No Visible Bruises: What we don’t know about domestic violence can kill us by Rachel Louise Snyder

‘Love is what makes domestic violence different from any other crime.’

Some books are hard to read, and this is one of them.  I take no comfort from the fact that it is set in the USA: geography might provide a false sense of distance, but domestic violence is all around us.  And incidences have increased during the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

So, what does this book tell us that we might not already know?

‘They stay because they choose to live.’

I grew up hearing people say that ‘if it was that bad, x would leave’.  The people saying that had little (if any) idea of x’s reality.  How could x leave?  No income.  No savings.  No place to go.  Eventually, after three (of four) battle-scarred and weary children grew up and left home, x achieved a degree of independence.  And x was relatively lucky.  At least momentarily. 

For me, this book reinforces the importance of that.  Of knowing that what seem like a logical and sensible choice to some isn’t a choice for many.  Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence often (but not always) become perpetrators.  Role models are important: how else do we learn to function as adults?

‘If it takes the average victim seven or eight times to leave an abuser, why do we expect offenders to get it right the first time?’

Ms Snyder frames this book around particular individual stories, some of which have tragic endings. But amidst the pain and the awful stories, I saw occasional glimmers of hope.  Hope that information might be shared between jurisdictions, hope that behaviours could be anticipated, and interventions might work.

I found this a difficult book to read, but ignoring the problem is not the answer.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith