A licensed mental health counselor explodes myths and offers practical advice regarding abusive relationships.
Debut author Streyffeler has a private counseling practice in Fort Myers, Florida, and has been providing therapy for 25 years. In a preface, she recalls persuading an upper-middle-class client that her husband’s behavior was indeed domestic violence: “That’s not possible!” the woman replied; she assumed that abused wives “live in trailer parks and their husbands wear ‘wifebeater shirts.’ ” Starting with this stereotype, Streyffeler systematically counters many common misconceptions about domestic violence: “Abuse is a pattern of behavior. It is not an isolated incident or event. It does not have to be physical.” Emotional and psychological violence are just as damaging, she argues. Abuse often coexists with drug and alcohol problems or mental health issues, and Streyffeler points out that abusive partners may also destroy property or use sex in a manipulative way. Much of the book is devoted to short case studies, based on fictionalized composites of Streyffeler’s clients, and the characters generally have alliterative names to make them memorable. For instance, Ishmael allows Isabel to quit work once she gets pregnant—a calculating move to cut her off from her friends. Charlie tells Charlene that if she leaves him, he’ll tell their son that “Mommy is breaking up the family.” Often, abusive situations are simply a matter of power and control, the author explains. She offers a variety of examples to ensure that many readers will find something that speaks to their own experience, and a thorough list of reasons why people stay in abusive relationships will enlighten concerned loved ones. A chapter on safety planning is particularly valuable; in it, she urges readers to keep a bag packed with important documents in case they need to leave quickly. The author ends with her own story of starting over after leaving an abusive husband—a personal stake that anchors this information-heavy work.
A well-structured, encouraging book for anyone troubled by domestic violence.