A handbook aims to help readers deal with domestic violence.
The statistics underlying this work by family therapist Coates (Mindful Workbook for Women, 2018, etc.) are stark and sobering: 1 in 3 American women experience domestic abuse of some kind during their lives; 15 million children are abused every year; more than 70 percent of domestic-violence murders happen after the victims have ended the relationships; and alarmingly large percentages of domestic abuse cases are never reported. The author carefully itemizes every aspect of this depressing plague running through the country: the warning signs, the typical progression of domestic situations from tension to explosion and abuse, the stages of rationalization and understanding, and practices for handling the trauma and achieving some measure of inner peace. The book’s sections come with ample work space for readers to write responses to questions designed to bring them into the process of clarifying their own experiences. Likewise, Coates provides case studies in the form of stories meant to illustrate common scenarios of domestic abuse. All of it is presented in clear, accessible prose that wears its clinical learning very lightly. The book achieves a great deal of this accessibility by striving to maintain a degree of emotional neutrality while exploring its intensely personal subject: “When we keep in mind that all human behavior makes sense within context, we are able to take a curious stance toward ourselves and others rather than a harmful stance of judgment and criticism.”
This wise decision to conduct an enlightened inquiry is the book’s greatest strength, allowing Coates to see abusers as human beings without excusing their actions. In almost all cases, she reminds her readers, the culprits have themselves been abused, and the use of the “curious stance” allows for a clearer picture of this whole spectrum. “The use of judgment and criticism leads to anger, shame, and stagnation,” the author writes in her comprehensive, systematic work. “With a curious stance we can gather valuable information that will allow us to make the changes necessary to reach our personal goals of stability and contentment.” Recognizing that many (perhaps most) abuse victims at some point feel tempted either to blame themselves or to avoid their own emotional turmoil, Coates is empathetic but firm in her warnings against such indulgences. “Whether you recognize your emotions or not, they will have a powerful influence over your thoughts and behaviors,” she writes. “Denying an emotion is like standing in the rain without an umbrella and pretending it’s not raining.” The clarity and compassion of her prose combine very effectively with the scope of her professional experiences and make the resulting book something its target audience should find intensely useful in coping with the dark things that have happened to them.
A highly detailed, worthwhile manual for survivors of various forms of domestic abuse.