recommended books

Life After Abuse: Helpful Books to Check Out

Moving on from an abusive relationship can be an incredibly hard process. If you find yourself struggling to cope and heal, consider a trip to a bookstore or the library to pick up one of these books.

1)  After abuse ends, feelings of inadequacy and shame can last. In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, author Brené Brown explores these difficult emotions and places importance on accepting imperfection and vulnerability. She guides readers through a process of beginning to “engage with the world from a place of worthiness” and learning to love yourself just as you are.

2) Author Pema Chödrön echoes Brown’s advice in her own book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Through an explanation of basic Buddhist beliefs, she instructs readers on how to cope with the difficulty of the past and present. Her text is filled with positive affirmations while she discusses communication, reversing habitual patterns, using pain to cultivate courage, and more.

3) If you’ve recently left a relationship and you have children, their wellbeing will undoubtedly be one of the most important concerns through your own healing process. In When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse, Lundy Bancroft offers advice for how to talk with your kids about the abuse, help them deal with the separation, and rebuild your life together.

4) Figuring out where to begin again after a relationship ends can leave survivors feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence by Meg Kennedy Dugan and Roger R. Hock discusses this complicated and frightening time. The book acts as a manual for rebuilding your life after abuse, by focusing on strategies for recovery, learning how to establish healthy relationships in the future, and more.

5) One of the essential ways to begin coping with abuse is to start to understand the dynamics of the abuse: why it happened, why your abuser didn’t change, and why it wasn’t your fault. In Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft addresses all of that and more, painting a clear picture to help survivors (or those still in an abusive relationship) understand what they’ve gone through.

6) Even long after abuse, experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be common. Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women by Mari McCaig and Edward S. Kubany is full of trauma recovery techniques called ‘cognitive trauma therapy’ to help cope with the aftermath of abuse. The book contains exercises for breaking down negative thoughts, dispelling feelings of helplessness, and beginning a happier, healthier life.

If you’re struggling with abuse or have left an abusive relationship, what books have you read? Which were most helpful?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

It Happened on Maple Street

This post is brought to you as part of the It Happened On Maple Street International Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule visit It is “The Writing of Maple Street: Part Four” by Tara Taylor Quinn.

I am so glad to be here. To be able to bring others here to a place where women truly are safe.

For so many years I didn’t believe I was worthy of a place like this. I believed my problems were of my own making. I take accountability for my actions. I am responsible for my life. And so I believed that the things that happened to me happened because I’d somehow made them happen. I’d created the circumstances that allowed others to mistreat me. I wasn’t a victim. I was simply paying the price for the poor choices I’d made. I couldn’t possibly take help away from those who deserved it by seeking that help for myself.

I am a USA Today bestselling romance author, you see. I’ve published fifty-five books with the world’s largest publisher of women’s fiction. My books are in twenty some languages in over thirty countries. I have a dream career. I am a success. Or so I told myself all those years. In reality, Tara Taylor Quinn, my alter ego, the woman inside of me who came to my rescue when Tara couldn’t handle the things happening to her, was a success. Tara was the girl who spent her time trapped in the little room inside of me. She ventured out to seep into the pages of my books. To love a child with all of my heart. And the rest of the time, she didn’t let anyone know she existed.

My journey is much like many of the women who are abused by those who vow undying love for them. I know that now. My epiphany is twenty-seven years late. And in the interim, I spent twenty-seven years of a lifetime living a lie. Twenty-seven years without peace in my heart. Twenty-seven years filled with moments of intermittent happiness mixed in with fear and panic, silence and hiding.

I am a lucky woman. I knew true love before abuse. The man I shared that love with was not my abuser. And when, twenty-seven years later, my true love, Tim Barney, came back into my life, it was that love, his love, the whole hearted love I’d felt for him before my heart had been shoved into a cement cask, that brought me out of the darkness and into he light. My true love knew that something horrible had happened to me. He could see the changes abuse had wrought. And he wasn’t willing to accept my silence. With his tender and gentle support, I spoke of something I’d never spoken of before. To anyone. One tentative step at a time, I came out, a little girl squinting against the glare of the sun, and trusted him with my truth.

I am four years post squint as I write this today. I am now married to my true love. Last summer we were asked to write our story. And today that story, It Happened On Maple Street, goes on sale. Today, for the first time, my family and friends will hear the truth about my life. Today, I think about the writing of that truth.

