cover image If Love Could Kill: The Myths and Truths of Women Who Commit Violence

If Love Could Kill: The Myths and Truths of Women Who Commit Violence

Anna Motz. Knopf, $29 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-53415-1

Female violence is often misunderstood because it counters “idealized notions of women as sources of love, nurture, and care,” according to this visceral study from forensic psychotherapist Motz (coauthor of Invisible Trauma). Drawing on her therapeutic work, Motz observes that women’s violent acts, ranging from child abuse to murder, were often preceded by abuse, dysfunctional relationships, or a particularly harrowing experience of motherhood, which she describes as a common “lightning rod” for “emotional pressures that can lead women to violence.” Some of her patients—though not all—began to reform when provided with appropriate support. For example, Saffire, who’d endured a traumatic childhood and later abused her own sons, learned to regulate her emotions after a 14-month course of therapy, while Grace, a middle-class mother who’d purposefully induced allergic reactions in her six-year-old daughter in a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, was eventually able to acknowledge her own pathologies and agree to restrictions protecting her children from further harm. Motz neither shies away from nor sensationalizes the grim, often shocking elements of her patients’ crimes. Instead, she carefully accounts for the psychological and social forces that can drive women to violence, and in the process builds a robust case for mitigating such behavior by raising awareness of those forces and increasing support for women in and out of the justice system. This challenges and enlightens. Agent: Rebecca Wearmouth, Peters Fraser + Dunlop. (Feb.)