book review: No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

NO VISIBLE BRUISES by Rachel Louise Snyder
Bloomsbury, 2019

I am a notoriously slow audiobook listener, but this was ridiculous even for me; I started this book in March and I’m just finishing it now on the last day of August. But it wasn’t, as is often the case for me, because I never felt like listening to it; I would start playing this book constantly and only be able to listen for a couple of minutes because I felt like my skin was crawling. Which is, of course, exactly what a book like this should be, so, no complaints, only apologies that it took me this long to be able to stomach it.

In No Visible Bruises, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder investigates the state of domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence) in the U.S. She anchors her thesis to a Montana woman, Michelle Monson Mosure, whose husband Rocky shot and killed Michelle and her two children in 2001, before killing himself. This tragedy was not out of the blue; Rocky had a long history of violence and Michelle had known that he was capable of killing her. When Rocky was briefly incarcerated for breaking and entering into Michelle’s family home, Michelle worked up the courage to file a restraining order — which she then quickly recanted as soon as Rocky was bailed out. Michelle reached out for help and failed to receive it, and Snyder tells her story not only in order to upend common misconceptions about intimate partner violence (the most notable and infuriating of which being, “why didn’t she just leave?”), but also to examine the ways in which her and her children’s deaths could have been prevented.

The focus of the book then turns to the many government-funded programs that have been launched over the years to address intimate partner violence, to varying degrees of success. Snyder puts a huge emphasis in her research on rehabilitation, speaking to perpetrators directly and attending group rehab sessions. It’s a jarring transition, this shift in focus from victim to perpetrator, but it’s a necessary one. The function of this book isn’t merely to dismiss fallacies about intimate partner violence, it’s to address the issue head on and provide insight into what has actually been successful at reducing the crime. Snyder also addresses shelters and police intervention — two commonly cited paths to safety for victims, and she explains the shortcomings of both solutions. The point that she drives home throughout this book is that intimate partner violence doesn’t exist in isolation; it’s caused and influenced by a myriad of social factors which all need to be addressed in their own way, which ultimately involves providing intervention and assistance to perpetrators as well as victims. 

This book is absolutely harrowing but it’s skillfully researched and necessary. There is one thing I’d like to point out though before recommending it — Snyder doesn’t tackle the issue of intimate partner violence within the LGBTQ community specifically, and she often gives she/her pronouns to victims and he/him pronouns to perpetrators when speaking generally. She addresses this in her forward, acknowledging that it’s a generalization based on statistics that she is aware does not encapsulate every instance of intimate partner violence. As it isn’t the aim of this particular project to delve into queer intimate partner violence or to highlight specific instances of women assaulting their male partners, I can’t fault Snyder for not doing that, but it’s worth noting that this is probably the book’s most notable weak area. I do recommend this very highly unless queer intimate partner violence is specifically what you are seeking to learn about.

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