I had to do it alone. I knew that. I had to be strong enough to travel backward, to look at things I’d refused to think about, things shut so firmly away I wasn’t even sure I could still call them up in enough detail to write about them. Tim had a business trip coming up and I knew that was my time to write the hardest section of It Happened On Maple Street. He wasn’t in that part of the story. I also knew that I could not be at home alone while taking the trip into the past. And…I was long past due for a visit with my dearest friend, fellow writer, Patricia Potter. Pat welcomed me with open arms and a hospitality that I cannot describe for its goodness. Even now, I think of her home and know that the world holds a place that embodies emotional wellness, safety, and peace.

And for three days I sat on Pat’s couch with my laptop on my knees, my four pound poodle, who’d traveled with me, sleeping beside me, Pat’s two wild Indians whom I adore (rescue Australian Shepherds) close by, and Pat floating in and out of the room like some kind of angel, watching over us all. And when I got to the most painful scene, one where the details were blissfully sketchy, Pat sat in the seat perpendicular to mine and did not leave. I put on my headphones. I went down into the story. And by the time I came back up, I was trembling. I couldn’t breathe. The brain is a frightening thing. It lets you forget, on a conscious level, but it doesn’t ever let go of what it knows. As I went back in time, to the spring of 1980, it was as though I was there again. The details were clear. Vivid. I’d halfway convinced myself that what I’d thought happened back then really hadn’t, because I couldn’t logically figure out the logistics. After that night, sitting on Pat’s couch, I can no longer pretend. It happened. And I remember exactly how it happened. I also now know why I suffer so badly from claustrophobia.

Pat brought me a glass of wine. I sipped. But not much. I was afraid to let the alcohol take any measure of my control. And she sat with me. She asked, a time or two, if I was through. And when I finally told her that, yes, it was done, she sat with me some more. We talked some. I couldn’t say much. I was still feeling the pain. Trying to process the feelings of an eighteen year old girl as a more mature woman. Trying to find some kind of synchronization of myself. Trying not to cry. Because I knew that if those tears started to fall they would never stop.

I didn’t cry much then. I couldn’t. But when I got home and Tim asked me to read to him what I’d written, I couldn’t make it through. I read. And I had to stop. He sat with me, patient as ever, and waited. It was as though he knew I had to get through this telling of the whole story, the remembered parts, to him. It couldn’t be as removed as him reading my words. And it was also as if he really believed I could get through it. And because I thought he believed I could, because I trust him, I started to read again.

Tim, here. I can’t let Tara do this all alone. I didn’t have to contribute writing to the Part Four process, but I’ll tell you where I was at with it. My feelings about what had happened to Tara came to life when I actually had to hear about and read about the event. I couldn’t imagine what Tara felt when she had to write about it after 25 plus years. I wanted to fix things. I was angry for her. And I wrote to the university where things first happened and told them that they’d messed up. They hadn’t kept their student safe. They had made a situation where she felt safe, but didn’t make sure she was safe. I heard back from them soon after that. They’d changed a lot of their rules and now provide a lot of extra patrol and watch programs for their female students. Mostly, after hearing Tara’s words, I felt closer to her because now we could share her pain together.

And now Tara’s back.

You see, I’m a lucky woman. I am no longer alone. And no else needs to be alone, either. If there is no one else close, no one you can trust, if you need someone, contact someone right here, on this site. They are available twenty four hours a day seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year. Violence doesn’t punch a time clock and neither does love.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, or if you suspect someone is, please contact, or call, toll free, 24/7, 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). The call can be anonymous and is always confidential. There is not one second of life that is worth wasting.

All blog commenter’s are added to the weekly basket list.  Gift Basket given each week to one randomly drawn name on the list.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Bookmarks

To follow today’s Cyber Blog Party:

Part One:  MIRA Authors
Part Two:  HCI Books
Part Three:  RomCon
Part Four:  National Domestic Violence Hotline
Part Five:  Chapter’s Books
Part Six:  Border’s Books

 As part of the It Happened on Maple Street Blog Tour, we are offering National Domestic Violence Hotline bookmarks. Print yours today.

We will be giving away a copy of It Happened On Maple Street while we’re here so be sure to comment to be entered to win.  Comment on all six of today’s blogs and be entered to win a one of a kind Maple Street collectible basket filled with Tim and Tara favorites!!

Next tour stop, Saturday April 2, Deena Remiel’s Place.

