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The Courage to Heal

by Ellen Bass, Laura Davis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
767621,841 (3.69)2
Come to terms with your past while moving powerfully into the future The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and a map of the healing journey to every woman who was sexually abused as a child--and to those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible. Weaving together personal experience with professional knowledge, the authors provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, and support throughout the healing process. Readers will feel recognized and encouraged by hundreds of moving first-person stories drawn from interviews and the authors' extensive work with survivors, both nationally and internationally. This completely revised and updated 20th anniversary edition continues to provide the compassionate wisdom the book has been famous for, as well as many new features: Contemporary research on trauma and the brain An overview of powerful new healing tools such as imagery, meditation, and body-centered practices Additional stories that reflect an even greater diversity of survivor experiences The reassuring accounts of survivors who have been healing for more than twenty years The most comprehensive, up-to-date resource guide in the field Insights from the authors' decades of experience Cherished by survivors, and recommended by therapists and institutions everywhere, The Courage to Heal has often been called the bible of healing from child sexual abuse. This new edition will continue to serve as the healing beacon it has always been.… (more)
  1. 00
    Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships by John C. Norcross (PlaidStallion)
    PlaidStallion: From the book:

    Although a visible and bestselling book on sexual abuse, The Courage to Heal is not without its significant cautions. Its laundry list of diagnostic questions is not supported by research and, according to critics, exaggerates the prevalence. The book’s authors were also drawn into the repressed-versus false- memory storm. The authors contend that women who strongly sense that they were sexually abused but do not have specific memories of it were probably abused. While this position fosters an acceptance toward women whose abuse may have been denied by others, it simultaneously may generate or perpetuate false “memories” of abuse that never occurred. Critics contend that specific memories of early childhood abuse are notoriously unreliable and that the authors’ encouraging language can create false memories and thus false accusations against innocent family members. In that respect, the book has been involved in lawsuits and implicated in false memories.

    The Courage to Heal is probably the most controversial and polarizing selfhelp book among psychologists in this entire volume. We have received congratulations from some colleagues for featuring this empowering book and for telling the awful truth about sexual abuse, as well as condemnation from other colleagues for even listing a book that has been identified as a probable source of false memories and false accusations. We have faithfully reported that mental health professionals evaluated The Courage to Heal as the top-rated book on abuse in our national studies, but immediately note that those ratings occurred in the 1990s, before the false memory controversy and other professional developments.

    In the end, we decided to respect both the original ratings and the ensuing storm: we retain the listing, place it under the singular heading of “An Embattled Book,” present both sides of that battle, detail its controversy, and, given the necessary cautions, remove it from the Recommendation list. Our position will probably not satisfy either side of the debate, but we believe it best reflects the emerging consensus and best serves the interests of clinicians and consumers alike.
    … (more)
  2. 00
    Knuffel heeft zorgen by Katrin Meier (Schnee-Eule)
    Schnee-Eule: Kinderbilderbuch über sexuellen Missbrauch.
  3. 00
    The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse by Staci Haines (Schnee-Eule)
    Schnee-Eule: Anderes Selbsthilfebuch über sexuellen Missbrauch, allerdings gänzlich anders von der Schreibart, Ton und Themenwahl.
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» See also 2 mentions

