Review: no visible bruises: what we don’t know about domestic violence can kill us

8 September 2020

This review includes references to domestic abuse.

“Misdemeanours, in the world of domestic violence, are like warning shots. And all too often they go unheeded” (123).

Rachel Louise Snyder’s no visible bruises: what we don’t know about domestic violence can kill us, is another book that breaks down what is and isn’t being done to prevent domestic abuse. It’s hard for me not to compare it to Jess Hill’s See What You Made Me Do, as I read them less than two months apart. Snyder, however, shines the light primarily on the American justice system as she breaks her book down into three sections “The End”, “The Beginning” and “The Middle”, which explore how we come to know about domestic abuse and how it can be born.

Snyder opens at the end of life, exploring how a number of women have died at the hands of their partners, and why they fell through the cracks. She shares the story of Rocky and Michelle in a familicide and interviews family and friends to try and find the cracks, the gap where someone noticed things were amiss.

Readers are told about the Danger Assessment used to predict when someone is at high risk of domestic violence. Snyder takes this apart, and we are left questioning the injustices of police departments themselves and the ways that state lines can impact what is reported and used to help victims/survivors.

“One of the most difficult aspects of writing about domestic violence is that you’re writing about a situation of such intense volatility that you risk endangering victims who are already right in the middle of an explosive and dangerous situation. Yet the ethics of journalism mandate that everyone has a chance to tell their side of the story – victims and abusers alike” (9).

You have to acknowledge the effort that Snyder goes to in her reporting. She is careful with questions and throughout the entirety of the book you can see her dissecting not only the law system, but hospitals, governments and misogyny as a whole. Snyder unpacks slowly. This is effective to a degree, although I found myself distracted by repeated stories and sentences, particularly at the beginning of the book.

But her dissecting is plausible. As we move to “The Beginning”, Snyder interviews inmates and spokespeople for campaigns against domestic violence: perpetrators and victims alike.

Jimmy Espinoza, pimp and domestic violence perpetrator, is at the core of this section as Snyder discusses rehabilitation schemes like The ManAlive and Resolve to Stop the Violence. Snyder echoes concerns that not enough is being done to ensure the prevention of domestic violence as she follows Espinoza from rehabilitation, to relapse and then silence. 

“The United States spends as much as twenty-five times more on researching cancer or heart disease than it does on violence prevention, despite the enormous cost of violence to our communities” (122).

As Snyder moves through her book, she unpacks what may be useful for victims and perpetrators in combatting domestic violence. She draws on Martina, who works with high risk victims, and reminds readers of the silence within the system. The conclusion of the book was more compelling for me, however, at times I did not feel it responded to things as well as Hill’s had, but touched lightly on them, such as victim fear of police.

The book itself appears to offer an indication into further research and underpinnings as Snyder addresses Trump directly, and the men who have interviewed for her.

“Men like Jimmy are not remarkable. They’re not noteworthy. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing – which is not beating up women” (206).

All said, Snyder reminds readers that whilst we never picture ourselves as the victims until we are completely isolated by our perpetrators, there are plans in place that are slowly aiding the ways in which we address domestic abuse. Snyder’s book is a reminder that more is to be done to even consider addressing domestic violence in America.

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