reading her book, I could not put it down,” said The Advocates’ Darrel Harris, who has worked with survivors of domestic abuse for 30 years. “She’s an amazing researcher, and this book reads like a novel. There are clear positive outcomes when we have a better understanding of domestic violence with better support for children and families.”

Snyder told how Michelle—a 23-year-old Billings woman—took steps to get herself and her children away from her husband. She was getting a nursing degree so she could support her children. She bought her house from her father for $1 so she could legally evict her husband.

“She was doing everything you’re supposed to do, and she still wound up dead,” she said.

Rocky used the kids over and over to keep her in their marriage. He isolated her, taking away her resources. He controlled what she wore, dissed her makeup. He beat Michelle and he kept a rattlesnake in a cage in the living room threatening to put it in her bed if she made trouble.

Like so many victims, Michelle never came right out and told anyone what she was going through. One day she left her children at her mother’s house and told her mother that she thought Rocky was having an affair. “Don’t let him have the kids, no matter what,” she added.

Her mother didn’t know how to interpret the shadowy message.

The family called the police when Rocky broke a window to open the door, bruised Michelle’s sister’s shoulder in a scuffle and picked up one of the children over his shoulder and left. The police charged him with criminal mischief and misdemeanor.

“That’s like calling robbing a bank ‘an economic dispute,’ ” said Snyder. “If it had been a stranger beating on the door, who wouldn’t have called the police? But when it comes to family, people have trouble registering the violence.”

Allowing domestic violence to go on is like letting a burglar in your house, she added.

At one point, Michelle was granted a restraining order. When Rocky violated it, he blamed her for having him arrested in front of their daughter.

“The system told her, ‘We’re prioritizing his freedom over your safety,’” Snyder said. “Very often, we have one chance. She called the police once, she told her mother once. She sought help from her father once, asking if she and the kids could stay at his house —the weekend before she was killed.”  

One of the best things someone can do is give a woman resources, Snyder said. She recalled a woman who stood up in an Atlanta ballroom and said, “I can’t go home today. What should I do?”

“The question I’m asked most is: ‘I have a friend…what should I do?’ ”

Abusers can be rehabilitated, according to the research Snyder has reviewed. But they have to see the benefit for them. One program asked those wanting to be part of their program to write 10 reasons they were a good fit for the program. By the time they got to No. 7 or 8, most realized the program would be good for them.

Zoom has made it easier for many abusers to get consistent support since they don’t have to arrange transportation or child care to go to a meeting.

“One man who dealt with an anger problem attends on Zoom in his laundry room. “When I get angry, the kids tell me, ‘Daddy go in the laundry room,’ ” he told Snyder.

The United Kingdom has an anonymous hotline for abusers, 85 percent of whom are men.

“What was amazing was the vulnerability I heard,” said Snyder, who was permitted to listen in for three months. “One was upset that he got home and his family was gone. Others sought help when they realized they might hurt a child.

“The United Kingdom’s goal always is to get the abusers into an abuser-intervention program. They tell the abusers: ‘Your wife’s not giving up hope. Think about her giving you a restraining order to give you a time out to figure out what to do.’ And they never hang up the phone without a list of actionable items that give the abusers a place to focus with forward momentum.”

California and New York have passed coercive control laws that encourage professionals too look for red flags beyond the physical injuries, such as telling the partner that they’ll lose custody of the children if they report abuse.

The State of Montana now allows alleged abusers to be held for a certain period of time so advocates can assess the situation and install security cameras, ankle bracelets and other safety precautions. Some pass out credit card-sized pictures of those who under restraining orders in neighborhoods and schools.

Chicago is redefining community violence, redefining some gang violence as domestic violence, which allows them to creatively attack the problem from another angle.

Snyder said she would like the National Teen Dating hotline to be featured on every box of Tampons.

“Part of the problem is shame. What takes shame away is the normalization, having a discussion in which we ask: Are you safe at home? We need to have police call groups like the Advocates and hand the victims the phone so they can talk to people who will help them because they’re not likely to call themselves.

“We have to create a system where the victim feels they’re being cared for.”

LEARN THE LEVEL OF DANGER AN ABUSED WOMAN HAS OF BEING KILLED BY HER PARTNER at https://www.dangerassessment.org.

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