English (5)  German (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
This was a landmark book when it first came out. Nothing like this had ever been so accessible to average women. However, with the passage of time, we know much more about childhood sexual abuse, and some of the things in this book are not only incorrect, they are downright destructive. While this book did a great service in bringing to light the issue of childhood sexual abuse when, until then, it had been swept under the rug, I cannot recommend it anymore. I see that further editions have come out since the original. I don't know what may have been changed in these subsequent editions, but the first edition I cannot recommend. ( )
1 vote afinch11 | Aug 22, 2013 |
If you were a kid and abused this will help a little. ( )
  dickms | Oct 19, 2012 |
professional book. I used to loan it to patients
  patricia218 | Jun 16, 2012 |
Although neither Ellen Bass nor Laura Davis are trained mental health professionals, they developed what is widely considered the "Bible" for adult women who have experienced sexual abuse during childhood. The book offers stories from other "survivors," helpful writing exercises, advice for partners of survivors, and much more.
1 vote IRR | Aug 25, 2010 |
About to start reading. Looks like an excellent very thorough book.
  Pheonix | Oct 14, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
The Courage to Heal is the most harmful work of slander, ignorance, and lies since The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Malleus Maleficarum. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion spread lies about Jews, saying that they ate Christian children and committed other atrocities, and it became the basis for hundreds of years of pogroms. The Malleus Maleficarum spread fear of witches, saying that they “copulate with Devils” and “Offer New-born Children of Devils,” and it became the basis for hundreds of years of witch hunts.

Proving that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, The Courage to Heal follows in the footsteps of these sordid works of suspicion, conspiracy, and paranoia by teaching women to blame all problems on repressed memories of abuse, even if a woman has no memory of ever being abused by anyone, and even though there is no evidence that repressed memories exist! Like the works that preceded it, The Courage to Heal has triggered an epidemic of false accusations and shattered lives, this time aimed at mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandparents instead of Jews or “witches.”

Cleverly written, The Courage to Heal appears at first glance to be a compassionate work dedicated to easing the suffering of victims of abuse. And the authors no doubt thought they were doing a public service by writing it, just as the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum thought they were doing a public service by warning the public about the danger posed by witches. Only a comparison of the claims made and the techniques recommended in The Courage to Heal against principles of medical ethics, the Bill of Rights, and our current scientific understanding about the functioning of human memory reveals The Courage to Heal to be the catastrophe of ignorance, irresponsibility, and injustice that it is.

The Courage to Heal is grounded in total ignorance of research findings about the functioning of human memory. That should be no surprise. Its authors by their own admission have no training, education, or license to diagnose or treat mental illnesses. But as the old saying goes, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and the authors of The Courage to Heal confidently promote their book as a tool for recovering from repressed memories of abuse that must have occurred—even if there is no evidence and a woman has no recollection of ever being abused. Would you allow an amateur with no medical training to operate on your heart? Of course not! Why, then, would any sensible person allow two amateurs to operate on her mind? The dangers are just as great.
 

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Bass, EllenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, Lauramain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Judy Gold is forty-five years old. She is a musician and lives with her husband, Howard, in an upper-middle-class, predominantly Jewish suburb of New York. Howard is a businessman and works for his father-in-law in the garment industry. Judy and Howard have been married for twenty-five years and have four children, the eldest of whom is nineteen.

Of her childhood, Judy says: “My father’s sister died in an insane asylum and I was named for her. I was always told I was going to end up just like her—bad and crazy. We were upper middle class. My mother was addicted to prescription drugs. She was always hazy. Before she married my father, she had been a published author. It’s too bad because she could have had a successful life and it ended up being a real zero. She’s dead now.

“My father was a very violent man. He was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was loving toward us whenever our family was portrayed to the outside world. He used to march us out every Sunday night to a fancy restaurant for dinner. It was like
Make Way for Ducklings. But what went on before we got into the car was a horror show.

“The world loved him. He set up scholarships; he helped build the local temple. He’s given buildings to universities and hospitals. So no one would ever suspect what went on in that house.

“The only time I can remember him being loving was when he was in my bed. He would batter me at night and after he'd beat me up, he’d make me take his shoes off and kiss him good night. And then in the morning he’d climb in my bed and molest me. There was never any intercourse, but there was everything else.

“My first memories of being abused are tied in to my sister’s birth, when I was six. The beatings continued till I went away to college, but the incest stopped when I was about twelve, when my baby sister turned six. That’s always made me wonder if he moved on to her.

