Sophie's Reviews > The Gift of Fear: and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
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's review
Jun 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, read-in-2011, wishlist
Recommended for: everyone, especially women
Read from June 08 to 27, 2011 , read count: 1

I would like to own a copy of this book. It really does contain information that could save your life. Each chapter deals with a different kind of violence: workplace violence, stalking, intimate partner violence, etc. Over and over again the author demonstrates that there are warning signs for almost any kind of human-on-human violence, and all we have to do is become alert to them. The next time you hear "nobody could have seen this coming" or "he just snapped," know that there were most likely several warning signs before the violence, and denial kept people from seeing them.

He also points out the difference between the threats we fear every day (random stranger violence, for example) and the threats that are actually most likely to happen to us (car accidents, for example). People spend far too much time worrying about the former, while ignoring or being in denial about the latter. He aims to reorganize our priorities and teach us that worrying is useless--actual fear will kick in when we are actually in danger, and worrying just clouds our mind and keeps us from recognizing the signs.

The chapter on the warning signs like gaslighting, forced teaming, loan sharking, etc. is worth reading in itself. The epilogue on handguns is great too.

I don't always agree with de Becker, particularly in the chapter on abusive relationships. He claims that "staying is a choice," that every woman who stays with an abusive man is "a volunteer" for the abuse--and then in the very next chapter, points out that abusive men often control the woman's access to money, and that it is often in attempting to leave that a woman is murdered.

He claims that it is a choice for the woman to stay just as it is a choice for the man to abuse. But he ignores the fact that these choices are being made in two wildly uneven states of privilege and power. I suppose de Becker thinks that all abused women with no other options should go to a women's shelter, but then in the same chapter he points out that there are far too few shelters in proportion to the number of women being abused.

De Becker is careful to point out that the abuse is always the fault of the abuser, not the abused, but he still dances too close to the victim-blaming line for my taste.

But then he says:

I've successfully lobbied and testified for stalking laws in several states, but I would trade them all for a high school class that would teach young men how to hear "no," and teach young women that it's all right to explicitly reject.


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Quotes Sophie Liked

Gavin de Becker
“Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.”
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Reading Progress

06/20/2011 page 152
40.0% "I did not expect Simon's Rock to show up in this book."

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