About the author: Tara Taylor Quinn is the author of It Happened on Maple Street (HCA, 2011, $13.95). To get your copy, visit your favorite bookseller, or Also available on Kindle and Nook.


National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

From Survivor to Mountaineer

By Kathleen Schmidt

My name is Kathleen Schmidt, and I’m a survivor of domestic violence and abuse. I fled for my life over 15 years ago from extreme emotional and physical abuse, and created a new life for myself.

When I was living in a shelter for battered women, I kept telling myself over and over, “I have a brain, two hands, two feet and I know how to work; I WILL make my life better.” I chose to become a victor instead of a victim.  Books became my source of education and inspiration, and not only did I work on my own healing, I also had to find a way to earn a living. Not shy of hard work, I at one point sold pictures out of the trunk of my car. My efforts paid off, and it won me a trip to the Bahamas that allowed me to dive with sharks (I learned how to scuba dive while living in the shelter).

I entertained the idea for a very long time, since I lived in the shelter, to write my story. So finally, after many years needed to grow and heal, I wrote my little blue book “Escaping the Glass Cage: A Story of Survival & Empowerment from Domestic Violence.” It isn’t a big book, but something a woman in crisis can read and find encouragement in. I wrote it for women in shelters, but my hope is that it also helps those on the outside get a basic understanding of domestic violence and its effects.  But getting my book published didn’t feel like enough.

I wanted to find a way to reach more people on a global scale. So I created “Project Empowerment,” a blog talk radio show dedicated to empowering survivors of domestic violence and abuse, as well as others. I truly believe we each have a voice, and if people are able to listen to another’s story, it can help them make different choices and empower them to live a better life.

My guests have included Betty Makoni, Top 10 CNN Hero of the Year for 2009 for her humanitarian work rescuing rape victims in Zimbabwe. I’ve also interviewed actress/author Mariel Hemingway, as well as the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Operations Director, Katie-Ray Jones. My guests have also included many shelter directors from all over the world, authors, psychotherapists, counselors and survivors, each sharing their story, their passion and the work they are doing to make our world a better place. We talk about the tough subjects, and at the end of each show we share our ideas of solutions to the issues discussed, such as why the victim stays, where do abused men get help, how a can victim get help to rebuild their life, and how we can empower the children.

It is humbling to be contacted by listeners from all around the world, to learn the vital resources shared and how their sheer willpower helped them gain the strength to leave their abuser. My dream to build “Project Empowerment” into a global resource tool is coming true.

But again, I felt there needed to be something else to raise awareness. So I am very excited to announce “Climb for Empowerment,” with the mission to empower survivors of domestic violence and abuse … one step at a time. I will be climbing Mt. Rainier September 1–3, 2011, in honor of all those who have struggled to start their lives over.

It is by choice, to take one step after another. My dream is to show the world that if I can make a new life, so can you, one step at a time. I know how hard it is to rebuild a life. It takes a lot of courage to start over, learn how to live again and grow through the pain. So this climb is a symbol of that growth. It takes time, training and a lot of determination to do this, and I will need your support. Donations will be shared between Girl Child Network Worldwide and The Pixel Project. Both are global initiatives working very hard to help end violence against women.

I truly believe that all healing and empowerment begins from within. And for us to have peace in our world, we must first have peace within our homes, within ourselves. If you can find that spark, that driving force that pulls you in the direction of doing something bigger than you, listen to it. We each have a voice, we each can make a difference in the world, and it all starts with us.

To learn more about my work, Project Empowerment, Climb for Empowerment and upcoming Empowerment Workshops (New!), you can visit my website at

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?

By Lisa Moss

Why doesnt she leave PicHi. My name is Lisa, and I am a survivor of domestic violence. I am so grateful I could change my life, and I want to help others do the same.

I kept a journal from the last years of my marriage and had it published as Why Doesn’t She Just Leave? The title is a question I’ve heard countless times, and you probably have too. It implies that it couldn’t be that bad, or we’d just leave. My journal shows the truth through real experiences, in my own words, and will help people understand why victims don’t just leave.

I also hope that victims will read it, see themselves in me, and realize that they too can get out and change their lives. Readers will see what it’s like to be treated so cruelly that you just about give up. Why don’t we just leave? Because we’re afraid of the perpetrator’s cruelty, violence, and punishments, and because we feel defeated.

