Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman

Unheard Witness Cover
Primary Author: 
Scott-Coe, Jo
Binding Type: 
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
List price: $27.95

Unheard Witness foregrounds a young woman’s experience of domestic abuse, resistance, and survival before the mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966.

In 1966, Kathy Leissner Whitman was a twenty-three-year-old teacher dreaming of a better future. She was an avid writer of letters, composing hundreds in the years before she was stabbed to death by her husband, Charles Whitman, who went on to commit a mass shooting from the tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Kathy’s writing provides a rare glimpse of how one woman described, and sought to change, her short life with a coercive, controlling, and violent partner.

Unheard Witness provides a portrait of Kathy’s life, doing so at a time when Americans are slowly grasping the link between domestic abuse and mass shootings. Public violence often follows violence in the home, yet such private crimes continue to be treated separately and even erased in the public imagination. Jo Scott-Coe shows how Kathy's letters go against the grain of the official history, which ignored Kathy’s perspective. With its nuanced understanding of abuse and survival, Unheard Witness is an intimate, real-time account of trust and vulnerability—in its own way, a prologue to our age of atrocities.