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on July 28, 1999
This book has gone a long way in helping me to begin the long journey to coming to terms with the sexual abuse I suffered as a pre-teen. For most of my adult life, I've been reluctant to attribute any of my problems (such as depression, self hatred, unhealthy sexual relationships with men, a general disgust about myself, etc.) to being molested by my stepfather. Within the past couple of years, however, I've begun to examine my feelings about it more and more. I bought this book rather hesitantly, but ended up reading the first few chapters in tears as I read so many of my own feelings and experiences echoed by the other abuse survivors. I had thought that I was all alone and that there was something intrinsically wrong with me for feeling the way I did about myself, and it was an overwhelming relief to find others who feel the same after having similar childhood experiences. The reviews offered here referring to the "memory" issue misrepresent the focus and intent of the book. These readers seem to want to keep abuse survivors quiet to save the "sanctity" of the family. So many of us have done this for years; sacrificing of our emotional well being. They belittle the profound hurt and damage caused not only by the abuse, but by the silence as well. At the very least, this book has helped me to feel human and has given me hope that I may one day feel whole. I highly recommend this book as an invaluable resource.

Addedum: It has been 7 years since I wrote the above review... I had forgotten I had written it until I ran across it in amazon's profile section. After reading a couple of the negative reviews below, I feel compelled to add something regarding the "repressed memory" issue. First, this book spends very little time even discussing the idea of repressed memories. Secondly, some people seem to be under the misguided impression that adults who know they were abused have obtained this knowledge through digging up these "repressed memories". Nothing could be further from the truth. Most sexual abuse survivors grow up remembering the abuse... these memories are not somehow buried. We grow and develop emotionally and psychologically with the knowledge that we were molested emblazened upon our psyches. This painful past shapes who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and our ability to have healthy relationships with others.

This book was invaluable in my healing process... almost a decade after having read the book, I can honestly state that I have moved on from those painful memories and I have been able to realize that the abuse was not somehow my fault. If you've never been abused, you will never understand how profound that realization is. If, however, you have been a victim of sexual abuse and are searching for a way to process it and go forward, this book is a great start.
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on August 7, 2009
I am really put off by the bad reviews here. I did have repressed memories of my abuse. They came back one day when my mother told me that my sister "accused" my father of abusing her a long time ago. Of course, no one believed her. I then realized that these faint memories that seemed like dreams I had a long time ago were real. I read this book and it helped me tremedously. I ended up confronting my father in front of my entire family and telling him if he does not admit to what he has done - I will never speak to him again. HE DID ADMIT IT. Those repressed memories were not a farse. Don't minimize how much this book can help someone. Who cares that they are not doctors - they tell you that in the very beginning of the book. They have years of experience dealing with victims and did much research with victims to come up with this book. Just look at how many 5 stars this book got compared to 2 or 1 stars. Please! And I hate to tell all these 1 star reviewers who comment on how this book spews hatred towards men, but guess what? When someone you trust rapes you as a child YOU DO WISH THEY WOULD DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH. Of course you hate their guts. Obviously those who think this is uncommon never dealt the the trauma of rape (which is what molestation is).
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on June 9, 2000
[I was] sexually abused me from ages 8 - 12. Until I took over the medical library at Fort Huachuca, AZ, I had no name for what happened to me. For nearly 9 years I read my library's professional articles and books on child sexual abuse and former abuse. I acknowledged, with intellectual interest, that many of the adult patients' symptoms applied to me. What I learned didn't prompt me to seek treatment for the incest. In fact, I ran away from therapy when my therapist wanted me to deal with the incest instead of just my depression. Then, in 1990, our Community Mental Health Service ordered THE COURAGE TO HEAL. While I was checking to make sure all of pages were there, I started reading the book. Yes, CMHS unknowingly had to wait two or three more days to get their order because I *HAD* to get through this book. Its first-person accounts affected me in a way those clinical reports never had. [After reading the book] I knew I could no longer deny that the abuse was still affecting me. When I got to work the next day, I asked for help. I got it. It wasn't easy. The authors are correct to use the word "courage." Working through the abuse was the hardest thing I ever did. I think I shed 30 years' worth of tears in the second year of therapy. I won't pretend I'm the person I would have been if I'd never been abused, but I am stronger and better than I would have been if I'd gone on pretending it was all in the past. I've learned to fight for myself. If ever I forget how much I've changed, I have only to read my old diaries to know I'm not the whimpering mouse I was. I'm so glad I read this book. I'm also glad that I have such ready access to professional resources on child sexual abuse. That's how I know I don't have to fear that I was mislead by what THE COURAGE TO HEAL showed me.
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on February 6, 2009
THE COURAGE TO HEAL: 4th Edition
By ELLEN BASS and LAURA DAVIS
Ginny NiCarthy