You’ll probably see a lot of yourself in my diary. Why don’t we just leave? It’s because our batterers are cruel and will punish us and our kids, and because we’re afraid. They’ve made us feel helpless and worthless, and we believe them. I used to believe what he told me: that everything was my fault, that I was disgusting and nobody would ever want me, that I would lose my children and become penniless if I left him, that I was stupid and crazy and pathetic and worse. But he was wrong!

For those women who are still living with your abuser, start thinking “Liar!” every time he insults or blames you. The truth is that you deserve a better life! If I could change my life and transform myself from victim to victor, you can, too!

I hope you’ll feel free to check out excerpts from the book as well as reader reviews. And if you know either a victim who needs encouragement, someone who judges victims, or someone who doesn’t understand why victims don’t just leave, please consider letting them know about the book.

It’s been a slow victory and years later I still suffer from the after-effects of 13 years in hell, but it’s getting better and better all the time.

Please let me know what you think and feel as you read Why Doesn’t She Just Leave? I hope that my book will make you feel that if I, a woman probably very much like you, could get away from my abuser and change my life, you can too.

I wish every survivor and victim the wonderful life you deserve!

About the author: Lisa Moss is the author of Why Doesn’t She Just Leave (IUniverse, 2001, $24.95) You can purchase a copy of the book here.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Tornado Warning: Author Shares Her Experience

By Elin Stebbins Waldal

If you have ever experienced a single event which later would serve as the catalyst for you to take action, then it may come as no surprise to you that I owe thanks to Stephanie Meyer, the author of The Twilight Series, because her books provided that very inspiration for me to take action in my own life.

As I sat with the closed cover of Breaking Dawn on my lap in December of 2008, it was clear a seed had been planted inside me. A seed, which soon would germinate, root, and take hold. A seed which two years later would bear fruit in a book — the telling of my story, Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life.

Given Stephanie Meyer openly shares with all who visit her website that a dream served as inspiration for her first book, I think it is safe to say that she did not write the Twilight Series as a means to educate young people on the subject of teen dating.

In contrast to the dream that Meyer describes, for me, the 2,739 pages of fiction woke me up to the buried emotions left from the relationship that nearly cost me my life when I was a late teen. That experience has forever left an imprint on me. To this day, I remember what it was like to realize I had lost myself — the essence of who I had been prior to meeting that boyfriend of so many years ago.

No, he was not a vampire with fabulous looks, nor did he have a bank account that was bottomless, or the ability to materialize every time I was in danger. In fact quite the opposite was true. My boyfriend was a human being. He was average to look at, some might even say he had a kind face and sweet smile, but behind those green eyes and dimples was a storm of violence. The danger I found myself in was due to his brutal behavior. His unhappy upbringing fueled a very tortured soul; his response was to possess me. Possession that controls, possession whose power hurts, nearly kills.

Tornado Warning shares with the reader the subtle erosion of self that occurs in an abusive relationship via journal entries of the teen I was. Woven between the journal entries are reflections of my life decades later where I explore with a backward glance the well-worn path I have traveled; from strong teenage girl turned victim, to victim turned survivor, survivor turned mother, mother turned advocate.

Tornado Warning is my voice, and it joins the chorus of the many pioneers who have endured, survived, and freed themselves from the cyclone of abuse. It is now my mission to shine a ray of hope into the lives of those who have been ripped from the very base of who they were. I am living proof that victims of abuse can be survivors, capable of first reclaiming the essence of who they are, then embracing their future and a life free from violence.

About the author: Elin Stebbins Waldal is the author of Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life (Sound Beach Publishing, 2011, $14.95). She is an inspirational speaker, writer, and the founder of Girls kNOw More, an organization dedicated to building confidence in middle school girls. She is also a Love Is Not Abuse Coalition California State Action Leader working to pass legislation that would require schools to teach dating violence awareness curriculum. Elin lives in Southern California with her husband Jimmy, three children, and their family dog.

Signed copies of Tornado Warning are available through her website at

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

After Years of Abuse, No More Drama

The following blog entry was written by Hotline National Advisory Board Member Sil Lai Abrams.

It seems strange to say this now, but as a child I didn’t know that I was growing up in an abusive home, or that there was specific legal term for my father’s behavior:  battering.  The only thing I did know was that living with my parents was incredibly isolating and painful and I made it my mission to get as far away from them as much and as soon possible.  I began running away from home during my sophomore (and final) year in high school.  This went on for a couple of years until I became of legal age and the day after my 18th birthday, jumped on a one-way flight to New York City armed only with two suitcases, $200 and the dream of a better life.

