January 09, 2012

No Visible Wounds:Identifying nonphysical abuse of women by their men by Mary Susan Miller

Since leaving my last relationship a few months ago, I've struggled with what has happened and as such, have read (and keep reading) several books covering the topic of emotional/verbal abuse. This book attracted me because it is just that "no visible wounds" meaning that it does not incorporate physical abuse and therefore doesn't seem to make all other forms of abuse as trivial (not saying other books do this but as a victim it sometimes makes me feel invalidated when they go into the physical and focus on that).

Abuse always grows worse. The abuser that hits may one day kill. The abuser that starts with only criticizing may evolve into screaming obscenities and insults. Or maybe neither, maybe it will just be a steady erosion of bringing down the partner's self esteem. This book explores that notion and how non-physical abuse is just as serious and as damaging as physical abuse. It starts with clarifying just what non-physical abuse is and the different signs and symptoms of it. Then it goes into the signs of it or how it happens. Why it can happen. Part three covers how others react to non-physical abuse. Often it is invalidated and a common misconception is that if they aren't beating you, its not abuse. Or that the woman could just leave if she were being abused (which is one of the hardest things and near impossible to do as a result of non-physical abuse). The last part covers on whether or not abuse can be stopped. Almost every book I've read states that it is very unlikely that an abuser will ever change or even recognize what they are doing is abuse. But there is a small percentage that will, but it is very very minuscule. More often, making abuse stop lies in the victims end to remove themselves in all ways possible, and this book offers some helpful hints for doing so. It really focuses on acknowledging the abuse, because believing you've been abused is very hard for victims.

I appreciate the tone of this book and its hard stance on NOT blaming the victim. Sure it can be easy to say that someone was asking for it, or they should just get out of a hurtful situation, but until you've been there, you can't know how hard it actually is. And non-physical abuse is very clever. It erodes your self esteem and makes you feel as if what is happening is normal and that you deserve the abuse. You may not even realize you're abused until someone tells you (this is what happened to me). You may know something is wrong, but you don't realize its as serious as you think as "all couples fight". The difference is in the way people fight. Some of it is not natural. This book helps identify if you are possibly with an abuser. It gives 9 guidelines and even answering yes to one of these means you could be in an abusive relationship.

Some of the other books I've read focus more on trying to "fix" an abusive relationship. Which is not helpful at all. This book doesn't do that. This is more an educational and informational book with no other purpose than to educate. I'd say that of everything I've read, this book, and Lundy Bancroft's Why Does He Do That have been the best on the subject. They offer ways of coping and validation for what a victim has experienced. It doesn't expect the victim to "fix" the abuser and give false hope or expectations. And while this book doesn't sugar coat things, its not rough to read either. It won't make you feel bad if you haven't removed yourself from an abusive situation. My only complaint is that it really only focuses on "full blown" abusive situations. It doesn't really offer as much help for those people who left while the abuse was still "light" (if abuse can ever be called such a thing) or who left just as the abuse was beginning. It can make it hard to relate to at times.

This book will be staying in my library. Its a valuable resource and a good book to turn to for validation.

No Visible Wounds
Copyright 1995
298 pages

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