Ten years ago, if anyone had suggested that one day all my waking hours not spent parenting and teaching would be spent on studying victim advocacy, I’d have said they were crazy. But people sometimes do get launched into their life’s passions through a couple of unforeseen formative experiences, and that is what happened to me. I will always be grateful to the friend who allowed me to walk with her through a very difficult situation, and who bore with my opinionated ignorance meanwhile. Since then, I’ve read dozens of books, thousands of pages, and am learning more all the time.
I am especially and repeatedly indebted to authors like Diane Langberg, Leslie Vernick, and Lundy Bancroft for their deep insight, passion, and clarity. Friends often ask for book recommendations, and given that there are so many published authors on abuse out there (not all of them equally good), it can be very daunting to weed through the options. These are some of the books I’ve found most enlightening. I will add to this page periodically, and hope you find it a helpful resource.
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage is, hands down, the book I recommend most often to friends who are searching for a key to understanding domestic abuse. Leslie Vernick has built an excellent diagnostic tool, and she distinguishes between marriages that are abusive, mutually destructive, and “just” disappointing. Protestant Christian readers will appreciate the fact that her approach is solidly grounded in Scripture. If you can only afford the time for one book, make it this one.
Lundy Bancroft is widely recognized as the foremost secular authority on abusive behavior. His expertise is drawn from years of working with abusive men, and he offers unparalleled insights into what makes them tick. Why Does He Do That? is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the abusive mindset. I have returned to it over and over, and always come away with new insight.
The companion book to Why Does He Do That?, Daily Wisdom is structured like a daily devotional for women who are dealing with an abusive partner and can only manage a brief reading at a time. Chock full of insight, reassurance, clarity, and direction, this is an invaluable resource both for survivors of domestic abuse and for the friends who want to encourage them. I started quoting from this one and never really stopped.
In terms of empathetic insight into the hearts of wounded people, Diane Langberg is an author without comparison in the Christian world. I have a hard time putting into words how much I have valued her work — let’s just say it’s safe to buy anything she ever authored or said. You won’t regret it. Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse is a book for counselors, but also for helpers and friends, and anyone with a heart for lifting burdens.
Yes, Lundy Bancroft again. This book is especially useful for understanding where abusive patterns come from. Bancroft explores the four main sources of dysfunctional behavior in the men he has worked with — immaturity, addiction, abusive values, and personality disorders. The book includes a wonderful diagnostic quiz to help you determine what you’re dealing with.
I have to be honest, this book didn’t immediately impress me. It isn’t flashy, and it’s a little repetitive, belaboring the main points more than I would have liked. On the other hand, it stuck with me potently for months after I read it, and in the end, was responsible for an incredibly important paradigm shift in my understanding of how to help a friend in an abusive relationship. Well worth the read.
Speaking of paradigm shifts, this little e-book is so very important. If you’ve ever found yourself impatient with a friend for her weakness and codependency in the context of an abusive marriage…read this.