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The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  6,533 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
Based on the experiences of hundreds of child abuse survivors, The Courage to Heal profiles victims who share the challenges and triumphs of their personal healing processes. Inspiring and comprehensive, it offers mental, emotional and physical support to all people who are in the process of rebuilding their lives. The Courage to Heal offers hope, encouragement and practic ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 11th 2002 by Vermilion (first published 1988)
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Aug 17, 2007 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is the bible for sexual abuse survivors, and an indispensable resource for anyone that knows a survivor. Think you don't know anyone that was sexually abused? Think again - it happens much more than most people wish to believe, and affects the survivor and their behavior much more than even most survivors wish to believe. This book is THE book for survivors that wish to continue survival, especially one of healing.

If this massive read is a bit daunting, know that you will read bits here and
Aug 24, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There are many reviews and articles that explain the myriad concerns about how "Courage to Heal" handles its material. Below is a link to a recent one, for starters. It's also worth reading the comments underneath. FYI, the version I read was the first edition from the 90s.

I want to encourage any of you who pick up this book to research its checkered past yourself, and not just depend on the opinion of one stranger, whether mine or that in a single review,
This book is notorious for having helped to launch the recovered memory therapy (RMT) craze, which played into the spate of alleged incidents of Satanic ritual abuse of the late '80s and early '90s. Neither author has credentials or expertise relevant to psychology, therapy, or sexual abuse. The book was not based on any solid experimental evidence or psychological studies. Some of the case studies included have been discredited, such as the one taken from Michelle Remembers. Memory psychologist ...more
Cody Wilshire
Absolutely, completely indispensable to victims and survivors. This really has become the 'bible' and the 'life force' for so many and there's a lot of reasoning behind it.

I've re-read this book countless times (probably upwards of ten?) and I continue to do so sporadically.

This book helped save my life and the life of many others. I'm so glad that I found it when I did. I recommend it to so many during my volunteer work and they all just can't stop thanking me for introducing them to it.

Jill Marie
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book in my healing process and I read it twice in therapy and again afterwards!
Oct 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Worse than Hogwash. If there were minus stars, I'd give all of them. Reading the comments of all but the one or two other low rankers gives the exact reason why minus stars are warranted, why this is a dangerous book. Folks are getting talked into blood curdling bullshit and soon enter a nightmare, ruining their own and others lives. I'd recommend to chuck it unread in the next bin. And put a lid on. I'm shocked to see how popular it STILL is after all these years. And that therapists, or people ...more
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones
This book is an incredible resource for survivors of sexual violence. While it's intened audience is women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I believe that any survivor of sexual violence could benefit from reading it. Its saved me on more than one occation durring particular rough patches.

I can't explain how helpful this book is. I've never read it straight through- it's more of a reference. My favorite part in the book is titled, "Don't kill yourself." Nearly every survivor ponders suicide
Connie Backus-yoder
I read this book almost 25 years ago and it transformed my life!!!! The painful process of reading and digesting it took a process of almost 6 months to a year and was an incredible journey!!! Finally, there were women who could help unlock the rage and anger from what had happened...had been forced upon me at age 7!! The swirling whirlpool of my existence which forever kept me from breaking free to healing and health was finally cracked and I could escape intact. Mind you, I was in my late 40s ...more
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sexual Abuse Survivors AND Family
Recommended to Kate by: Leanne Dahlin, MSW
A passionate book which helped me a great deal as well as my husband to know what I/we were facing in terms of the road ahead in my trauma recovery.

There are well laid-out details on the stages of recovery, what to expect for both the survivor and the family members, stories for the survivor to relate to, and also identified things I could look for which would be counterproductive to healing.