This thoroughly updated version of the classic work The Courage to Heal is a must read for survivors of child sexual abuse. No matter what the survivor`s situation, and regardless of the relationship to the perpetrator, a survivor who reads this book need never feel alone again. Bass and Davis intersperse testimonies of survivors with the latest relevant research-based findings about trauma and the recovery processes. Twenty-some years of interviews and workshops with child sexual abuse survivors have enabled the authors to collect testimonies to quote in the book. Those personal mini-stories provide a sense of immediacy and authenticity, which adds weight to the authors' professional knowledge.
Bass and Davis include information about abuse by strangers as well as by doctors, therapists, teachers and family members. There are sections addressed specifically to males victimized by other males and by women and information for women abused by mothers, as well as examples of abuse of lesbians, gays and transgendered people and abuse by them. Quotes and information about self-cutting, ritual abuse, desires for suicide, the pain of remembering and the pain of not remembering well are all included. Poetry by survivors and by Ellen Bass provides another lens through which to view survivors' experiences.
The original Courage to Heal, written 20 years ago, was a ground breaker. Since then, a great deal has been learned about child sexual abuse, and it seems as if it is all here in this whopper of nearly 600 pages. Victimized children often grow up feeling isolated or shamed by the perception that they are the only ones who endured anything like what they went through. But no matter what the circumstances or relationship to the abusive person, they are almost certain to connect with the stories related here. Some of the brief descriptions of what was done to the victims are hard to read, but the book is only partially about unspeakable acts. Most of it centers on healing.
In addition to the shorter quotes of victims/survivors used to illustrate points discussed, there are 18 much longer stories of recovery from abuse, comprising 80 pages. The authors emphasize that there is no single way to recover from the trauma and no "correct" order of steps to recovery. Chapters and sections are all short, which will encourage a reader to dip into the book at whatever pace she or he is comfortable with and can read parts of the book in whatever order is helpful. The ways of finding solace include healing based in spirituality, the body, addiction treatment, cognitive therapy and other processes. In case the reader wants even more information on a particular topic, the book includes a 60 page Resource Guide.
The Courage to Heal is of enormous value to survivors, but it is also a must read for any professional - doctor, judge, therapist, teacher, lawyer - who may come into contact with a survivor of child sexual abuse. It is chock full of valuable material that comes from both the heart and the mind. It's an indispensable resource that will deepen professionals' sensitivity to what a client may be going through. Though it may seem like an oxymoron, Bass and Davis have given us a classic that is thoroughly up-to-date.
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on January 11, 2010
I have just read the 20th anniversary edition of Courage to Heal. As a therapist working the field of mental health for 40 years with a specialty in working with abuse survivors and their PARTNERS, I was stunned to see that the book, while purporting to be an update of the 1988 edition is essentially the same as what was written in 1988 despite the fact that over the past 25 years we have made enormous gains in understanding and treating abuse/trauma from a research and clinical treatment perspective. The general message of the book is that the healing process will be most likely a long process, and focuses on "healing" processes such as writing in a journal, meditation, accepting the abuse as a reality and a brief mention of the value of medication to assist in managing painful and often, at least temporarily, seemingly uncontrollable painful thoughts and emotions. While posing as new, updated knowledge about the healing process about healing from trauma, I was absolutely stunned to discover that there was not one word about the extraordinary new understandings about the effects of abuse/trauma seen later in adult life and methodologies for treating abuse related symptoms. Each of these new therapeutic methods has been extensively researched and shown to lead to extraordinarily more effective methods for treating the after effects of trauma/abuse, shortening the recovery period and producing enduring positive effects. Everything from PTSD symptoms, negative cognitive processes (negative self-thoughts), the effects of distorted memory, the dissociative states as well as many other issues that profoundly impact upon the survivors themselves and their PARTNERS and are the real targets of the healing process received only the barest of recognition and explanation. Earlier complaints by readers that the book was very much overly simplistic and often ultimately left clients feeling discouraged because their situations were invariably more complex will undoubtedly be revisited by contemporary readers. When I have presented this new research and clinical material to participants of my workshops, ongoing groups for PARTNERS and couples in conjoint therapy, to a person, there was a collective sigh of relieve and recognition of the complexity and power of often unconscious processes that make the problems survivors face to seemingly intractable and grueling. The new research and clinical practices address this sense of overwhelm and confusion and have proven to be invaluable. Instead of just saying that their symptoms are not their "fault" this new information makes their sense of helplessness and powerlessness understandable and at the same time offers new hope.
Also, the book does not address the massive amount of research that links abuse/trauma to a whole host of other disorders (besides PTSD) with which survivors must contend including, depression, pervasive anxiety, somatic correlates, and a other psychiatric, emotional and physiological symptoms to name a few, that truly address the utter complexity of the aftermath of abuse in adult life. While paying the obligatory homage to the new brain science that has revolutionized our understandings the section on "Trauma and the Brain" is particularly discouraging in its simplistic explanations.
Finally, perhaps most disconcerting is that the book makes NO mention of the new methods for treating trauma ranging from EMDR (Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing) procedures, cognitive behavioral approaches (CBT), DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), especially for those suffering from character disorders such as borderline personality disorder, helpful couples approaches to healing and so on that have been developed and proven to be invaluable to the recovery process. Essentially this version of Courage to Heal throws us, survivors and therapists alike, back more than 30 years into the extremely limited and marginally useful approaches to healing which we now know can potentially lead to even further revictimization survivors related to their internal states. Earlier complaints by therapists and others that the authors are not clinicians and are dealing with issues they don't truly understand is yet again validated.
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on June 16, 2009
Reading through the reviews its obvious that this book has helped many, many women. I have spend my life (I am now 40), running from depression, anxiety etc. I went to therapy finally and three months into it, I started to have what I now know to be flashbacks of hideous sexual acts that were done to me by a family member. I thought I was going mad could this have actually happened, why would I have these horrible thoughts? I would like to point out that my therapist never mentioned child abuse or put the idea into my head. Its been a really rough time because not only have I remembered abuse but I have also remembered the feelings from then too. After having flashbacks for about 8 months or so, my therapist reccommended "The Courage to Heal". This book has probably saved my life and thats not being dramatic. I realise now that the symptoms I had for most of my life were signs of abuse. I didnt make stuff up and I wasnt coaxed by a book or anybody else to recover these memories. All the book did was help me beyond expectation on a very tough journey. Those who slate the book and the repressed memories theory are scared and its damaging to anybody in recovery to read negative comments like that. WHY would anybody make sexual abuse up? Think about it, think about long and hard. WHY?
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VINE VOICEon July 13, 2006
For me this book was a road back from childhood sexual abuse. I never lost memories of the facts of the events. I could recall clearly dozens of events, like the time my step-father fondled me in by the light of a fish tank in my bedroom. What I'd lost, at least consciously, was my emotions about the events. I felt like I was loosing my mind; I wanted to die and I didn't know why. This book helped me link what had happened in the past to what I was feeling in the present. It helped me come to terms and to heal.

