A. Alexon

I have approached the reading of this book as a survivor of relationship violence. My evaluation of its value is based on certain questions: Does the book provide a comprehensive understanding of relationship violence? Does it recognize the challenges survivors face in accessing help? Does it provide ideas and tools to community support providers and organizations and others working in the field for how they may help survivors?

After reading this book, I can say in a word, yes. I went through the book with a fine-toothed comb because as a survivor I am looking to see if anything is missing when it comes to an understanding of relationship violence and the response to it, for example, at the community level and in terms of educating the public. This is the first book that I’ve read that covers everything my heart desires. I think everything is there that needs to be.

Those who have contributed to the formation of this book recognize the complexity of relationship violence, and furthermore, recognize the comprehensive, multifaceted, needs-based response that is required to help survivors so that they may recover, heal, and rebuild their lives. They also recognize that in addition to intervention, prevention is key and that educating and changing attitudes about relationship violence within our communities and society as a whole is essential.

What I appreciate about this book is that it is based on multiple “ways of knowing” and that the information provided here is built on, for example, empirical, emancipatory, aesthetic, and personal knowledge and experience. Too often in the past, survivors’ voices have been overshadowed by others telling them that their perspectives are less valid or not valid at all. This book clearly contains the voices of survivors in its content; their voices and their concerns are heard, included, and responded to here. Furthermore, this book recognizes the diversity of our survivor voices. Voices that have often been ignored in previous discussions about relationship violence are present here as evidenced through chapters that directly respond to survivors who identify, for example, as LGBTQ2SAI+, indigenous, immigrant, refugee, or male. Balbir Gurm and colleagues, in creating this book, recognize the often unique cultural, social, and personal challenges survivors face.

Survivors face a multitude of challenges in accessing help in their communities; often assistance is presented to them in a fragmentary, incoherent, and partitioned way, which can lead survivors to feel unsupported, vulnerable, and unsafe. The writers of this book recognize that relationship violence is a highly complex problem that requires a comprehensive response through a multi-agency, multi-sectoral, and multi-level effort, that is, in a multi-faceted and intersectional way, whether it is toward building a support network to help survivors through a crisis phase once they leave their abuser, addressing inequities in the legal system that require governmental or legal reforms, or changing social attitudes toward relationship violence in our communities. Balbir Gurm and colleagues, through this book, and by use of a socio-environmental framework, demonstrate how the collective and collaborative efforts of service providers and community organizations can be framed in a way that provides a coordinated and cohesive community support system that will meet the needs of relationship abuse survivors through a continuum of services and supports. Therefore, this book is a useful learning tool for outlining the ways community supporters can advocate for and help the survivor through an integrative community response. As a survivor, I find this reassuring.

The book’s strength lies in the diversity of knowledge that it brings together and in how that information is presented. A reader can access information through clearly laid out chapters and sections, and within each chapter, also click on various salient supplementary links to, for example, news articles, personal testimonies, research studies, illustrative graphs, statistics, videos, slide presentations, and tool kits. It is structured in a way that a reader can see the interconnectedness of the issues, or they can go directly to the chapter that provides information they need on a specific problem or issue. Thus, a reader can view the information from different angles, depending on need. It is written in a clear and cohesive way that makes it accessible, navigable, and readable.

The creators of this book acknowledge the necessity of evaluating and re-evaluating “what works” in intervention and prevention. One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it is created as a “living book;” that is, it allows for additional information to be added to the existing information already provided. The benefit of this is that as new information for understanding relationship violence and dealing with relationship violence comes to light, this can be applied to strengthen resources and responses for helping survivors.

As a survivor of relationship violence, I wholeheartedly, and gratefully, recommend this book. This is the first book that I’ve read that covers everything my heart desires. I think everything is there that needs to be. I rest easy.

Andrea Alexon