Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence

Harper. Feb. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780063059900. $28.99. SOC SCI
With its epigraph from Terry Tempest Williams’s When Women Were Birds and chapter titles that invoke the fairy tale tropes her story dismantles, Assume Nothing is raw, gut-wrenching, and honest in its exposure of how—and why—women find themelves trapped in the stories that comprised their childhoods, with particular attention to the shame that comes from believing that they should have known better. Selvaratnam has written this for other women, in an effort to amplify the voices of people who lack the visibility she gained in the aftermath of going public about experiencing abuse by former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. She writes with tremendous personal vulnerability, yet never loses sight of the broader policies and data surrounding domestic violence, which lends her work strength as a memoir and as a polemic. By taking Schneiderman’s own language and using it as a framework for exploring the complexity of domestic violence, Selvaratnam has successfully undermined the damaging rhetoric designed to prevent women from recognizing themselves as experiencing abuse, especially in situations where there is an imbalance of power.
VERDICT A searing, yet sensitive account of vulnerability and redemption that will find a wide audience.
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