In every corner of the world that Rachel Louise Snyder travelled as an investigative journalist, from Southeast Asia to South America, she saw the impact and aftermath of domestic violence.
It led her to examine contemplate the myths behind what she refers to as “intimate partner terrorism” in her book, No Visible Bruises.
“Domestic violence sat at the centre of all these stories I did around the world. From Tibetan women undergoing forced sterilization to women imprisoned in Kabul for love crimes, domestic violence was a shadowy background in all those women and girls’ lives.”
Snyder realized the public narrative – those ‘myths’ of domestic violence — didn’t add up. Myths such as: “If things were bad enough, the victims would just leave”; that “restraining orders and shelters solve the problem”; and, “if a victim didn’t show up in court, the problem was solved.” She realized there was a connection between other social issues like gender discrimination, gender bias, homelessness, poverty, mass shootings, and acts of domestic terrorism. In her words, “domestic violence is always lurking in the background.”
Examining these myths and misnomers will inform Synder’s keynote address at the Alberta Crime Prevention conference on May 10th. One of her biggest messages is that the seriousness of domestic violence cuts across all demographics.
“One of the things that I try to dispel is that this is a problem for poor people only, or that this is a problem that affects mainly people of colour.”
There are statistics to back up Snyder’s message. In Canada, 3 in 10 women aged 15 to 24 reported experiencing at least one incident of intimate partner violence in the past year. The United Nations declares the home as “the most dangerous place for a woman,” and in Alberta, domestic violence makes up, on average, 21 percent of all violent crimes.
“But in fact,” she adds, “anybody can be a victim or a perpetrator.”
One of the components of Snyder’s message is that simple changes in legislation can impact victims. For example, she points to a ruling in Montana that doesn’t let accused perpetrators of domestic violence immediately bail out of jail. A mandatory holding period gives advocates and police time to do things like danger assessments, move survivors to shelters, change locks, or install Ring cameras. Those small steps can significantly impact victims desperate to escape violent situations.
The author also stresses that support systems are vital for helping survivors of domestic violence, especially systems that extend beyond the justice or social systems.
“Do you go to church? Do you belong to a club, or do you have a group of friends to spend time with? We can create safe spaces for support systems beyond law enforcement and judiciary.”
Rachel Louise Snyder will be speaking at the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association’s keynote luncheon Tuesday, May 10th as part of the ACCPA 2022 Conference.