This book, written and edited by a collection of some of the most knowledgeable, experienced and active advocates in the field, is an invaluable resource on an issue that is astonishingly avoided and rarely acknowledged, even though it is pervasive and highly damaging. How pervasive and how damaging, you ask? The book has all the information and statistics anyone will need to be convinced of the state of play, globally and among different populations as well. The book is well structured, addressing overarching topics such as How Serious Is Intimate Partner Violence? (Part 2) and Intimate Partner Sexual Violence And Best Practice Service Response (Part 3) with several chapters in each part. Written in a scholarly yet compassionate style and very well referenced, it is certainly a comprehensive book on the topic of intimate partner sexual violence.
Two chapters stood out for me, chapter 14, Responding to Christian Survivors of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence, by Barbara Roberts, and chapter 15, Law Enforcement Response to Intimate Partner Violence by Mike Davis. Barbara Roberts, a survivor of domestic abuse and author of Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion (2008), makes an excellent contribution. She advocates passionately as a Christian who understands the complexities facing Christian victims. In particular, she addresses the mandates from Scriptures that cause the most difficulties to Christian victims, showing quite comprehensively how they have been misunderstood and misapplied. As a voice for victims, she does not mince words - "Anger at the woeful responses of the church is not ungodly bitterness that a victim needs to repent of; it is justified and righteous anger, the same kind of anger that God has for those who ignore the cries of the oppressed..." (p.177), and "Apathy towards the needy is a serious sin (Ezekiel 16:49). Counselors must see abuse as a moral issue where the blame lies with the perpetrator, or they will not be able to convey 'you are not to blame' to the victim. And when victims suspect they are being judged as partly or wholly to blame, it is like having caustic soda poured in their wounds" (p.178). But apart from arguing from her experience, from logic and from sound exegesis, she also gives practical suggestions for helpful responses, for example, what to say to the victim and how to use the right words if a woman discloses sexual mistreatment.
I found Mike Davis' contribution enlightening and in some ways refreshing. In the list of contributors, Mike Davis is described as "a police sergeant for the Vancouver, Washington Police Dept, where he helped establish the City of Vancouver's first Domestic Violence Unit and served as the first Domestic Violence Sergeant." The reason I found his chapter refreshing - take a look at his opening statements, "As law enforcement we can and do have tremendous impact on people's lives. Often, police are a victim's first contact with someone who has the power and authority to deliver help and justice. Therefore, law enforcement must have a trained response to domestic violence (DV) and its related crimes, just as we do to a bank robbery in progress, a school shooter, or a bomb threat...police officers must take any form of IPV very seriously" (p. 186). Wow! The first thought to come into my head was, "Does a police officer like this really exist?!" I found his writing immensely readable, highly practical and sufficiently detailed. His experience as an officer dealing with DV offences is obvious, and his passion and commitment should be something every police officer in every police department everywhere (especially in Western countries that purport to fight violence against women and hold perpetrators to account) should emulate. The anecdotal evidence regarding the responses of law enforcement agencies is that they are not helpful to victims of intimate partner sexual assaults, often adding to their trauma. It is encouraging that there are Mike Davis' in the world who are prepared to take IPV seriously and have the know-how to investigate, lay charges and deal effectively with the offender. He obviously also understands the characteristics of IPSV offenders and suggests ways to interview suspects that work best.
I applaud the editors for their courage in compiling the material in order to bring this hideous crime to light and shed more understanding on how best to respond and provide support to survivors of rape and abuse. Professionals and lay bystanders alike both need this book and will find it useful. It is, however, not an easy read as the topic is itself a confronting one and unfortunately, those who will enthusiastically pick it up may be those already passionate about being advocates. And therein lies a huge part of the problem - people don't want to know. That's why this book is needed. Hopefully, the intended target of readers will take this issue as seriously as this book has argued it should be taken.