“Even though the actual abuse stopped when I reached puberty, the sexual innuendos never stopped. He’s just sleazy, horrible. You wouldn’t want to meet him. Yet, as I say, the whole world loves him.”
Come On, Ask Me

When I stopped smoking, I gained thirty pounds in four months. Somebody gave me the name of this therapist who did hypnosis for overeating. I really believe that there are no accidents. I think I ate myself up to those thirty pounds for the purpose of seeking therapy. It was right there on the surface, waiting to come out.

I was almost provocative in the kinds of things I said to my therapist, like “Oh, you should know my family.” In other words, “Ask me. Come on. I’ll tell you if you ask me.” What was going to be five sessions has now become over four years. A couple of months into the therapy, he asked me to tell him about my father. I said he used to beat me up. And he said, “What else did he do to you?” And I said, “Nothing.” And he said, again, “What else did he do to you?” And I said, “Oh, well, he crawled into my bed.” And he said, “What else?” And I kept insisting there was nothing. And then he just asked me point-blank, “Did he ever touch you?” That started the whole thing. I finally admitted, “Yes, he touched me.”

When we started using hypnosis, I got to the first memory. Then I started to remember incidents without the hypnosis. I got to the point where I could remember my father’s precise smell. It took me two years to clearly remember what had happened.

The one thing that brought it all into focus—and it was the hardest thing—was a memory that I had always wet my pants. I used to hide all these sticky underpants in my closet as a little girl. And now I know I didn’t pee in my pants at all. My father had ejaculated on me when I had them on, and I had saved all those underpants on the floor of my closet. My grandmother found piles of them in the closet and she showed them to my mother, who accused me of wetting my pants. I told her I hadn’t done it, but she wouldn’t believe me. She punished me for denying it, and he beat me for lying later the same night. As I pieced this together in therapy, I realized she had to have known the difference between urine and semen. It was the worst memory I had. But it made it all very real.

My mother’s death freed me up to remember all of this. I remember when my mother was dying, I talked about the beatings. I said, “Why didn’t you stop him? How could you allow him to do those things to us?” And her answer was “What could I do?”

I had always adored my mother because she was so talented. And I felt such pity for her. But when I realized that she had known what was going on, I hated her. I even went to her grave and stomped on it. I was screaming at her. They could have locked me up then if they had seen me.

After I got through all the anger, I realized that she really was helpless. I’m sure that she had been a victim herself. And she sacrificed me so that she could live.
Eva Smith is an African-American woman in her early thirties who lives in California. She is a therapist and an artist. She lives with her two teenage children. “I share this information with you as a gift of healing for other women. I am truly living my life now, after just surviving for so many years.”
When the doctor told my mother I was pregnant, she asked me who the father was, and I told her. She confronted my stepfather and he claimed that he knew nothing about it. Within a week we left him and went down South.

When I first realized I was pregnant, I attempted suicide. It was a hard time for me. I knew I needed therapy. I wish somebody else had realized it at the time!

My mother told me I didn’t have to keep the child, that I could put it up for adoption or that she would raise it as her own. I chose to keep that child because it was the first thing that was ever mine.

I created a cover story about who the father was. I said he was some boy I’d been going with. I had to deal with a lot of put-downs from people, you know, ‘cause I was fifteen and having this baby.

Because of all the things that happened to me, there was this question that used to haunt me, you know, “Why me?” Those were the years I call my trauma years. And I went out of the trauma years into being a battered wife.

I got married at seventeen. I was already pregnant with my daughter. My husband and I were the same age. I told my husband about my stepfather and that he was my son’s father. If only I knew then what I know now! I would have never told him. Because he got jealous. Every time we argued, he’d bring that up. I was different kinds of whores and sluts and this and that.

We were into it before we ever got married. We used to argue once a week when we were going together, but not real physical kind of stuff. But after we were married, he had the license. You know, they pronounce you man and wife, not man and woman. To my way of thinking it gives men a free ticket to do whatever they want. So the battering started and increased till I couldn’t take it anymore.