Like many who grow up in dysfunctional environments, I swore that I would never have a relationship like the one my parents had with each other.  And like many adult survivors of abusive homes, in spite of my most fervent wishes, I found myself in a relationship when I was in my early twenties that was eerily similar to my parents’.  On the surface my boyfriend was nothing like my father.  He was charming, didn’t drink or think housecleaning was women’s work and enjoyed being a hands on dad to my son from a previous relationship and the daughter we had together.  He was also, as I discovered soon into our relationship, very controlling and jealous.  The emotional and verbal abuse which dominated the first year of our relationship escalated to physical violence while I was pregnant with his child and only ended after he was arrested several times and ordered to stay away from me by a judge.

I stayed with him for all the wrong reasons and told myself that he would change.  In fact, he did change but it wasn’t for the better.  For five long years I weathered his abuse until I received counseling and support from a local organization that worked with victims of crime and violence called Safe Horizon.  Their support empowered me to permanently leave our relationship and begin the process of healing and rebuilding my life.  I am happy to say that in the years since, I have created a life for myself and children that is beyond my wildest dreams, a life that includes intimate relationships that are loving, supportive and free from violence.

When I left my batterer I told myself that if I ever was in a position where I could be of support to other women who have experienced intimate partner violence that I would try in some way to help.  When my book No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough was published in 2007 I was given the opportunity do so by sharing the nine-step self-help method outlined in my book and my personal testimony of overcoming violence as tools to motivate women living in domestic violence shelters. Additionally, my role as relationship expert for Men’s Fitness provides me with a national media platform to discuss various relationship issues, including domestic violence, which has led to various speaking and media appearances.  It was at a taping for Good Morning America last fall that I met former Hotline CEO Sheryl Cates.  We were both on a panel discussing the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident which generated a huge amount of media attention for the issue of teen dating violence.  Sheryl and I had an instant connection and when she asked me to join the National Advisory Board a few months later I didn’t hesitate to accept.

It is truly an honor to be a part of the National Advisory Board for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an organization that has done a tremendous amount of work over the past 15 years to help victims of domestic violence.  Although it has been 13 years since I left my abuser, I will never forget what it was like to live with the constant threat of violence over my head. I am humbled to be able to serve those whose lives have been affected by domestic violence and it is my hope that the efforts of those of us in the anti-domestic violence movement will in time stamp out one of the greatest threats to the health and well being of our families and communities.

Sil Lai Abrams
Writer, Inspirational Speaker, Empowerment Specialist
Men’s Fitness magazine relationship expert
National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Book Review: Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women

The following blog entry is written by Conrad Williams, Advocate for the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

As a Domestic Violence Advocate, I am always searching for new material to help our callers. While browsing though Barnes and Noble one Saturday, I noticed a book I had never seen before called “Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence”, written by Edward S. Kubany, PH.D., and published by New Harbinger ($21.95). While most books focus on red flag warnings and getting out, this book focuses on staying out and moving on with your life.

This book is a very thorough manual for moving forward. Every issue is covered and broken down on a subatomic level to set up a good foundation for understanding: PTSD, Guilt, Anger, Grief and Loss (tangible/symbolic). Every chapter has some kind of exercise to gauge your current status and also your progress. Each chapter builds on the previous one in an orderly fashion like steps in a staircase.

There is so much information in the book that I fear talking about it will give away too much. I can say however that there are a couple of chapters on understanding and letting go of guilt. There are also chapters on handling current and future interactions with former partners, going back, learned powerlessness, overcoming fear, and identifying potential perpetrators.

As an advocate I’ve already recommended this book to survivors that are trying to move forward. When I mention the title to the callers who are trying to deal with moving forward, I can literally hear a sigh of relief. The title alone is a form of validation and a catalyst for taking the next step. I also recommend this book for advocates to help understand their clients and enhance their advocacy.

I also had a chance to interview the main author of the book, Edward S. Kubany, PH.D. Mr. Kubany has an extensive amount of experience working with a variety of trauma survivors: Combat Veterans, Natural Disasters, and Battered Women. His inspiration to work with battered women started with a woman that he met while teaching a class on PTSD. This particular woman worked with battered women and referred some of her clients to him.

