If the Man You Love Was Abused: A Couples Guide to Healing by Marie H. Browne, RN, PhD and Marlene M. Browne, Esq. (Adams Media Corp. 2007). Available at Amazon.com.
The authors are a mother-daughter team and have worked with childhood sexual abuse survivors as a therapist and lawyer. They draw on diverse areas of expertise and extensive experience of counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to collaborate on this sensitively written couples guide to healing. The sobering quote from Socrates cited on the book’s forward, “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance” presents the book’s objective to demystify the effects that childhood sexual abuse can have on adult relationships while simultaneously offering a concrete and supportive approach toward self-care for the partner of a survivor.
Utilizing a straightforward style, the authors succinctly present a plethora of clinical information on the effects that childhood sexual abuse can have on the victim effects that range from personality disorders to problematic social and sexual behaviors.
The tri-fold partition of topics ensures that this book can serve as a reference and guide to healing adult relationships. Part one defines issues about childhood abuse, including: how events can leave a scar and how the degree of scarring depends on who was the abuser; recognizing symptoms and coping styles; and how healing can happen. This book addresses the particular pain of those abused in childhood by clergy and offers insight into how victims of clergy sexual abuse are affected spiritually, emotionally, psychically and physically. Here, the authors write of VOTF as an organization that is supportive of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Part two focuses on sustaining a union while being a partner in healing and simultaneously looking inward to learn self-care and understand one’s own coping style. In other words, to love one’s man without losing oneself. Part three, titled “Legacy of Abuse,” focuses on the adult relationship itself, including these topics: fatherhood and children, parenting styles, what to tell your children, remembering it is your partner’s story and decision to disclose, mandatory reporting and legal issues. This last section reiterates that it takes time to personally overcome the trauma of a loved one’s sexual abuse and that this road is different for each individual, couple and family. This section ends with a “Do” and “Don’t” list that couples can use to make their bond stronger by increasing mutual trust and intimacy through communication. On a positive note, the authors assure us that it is possible to overcome the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, noting that 80% of adult survivors function very well, in part because they have received help in healing.
Although the intended readers of this book are partners of men who have been sexually abused in childhood, reading this book can give anyone a deeper understanding of the psychological trauma experienced by survivors and how we might be partners in their healing. It can be excruciatingly difficult to reveal one’s pain or emotions when trust has been damaged early in life. Yet, telling others about one’s painful experience can help deal with the past and bring healing to both survivors and their adult relationships.
Patricia T. Gomez, Ph.D., Developmental Psychologist and VOTF National Representative Council member