I left him after he’d taken a branch off a tree and beat me with it, but then I came back and went through what I call my three months of hell. I was making $1.79 an hour. I was paying all the bills; I paid the rent. I was buying all the food, all the clothes, even renting him a television. I got off work at 4:30. I was expected to catch the bus at 4:35, hit downtown at 5:00, change buses, and walk in the door at 5:20. If I walked in the door at 5:30, I got my ass kicked.

So in essence, he held my children hostage. He did lots of sadistic things to me during that time. I was on a large dose of Librium. My nerves were so bad, I was going through bouts of temporary blindness.

I was twenty then, and I tried to kill myself. I had gotten my prescription filled. I came home and I took about half the bottle. He found the bottle and he woke me up ‘cause I was going off to la-la land. And he got me up and went and got my son, who was about four then. He sprayed Raid in his hair, then he took a lighter and held it over his head and said, “If you don’t wake up, I’m gonna light his hair.” I mean I was going through it. We didn’t have a phone or anything. There’s that isolation thing.

I decided to kill him.

It was a question of survival. I knew we couldn’t live together without one of us killing the other. So I was going to kill him. We had this argument on a Monday and I had planned that Friday that when I got paid, I’d pay the rent, the water bill, buy a gun, go home, walk in the door, scream, and kill him. Even now, I can say with conviction I was going to kill him.

And this woman who was like my second mother said, “You don’t want that on your conscience the rest of your life.” So I turned him over to the military because he’d gone AWOL. They took him to jail. I took my children to safety and moved out of the house in four days. I started divorce proceedings immediately.

When I got rid of my husband, all that weird stuff went away. I didn't have to take Librium any more. The blindness went away. The shaking went away. All of that went away.

So by the time I was twenty-one, I had been married, divorced, and had two children. When I moved to California, I had seven suitcases, two kids, and one hundred dollars. And Lord, I’ve come a long way from there.
Anna Stevens was born in Taiwan. A diplomat’s daughter, she grew up in ports around the world. Her background is a cross between English and Irish. Anna’s family was well off and kept up appearances. Her mother was an alcoholic and a pill addict—there is extensive alcoholism on both sides of the family. Anna has one brother.

Anna says: “Everything in my house was designed to keep conflict from surfacing. No one ever admitted my mother was crazy, of course. No one ever raised their voice. Nothing was discussed. Everything was shrouded in denial and secrecy.”

Anna was physically abused by a nanny when she was three. Her mother sexually abused her repeatedly from the age of two until she was eleven. She masturbated Anna and used Anna’s body to masturbate with. After her mother reached orgasm, she’d put Anna in a scalding bath or beat her. Anna learned to leave her body when the incest happened: “I watched it all through a kind of yellow fog.

“I forgot what happened to me as I grew up, but I hated my mother with a poisonous hatred. I was completely nauseated by my mother’s smell. And as an adolescent, if she touched me, I’d throw up. The flip side of my physical revulsion was some kind of sexual feelings.”

Anna now lives in New York City and works as a carpenter. She writes poetry and is working on a novel. She is twenty-six and has been in recovery for alcoholism for the last year and a half.
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Come to terms with your past while moving powerfully into the future The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and a map of the healing journey to every woman who was sexually abused as a child--and to those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible. Weaving together personal experience with professional knowledge, the authors provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, and support throughout the healing process. Readers will feel recognized and encouraged by hundreds of moving first-person stories drawn from interviews and the authors' extensive work with survivors, both nationally and internationally. This completely revised and updated 20th anniversary edition continues to provide the compassionate wisdom the book has been famous for, as well as many new features: Contemporary research on trauma and the brain An overview of powerful new healing tools such as imagery, meditation, and body-centered practices Additional stories that reflect an even greater diversity of survivor experiences The reassuring accounts of survivors who have been healing for more than twenty years The most comprehensive, up-to-date resource guide in the field Insights from the authors' decades of experience Cherished by survivors, and recommended by therapists and institutions everywhere, The Courage to Heal has often been called the bible of healing from child sexual abuse. This new edition will continue to serve as the healing beacon it has always been.

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