Blind-Sided: Homicide Where it is Least Expected, by Gregory K. Moffatt

My Copy: 9780275969295 (image courtesy of amazon.com)

It’s all too common for Americans to see or hear about robberies, workplace violence, school shootings, terrorism, etc. What’s perhaps hardest is hearing from those close to the perpetrator state that they couldn’t believe this had happened. While the rest of us scoff in disbelief at how someone couldn’t know, let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t recognize the warning signs without some help.

Though published in 2000, Blind-Sided still has some tremendous lessons in its pages, examples and insights into the truth of “non-violent” people who “suddenly” turn violent. For those wanting to understand some of the cases where people “should have known” that something would happen, this is a great resource.

Mr. Moffatt was an educator, researcher and clinician and spent years analyzing and lecturing on violence in our society. He dedicates entire chapters to different versions of homicidal violence, such as those performed by the mentally ill, workplace killers, domestic violence, stalking homicide, and homicide by children (with Columbine as its own chapter).

There are also some chapters on assessing risks, intervention and prevention, and one very necessary chapter called “Seven Mistakes That Can Cost People Their Lives.” What’s telling in these pages is our apparent naivete in society. There’s a common pervasive myth that people who will commit atrocious violence must always have been violent and have shown it in the past. The problem (I think) is that it makes no sense–it sounds like a chicken-and-the-egg argument that you can’t be a violent person unless you’ve already done violent things…and around and around it goes. That’s why there’s so much psychological study about crime and criminals–to get us off this false belief that “they” are violent and “we” never could be…until one of “us” suddenly is.

But I digress.

Moffatt’s book has dozens of case-studies to back up his point, how certain homicidal acts came to be and what happened to the perpetrators and victims. It’s useful to read these things, even if difficult for sensitive readers (Moffatt pulls no punches describing events), because these pages will have some clues as to warning signs for risk assessment.

I’m a bit of a crime-buff myself, so I tend to read about criminal psychology without prompting. But even for the non-crime buff, I think Blind-Sided is a necessary one for those wanting to learn more how to protect themselves in the world, and the warning signs to watch out for if someone’s close to losing it and ready to act violently. I recommend this for any violent-crime researcher, psych major, any person wanting to learn more about self-defense, or the defense of others in their lives.

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