He was approached by New Harbinger to write a book due to an article written about his form of therapy. Co Author Mari A. McCaig, MSCP is a friend and peer that has a strong background working with crime victims, and Janet R. Laconsay, MA was a Practicum Student at the time of the project.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Marilyn French’s Characters Speak to Me

The following blog originally appeared on

By Kate Murphy

A college senior considers both The Women’s Room and French’s posthumously published novel, The Love Children, from the point of view of her own generation. And the experience clarifies her feminist sensibility.

As I plunged headfirst into The Women’s Room, the most famous novel of the late feminist Marilyn French, I found myself submerged in a foreign world, or so I thought. Beginning in the 1950s, the novel follows Mira Ward through her teenage years, her young marriage, her life as a stay-at-home mother, and her subsequent feminist rebirth during her forties, while a student at Harvard University. Hers was a world where women were second-class citizens; where all that many young women had to look forward to was a life of suburban discontent and servitude. I found it shocking. But at first I just couldn’t relate to it.

Flying through the first few chapters, gripped by the grim reality Mira and her friends faced, my perception changed, the way one’s eyes gradually readjust after the room suddenly goes dark. On the last page of Part I of The Women’s Room I realized I was reading a story that was my own, every woman’s. Isolde, a friend of Mira’s, says to her, “I hate discussions of feminism that end up with who does the dishes.” French ends the chapter with, “So do I. But at the end, there are always the damned dishes.”

I don’t know why, but that struck me. Maybe I couldn’t see myself reflected in the exact life experiences of these women on a surface level, but I couldn’t help thinking of what I would do in their places, how I would feel if I were them. Page after page, I found myself shocked, outraged, and terrified at the depth of unhappiness of the “typical American housewife” of the time. Even after Mira left this life—dumped by her husband and forced to pick up the pieces and start anew, she moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard—I still thought of the women she was leaving behind. Women trapped in loveless marriages, with no means to survive on their own; women doomed from the start.

As I continued reading, I found the women who “made it out,” the women whom Mira met at Harvard, still experienced unhappiness, emptiness, rape, rage, alcoholism, and adultery. But somehow, they fared better. The difference, and it was no small thing, was that these women recognized themselves, and one another, as women at their core, as burgeoning feminists. They formed a community. They shared in each other’s every experience, not on a superficial neighborhood-acquaintance level, as Mira’s friends before had, but on an existential level.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

No One Is A Stereotype: How Survivors Inspire Each Other

Steiner-borderLeslie Morgan Steiner is the author of Crazy Love, a memoir of domestic violence. She is also a member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline Celebrity Board. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she has the the following words of inspiration to share with all of you:

In Crazy Love, my memoir about domestic violence, I wrote:

For a long time after I left Conor, I struggled with how I fit our society’s stereotype of an abused woman. Exactly why and how had I lost myself to a man who I was intelligent enough to see was destroying me? I kept silent during cocktail party debates about why women stayed in violent relationships. I walked away after the inevitable pronouncement that women who let themselves be abused are weak, uneducated, self-destructive, powerless. I fit none of these stereotypes. I never met a battered woman who did.

Since Crazy Love was published and a YouTube video was posted last March, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from readers. A grandmother who left her abuser 47 years ago. Several teenaged girls, one who writes me every week about how hard it has been to leave her boyfriend and see him with other girls. Ivy League graduates. Eloquent, effusive writers. Readers who have trouble spelling and typing properly – but have no trouble telling their story. International diplomats. Doctors’ wives – and doctors. Gay men abused by their partners. Straight men abused by their wives. Husbands seeking to understand their wives’ prior experiences with abuse. Police officers. Therapists.

I have yet to get an email from a stereotype. Because they don’t exist. We survivors may have a lot in common, but none of us is a stereotype. Stereotypes can be used to demean, blame and marginalize victims. The only stereotype worth promulgating pertains to the pattern of abuse – not the faces, ages, income levels or ethnicities of victims. The New Jersey-based Rachel Coalition offers an excellent brochure outlining victims’ legal rights, and they use the following stereotype to define abuse:

Domestic violence is the physical, emotional, psychological, and/or sexual abuse of one person by another with whom there is a relationship. Abusers use violence and threats of violence to gain power and control over their partners. Violence is never appropriate. Domestic violence can range from verbal harassment to homicide.

Now that is a stereotype I can embrace.

