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The yelling I could take ... the beating I could take ... the pain and blood I could take ... but when he would tell me that he didn't love me and that I was worthless, I felt myself dying inside. - An emotional abuse survivor (pg. 23)
The impact of abuse by spouses, partners, or lovers touches every aspect of a woman's being. It reverberates in the soul of the individual, within larger societal communities, and throughout every country in this world. "Intimate" Violence Against Women: When Spouses Partners, or Lovers Attack" (' "Intimate" Violence'), manages to successfully intertwine a scholarly discussion of the problem of the abuse of women (neatly inserting statistics where appropriate) with a practical guide for any reader who picks up this book.
"Intimate" Violence consists of eleven (11) chapters and four (4) appendices. Each chapter is authored by a different woman. The authors are nurses, counselors, psychologists, and professors, and each chapter explores a different angle of the problem. Every chapter is replete with notes citing to more sources and information, should the reader choose to undertake an extensive study of the abuse against women. Though the chapters work together to provide a complete understanding of the problem of intimate violence, each chapter presents a valuable discussion that can be appreciated on its own.
The book begins with an overview of the extent of the problem of abuse committed against women, dismantling several myths about intimate violence. The book then takes an in-depth look at abuse by exploring the components of abuse, including emotional abuse, the physical battering of women, and sexual abuse. "Intimate" Violence educates and informs readers that a woman does not simply "become" a victim; rather, victims of abuse may be adult survivors of child sexual abuse and/or emotional abuse. The book reminds the reader that these women are most likely trapped in the three-stage cycle of violence first discussed by Lenore Walker in The Battered Woman. Abused women also frequently experience painful effects of the abuse which has been inflicted upon them, including Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome ("PTSD"), substance abuse, depression, Stockholm Syndrome, dissociation, and eating disorders.
"Intimate" Violence also includes a discussion of the legal issues surrounding intimate partner violence, which is necessary for the reader who is or has experienced abuse and for those people who are trying to help a woman who is being abused. The book explains the three (3) options available to victims who are able and ready to get help: family law, civil law, and criminal law. The Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA") is also given the attention it deserves. "Intimate" Violence advises on how to work effectively with law enforcement and counsels readers on how to prepare for a variety of issue that victims may encounter, from the reporting of the abuse to appearing in the courtroom.
Interestingly, one thing the book does not include is a lawyer's perspective of intimate violence. Although the addition of a lawyer's perspective might take the focus off of the abuse victim, it would be helpful to have a seasoned family law attorney discuss the challenges of representing an abuse victim or a prosecuting assistant district attorney offer his or her first-hand knowledge of prosecuting a case against an abuser.
Following a discussion of the legal issues that intimate violence presents, the book moves into a discussion of how victims of sexual assault and battered women can seek help and the importance of therapeutic intervention. Chapter 8, "Therapeutic Interventions for Survivors," not only offers specific methods of recovery, including a table of psychopharmacological treatment for sexual assault victims, but also includes several "scenarios" which demonstrate the various ways that victims can obtain the help that they need. The chapter stresses that advocates, friends, and physicians must consider where the victim is in her psychological journey so that appropriate help can be given in the most beneficial manner.
"Intimate" Violence tackles the abuse of women at the societal and global levels as well, noting the effects of class and culture on both the abused woman and her abuser. This discussion is a helpful one, as abuse of women is the result of gender inequality within the social structure. The book reminds readers that infanticide, female genital mutilation ("FGM"), dowry deaths, honor killings, acid attacks, and trafficking of women and children is the reality of life for women all over the world. The intersection of oppressions, including racism, heterosexism, and class privilege, work together to mold each woman's experience of intimate partner violence.
Finally, the book offers an array of safety recommendations for victims, including specific plans for women who are ready and able to leave an abusive partner. "Intimate" Violence also includes a list of things a victim can do to remain safe if she is still living with her abuser. Legal and advocacy resources and crisis hotlines are also provided.
This book would be a wonderful addition to college and law school classes, and a practical guide for those who are in need of the help that it offers. As an attorney, I would recommend that my colleagues who practice family law and child advocacy take the time to read this book.
© 2007 Noreena Sondhi
Noreena Sondhi is an attorney in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania. After she graduated from The Villanova University School of Law in May, 2005, Noreena accepted a clerkship with the Honorable Gary S. Glazer in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. She is also a certified volunteer attorney for the Support Center for Child Advocates, which is a non-profit organization that offers free legal and social services to Philadelphia’s abused and neglected children.