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Leaving Abusive Partners
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Leaving Abusive Partners
From the Scars of Survival to the Wisdom for Change


October 1993 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
A moving and accessible book, Leaving Abusive Partners not only reshapes our understanding of woman abuse but makes a major contribution to a key issue in feminist theory. Drawing on firsthand accounts, Catherine Kirkwood goes beyond the discourse of "victims" and "survivors" to offer new insights into the multifaceted nature of woman abuse: She focuses on the concept of emotional abuse and the experiences of leaving and surviving abuse. New light is shed on the dynamics of abuse and resources women draw on to regain power. Examining abuse experiences and societal issues women confront after leaving abusive relationships, Kirkwood discovers that the two are interrelated. She develops the concept of a "web" of abuse to explain the shared experiences of abused women and women in general. Essential reading for those concerned with understanding woman abuse, Leaving Abusive Partners develops existing knowledge by fully exploring emotional abuse. It also details both emotional and practical struggles women confront in leaving and healing from abuse. "The book's main strength for me was its attempt to describe the longer-term impact upon women of such abuse and the difficult process of breaking free from the damaging relationship." --Clinical Psychology Review "I love this book. Catherine Kirkwood has translated the voices of 30 formerly abused women into descriptive, conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and practical insights the likes of which I have not seen since the Dobashes's pioneering work. . . . Although Kirkwood's major focus is on the process through which women extricate themselves from abusive relationships and continue their survival beyond the escape, about one-third of the book deals brilliantly with the abuse experience itself, and another fifth is a general review of the 'woman abuse' literature." --Journal of Marriage and the Family "This short book comes at the right time and theoretical hiatus in the literature on woman abuse to offer a major connecting theory for psychologists and sociologists. Kirkwood is sensitive to many different kinds of relationships: The theory is valid for heterosexual and lesbian relationships (and gay male ones also, although she doesn't mention this); for abusive relationships where physical violence takes a back seat to emotional violence; and for women on every class level. . . . What I like best about Kirkwood's book is that it explains even more than she claims." --Journal of Family Violence "Perhaps this book is best read in combination with Sage's other new feminist-oriented book: Barnett and LaViolette's It Could Happen to Anyone (1993), which is better at summarizing standard psychological research, and perhaps more accessible as a text." --Journal of Family Violence "Researchers continue to ask, "Why do they stay?" Friends of women suffering abuse grieve over the same issue, and even advocates for women who have been battered fall into that frustrating line of inquiry. All will find Kirkwood's description of emotional abuse useful. Everyone concerned about women's safety and freedom will benefit from answers to the reframed question: "What are the complexities that make it so hard to leave?" "What needs to happen before a particular woman can stay away?" Kirkwood has opened the doors." --Violence and Victims

 
Introduction
 
The Face of a `Battered Woman'
Traditional Approaches to Understanding Woman Abuse  
 
Towards a New Perspective
 
Women's Experiences of Emotional Abuse
 
Emotional Abuse and the Dynamics of Control
 
Obstacles to Securing Independence
 
The Impact of Abuse and the Context in which Formerly Abused Women Seek Healing
 
Victims and Survivors
Concepts and Issues Central to Women's Action for Change  
 
Conclusion

`The whole book is informed by the author's desire to understand and communicate women's experience of partner abuse. Her analysis is supported throughout by detailed evidence and argument.... The material and emotional problems faced by women who leave abusive partners are dealt with in detail.... The book is an excellent example of feminist scholarship. Women who are or have been in abusive relationships could find reading the whole book or extracts from it empowering. In addition it is a valuable resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students of Women's Studies.' - Women's Studies Network (UK) Newsletter

`Kirkwood offers new insights into abuse.... This important book builds on previous feminist work by exploring women's long-term experiences after leaving their abusers.' - The Women's Advocate

`This is an important book because it treats abuse as a process rather than a problem, and because it shows that women can survive violence and leave abusive relationships. It begins with an excellent review of the literature on the subject.... The book is scholarly and very readable.... The book is particularly sensitive in its analysis of emotional abuse, a topic which is often alluded to in writing on domestic violence but which has rarely been explored as well as this.... For social workers and others who meet abused women in their work this book offers much useful information and many valuable insights. For example, many professionals are frustrated when the women return to their violent partners time again, after apparently leaving for good.... This is a book which should go straight onto student reading lists and into the libraries of universities, colleges and social services departments across the country.' - Community Care

'This book comes at the right time and theoretical hiatus in the literature on woman abuse to offer a major connecting theory for psychologists and sociologists... The key to Kirkwood's theory is the concept of the web... This fascinating theory is essentially heuristic; most useful in sensitizing researchers, the general public and battered women themselves to the general dynamics of moving in and out of a relationship that is abusive... Kirkwood's work has many strengths. First it deals with women in all abusive relationships, not just those who are beaten bloody. More and more we are recognizing that emotional and verbal abuse can be as bad or worse for some women. Second, she devotes much attention to getting out of a relationship as getting in. Finally, she carefully examines the institutional and social roadblocks on the path to recovery of self-esteem and self-worth... Kirkwood is sensitive to many different kinds of relationship... What I like best about Kirkwood's book is that it explains even more than she claims... Ultimately, Kirkwood's approach teaches us, "why do battered women stay" may require no different an answer than "why do most married women stay?" This doesn't trivialize the plight of the abused woman; rather it places them at the end of a continuum of unsafety' - Journal of Family Violence

`I love this book. Catherine Kirkwood has translated the voices of 30 formerly abused women into descriptive, conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and practical insights the likes of which I have not seen since the Dobashes' pioneering work.... Although Kirkwood's major focus is on the process through which women extricate themselves from abusive relationships and continue their survival beyond the escape, about one-third of the book deals brilliantly with the abuse experience itself, and another fifth is a general review of the `woman abuse' literature.' - Journal of Marriage and the Family

`Catherine Kirkwood has written a comprehensively researched, sober and interesting study of what may be the last phase in the cycle of domestic violence.... an intriguing descriptive study of a small group of women, heterosexual and gay, in the USA and the UK, who look back on their relationships after having left their partners 12 or more months previously. Kirkwood provides an excellent overview of the research of the 1970s and 1980s, linking the work done from psychoanalytic, sociological and feminist perspectives' - Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

`This book focuses exclusively upon the experiences of women who have been physically and emotionally abused by their male partners and offers an exclusively feminist account of their struggle to disentangle themselves from the "web of suffering". The book's main strength for me was its attempt to describe the long-term impact upon women of such abuse and the difficult process of breaking free from the damaging relationship' - Clinical Psychology Forum

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