I was relieved to see clear, direct language on how to assess and get support on recovered memories. Many
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great tool for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Not to be taken lightly - this book will open doors for healing - but can also bring on unexpected emotions. Use in conjunction with professional counseling recommended.
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I've read a few times through my healing journey, and each time it has been profoundly helpful. At first read, it was difficult as I was conflicted about my experience. The periodic denial contrasted with periods of serious anger, and this book walked me through it all. Now, I'm beyond that for the most part, but dealing with lingering self-esteem issues (to put it lightly), I'm finding it indispensable again. This book is not out to convince anyone that anything happened to them, ...more
Kristalee Ann
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely the bible to all bibles when it comes to childhood sexual abuse! Many work pages to work on, think about and understand so much more. This is a fabulous book, I highly recommend it to anyone who has been through a similar situation but prepare to brace yourself because the work isn't an easy process, but it's so worth it!
Jun 23, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jamie by: Sharon
It's worlth it's weight. Make sure you do not attempt this book alone, it will turn your life inside out, upside down before it gets better.
Sep 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This book was a very in-depth look at childhood sexual abuse in women and the different types of coping, reactions, problems that come up later in life, etc. There were a lot of first-hand accounts, including poems. There was also a section on partners of the abused. I found the information easy to read and thorough.
Leslie Raddatz
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book helped me understand what was happening to me as I experienced unknown symptoms of sexual abuse. I also learned the steps to the healing process and did the writing exercises in the book. This helped me to cope and to make it as long as I did without having to go into the hospital. It made me feel normal when every thing around me felt abnormal.
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who are READY to heal.
This book has some very "hard to read" chapters. If you are ready to heal after surviving sexual abuse, I STRONGLY recommend this book to you. You will leave this book as a brand new you and some strong courageous "power-like" emotions and feelings to heal yourself, conquer the world and move forward. This book was an amazing part of my life at a very hard time.
Rhonda Rae Baker
Great reference book and encouragement for those of us who have been through hell and back. There is truly hope for the abused. Keep your chin up. A MUST read for all...there are victums out there everywhere. Ths information is invaluable!
Muriel Martin
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
for anyone who is a sexual abuse survivor i recommend this book and the workbook. I suggest you do this work with someone because it can bring up many painful memories,flashback or nightmares. I read this book and workbook with my therapist and it truly set me free from my past.
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a casual read book, which is probably pretty obvious from the title. It made me cry, think, and deal with a lot of painful memories I had as a child. This book is unbelievable. My therapist recommended this when I was going through my divorce. I learned a lot.
Jean Marie Angelo
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
Read it years ago and wanted to add to my list. A wonderful guide for those in need of healing and those who love and support a survivor. Full of first person stories and creative exercises. Ellen Bass is an effective creative writing teacher for all--whether a survivor or not.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The bible of incest and sexual abuse healing. If anyone truly wants to heal, you gotta read this book.
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always thought this would be a little too woo-woo for me but it turns out to be a crazy helpful book for anyone recovering from child sexual abuse. Pretty impressive in its scope and power.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Denise Haver
Recommended to Deanna by: Other professionals and survivors
I enjoyed this one more as a book on tape. Very helpful to any survivor of abuse. Definately a must read for those in recovery or professionals that work in the field of trauma and recovery.
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book and relevant to the subject. Has insights to the problems that childhood abuse has caused which you may not be aware of. Highly recommend if the subject is of interest.
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent source both on a personal and professional level. Highly recommend to anyone who works with or has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
May 20, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work
Recommended by Lynn for patients. Patients should be working with a therapist while working through this book. It has an associated workbook as well.
yes, agreed-this book is the bhagavad gita for survivors, and i think much of it can even be applicable to those outside the range of women-identified folks.

this book is deep- it says things simply, concisely, and is affirming that this work can take a long time and reminds people they should be patient with their process. (yes! for harm reduction at its best) i have been writing down, almost word for word, things along the way that i'd like to share with the folks i work with.

i loved the mixtur
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sexual assault survivors
Recommended to Robin by: therapists
There is a lot of controversy about this book. Particularly when it comes to recovered memories. Putting that aside, and the somewhat outdated view on such issues as sex workers and BDSM, there is also a lot of amazing things about it.

It is a hard read if you have experience with this subject and, while, personally, I would have liked a little more focus on the teenage years, it does have a tendency to overwhelm.

However, it has the capability of being a life changing book and certainly helps sur
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can be very healing for clients who are survivors of sexual abuse, however sometimes the graphic nature of the content is traumatizing to clients. So, I am very cautious when recommending this as reading to clients and always teach relaxation skills before recommending it.
Jess Jlane
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A courageous book that spoke out in a time when childhood sexual abuse was still a taboo, it's an incredibly important resource both for survivors and those who simply want to understand. Very well-written, it doesn't hold back but does offer great hope.
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Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. Laura’s groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura leads weekly writing groups and memoir writing retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region, as well as an annual summer writing retreat in Bolinas, Californ ...more
More about Laura Davis...

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“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis” 143 likes
“Everyone has the right to tell the truth about her own life.” 53 likes
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