Snyder is here to tell us, in her clear, smooth and accessible style (never folksy but never academic, and so matter-of-fact you can feel the writer holding herself in check so as not to overwhelm us with painful details), that we have misunderstood. The most dangerous place for an American woman to be – the most dangerous place on Earth – is in her own home. Snyder uses the case of a Montana family, Michelle and Rocky Mosure and their children, to create a strong narrative spine that runs through the book (which has been much praised in the US, described as a book that will “save lives” by the Washington Post). She interviews everyone who can be heard from: family, attorneys, police officers.
There is a river of shame and grief in this book, and even the most well meaning wade in it. Even those who seem to refuse responsibility (“The criminal justice system isn’t set up for uncooperative witnesses,” says a former district attorney) do also seem to know better and to regret, genuinely, all the things that went wrong and led to a young woman and her children being murdered by a man who was known to the police and to the courts for having beaten and terrorised them all repeatedly.
Snyder reports directly from the ugly face of domestic abuse, carefully deconstructing lazy stereotypes and ignorant assumptions, placing it within a wider web of violence and social problems, and sharing accounts that reshape what we think about when we imagine the victims of “intimate partner terrorism”. The book is deeply impactful and thoroughly researched. While it focuses on the unique setting of the US, with its own particular set of legal, structural, economic and other challenges and contextualises just how it can be that more than half of all murdered women in the US are killed by a current or former partner, No Visible Bruises reset something in me.
The hope in this Pandora’s box of pain is that Snyder suggests reform, at least for some perpetrators, may be possible. A common aphorism is that “hurt people hurt people”. Snyder observes groups trying to combat male violence by encouraging men to talk more about their emotions, although there is rightly a note of caution: the police and charities are often sceptical of these initiatives. She also offers wider solutions. Cases should be prosecuted even if the victim drops charges; violence intervention plans need greater funding; and in the US, of course, they should get rid of guns.