I love it when I open my email screen and discover another note from a stranger whom I know is also a friend. The headlines often read something like “You Told My Story” or “Now I Don’t Feel Ashamed or Alone.” The emails are never short. Usually, they read like a book themselves, or at least a wonderfully long telephone conversation between old friends. When people give permission, I share their stories on my website as part of The Crazy Love Project, which is dedicated to connecting and empowering survivors.

Abuse – and stereotypes – thrive only in silence and ignorance. Fellow abuse survivors inspire me, tell my story back to me, and reassure me that I have no reason to feel ashamed or alone. Most of all, you make me feel like I’m a person, not a stereotype. Thank you to everyone who has heard my story – and told me yours.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Lost Faith, Abused, Raped and Hopeless…

The following blog entry was written by survivor Ren R. Royal, author of Lost Faith to Living Faith. Click here for more information on the book or to purchase a copy.

There were many times when I suffered from the corrupt evils that exist in the world. I am a victim of rape, abuse and violence.

For several years I was without a car and had to walk everywhere through all kinds of weather. At that time, there was no bus transportation where I lived. I lived in a very bad part of town. I had to walk to the laundromat a couple miles to do the laundry. I disliked going to the laundromat; clothes seemed to always get stolen the minute you turned around. As I walked to the laundromat one day, a car drove by. Several men with weapons, knives, and a gun got out of the car and raped me, beat me, put me in the trunk of a car, and then threw me in a ditch to die.

During such horrific times, it is difficult to feel God’s prevailing love. It is difficult to call out to God or cling to God’s Word. My heart did not feel God’s presence or help during the time of attack. The power of sin had its hold over me. I needed human embrace, comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. I suffered alone and became lost in my own pain.

This is just one story out of the five times I have been raped and/or brutally beaten. These traumatic violations tore at me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Life on Earth became unbearable. I wanted to die and be with God in heaven where there was no more pain. I wanted the pain to end. My only peace came through prayers of death to God.

I was ignorant and did not know shelters even existed at the time; however, at the time I felt so hopeless and in such pain that I did not care anyway.

Unfortunately statistics are high in rape, violence, and abuse, and most go unreported. One sexual assault occurs every 127 seconds, or about one every two minutes. Sexual assault is the most under reported crime, with 60 percent still being left unreported. Fifteen out of 16 attackers walk free.

My tears of pain have fallen for years, unseen tears left hidden in the darkness.  At the time, I had no friends or support, no shoulder to cry on, no person to call, and no hug or smile to hold on to.

I later discovered that no matter how great our pain is, God’s love is even greater. And then I wrote a book about it – Lost Faith to Living Faith by Ren R. Royal.


Author of “Crazy Love” Speaks Out Against Domestic Violence

Here’s what I want to say to everyone who is obsessed with Chris Brown and Rihanna, including Oprah, Dr. Phil, The New York Times, The Washington Post, TMZ, and the other 34 million Google hits on their names:  Thank you!  Shining a spotlight on abusive violence is good for everyone. Abuse is a crime.  If you are being abused, you need help immediately — and you need to end the abusive relationship.  Our society and criminal justice system need to hold abusers responsible for their actions, and stop further abuse.
However, anger at Chris Brown, and the backlash on those who defend him, masks a terrible truth that women and children who have loved abusers know all too well: that most abusers have already been punished, usually by enduring awful abuse during their childhoods, as Chris Brown says he did at the hands of his stepfather. I share the anger at abusers (male and female), but If we oversimplify the dynamics of domestic violence, neither victims nor abusers can ever get the help they need.  To break the cycle of violence, our culture needs to understand more completely how intimate partner violence unfolds and repeats itself.

Batterers are criminals, but they are real people — not villains. We would never fall in love with them, or trust them with our love, in the first place if they were so obviously horrific. I’m not defending batterers — they need to come clean and take responsibility for their actions and their treatment, and you should never stay with an abusive man, no matter how much good you see in him, and how much you feel you love him.  But it’s destructive for our society to paint a batterer in black and white terms.  The hidden message perversely blames the victim: “How could she have fallen in love with such an awful man?”  The truth is far more complex and dangerous.

It was so hard to recognize that I was being abused, and to leave my abusive partner, but I have gotten tremendous solace and support by joining the Million Voices campaign and by sharing my story in my book Crazy Love and a YouTube video.

If you want to tell your story, please join The Crazy Love Project, a safe place for people to share stories of surviving abusive love (anonymously if you prefer).

I hope one day we hear Rihanna’s story. And Chris Brown’s. And yours.
Leslie Morgan Steiner