The book is gentle, encouraging, and goes slowly enough as not to overwhelm you. If you are a survivor, and you are going through the initial shock, the dark night of the soul, that comes in the beginning of the healing process, I urge you to read this book, and have someone you can call on, someone you really trust who loves you, to help you if it pulls up too much, or gets hard.

I gave up on therapy. My therapist wanted to take the lazy way out and put me on Prozac, which I didn't want. This book pointed the way back to life for me.
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on March 18, 2015
People say they have been helped by this book, and I believe them. But serious questions remain unanswered in the 20+ years since it was first published. I first ran across it then in my work in direct community services, and the problems I saw then still exist. Because we can expect that many of the people who seek this book out are in pain and are vulnerable, the cover should include a warning that it has also been harmful. Do your research and be aware: 1) There are now several good books written by people with professional training, experience and up-dated skills! (The lead author of this book is a poet.) 2) 'Recovered Memory Therapy' , the very basis for this book, has been in sharp decline since the mid-90's and has now been thoroughly debunked via empirical research. 3) There is now a much better understanding of what people traumatized as children need to recover and this book still does not include those. Rather it has an inward, isolating focus that isn't good for anyone, let alone someone who needs help rejoining the world as an equal adult. Please be careful! (PS - my 'street cred' includes childhood abuse and neglect, an 2 graduate degrees in the mental health field.)
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on April 30, 1999
During therapy for possible bipolarity, seasonal depression, and periodic destruction of friendships and good relationships I would build "the rest of the year," my psychologist recommended this book. I put off the purchase, pooh-poohing the idea that I'd ever been abused. Well, I wasn't VERY abused. I KNEW what abuse was, and I hadn't been.
After finally purchasing the book, I began to move through such a tremendous upheaval as I read that ANY abuse still is abuse. There are not words enough to adequately express the insights I gained and the personal growth I experienced while working through the book. The anecdotes and quizzes also served as starting points for finally sharing my fears and nightmares with my husband.
I do NOT recommend anybody reading the book without professional guidance and support. It can be TOO traumatic. I DO recommend this book for use in conjunction with professional therapy.
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on March 29, 2009
I bought this for a friend who confided her history of abuse to me. I asked a great therapist friend to recommend a book and she gave me this one. My abused friend called me in tears because she felt this book was written personally for her.
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