Social problems often seem insurmountable, until they are not.” Masterfully researched and elegantly written, See What You Made Me Do shines a light into the darkest corners of one of the country’s most lethal, and perhaps least understood, social crises. Unlike most true crime works, this one does not spotlight a particular crime but rather positions itself high above the politics, police tape and courtroom of one tragedy and examines what has led to the epidemic of domestic abuse in Australia.
Journalist Jess Hill spent more than four years writing this book, and her attention to detail shows. There is a Helen Garner-like touch to her writing, devastating in its clean approach. The case studies – traumatic but never exploitative in their telling – illustrate the national emergency of family violence and quietly celebrate the frontline workers, from court advocates to crisis helpline counsellors, tirelessly working to fill gaps. One of these workers, in the opening pages of the book, swiftly corrects the common narrative of a domestic violence story. Asked by Hill if she gets frustrated when victims decide to return to violent relationships, the counsellor responds, “No, I’m frustrated that even though he promised to stop he chose to abuse her again.”
The book lends particular focus to the spectrum of violent offenders and why a one-size-fits-all approach to holding them accountable is doomed to fail. There is also careful analysis of the distinct barriers facing Indigenous, migrant and disabled women, and while some of the victims’ stories are so unbearable as to make a reader want to look away in horror, Hill reminds us the time to confront this is now. A scattering of examples of successful policy making allows the book a touch of hopefulness, as well as a reminder that we have in the past tackled grave social problems, like smoking and drink driving, with courage and smart investment and emerged victorious.