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Look What You Made Me Do: A Powerful Memoir of Coercive Control

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For more than two years, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener’s abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confron For more than two years, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener’s abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confront her own agonizing past.Helen’s first husband controlled her life, from the people she saw to what was in her bank account. He alienated her from friends and family and even from their three daughters. Eventually, he threw her out and she painfully began to rebuild her life.Then, divorced and in her early forties, she met Franc. Kind, charming, considerate Franc. For ten years she would be in his thrall, even when he too was telling her what to wear, what to eat, even what to think. Look What You Made Me Do is her candid and utterly gripping memoir of how she was trapped by a smiling abuser, not once but twice. It is a vital guide to recognizing, understanding and surviving this sinister form of abuse and its often terrible legacy. It is also an inspirational account of how one woman found the courage to walk away.


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For more than two years, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener’s abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confron For more than two years, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener’s abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confront her own agonizing past.Helen’s first husband controlled her life, from the people she saw to what was in her bank account. He alienated her from friends and family and even from their three daughters. Eventually, he threw her out and she painfully began to rebuild her life.Then, divorced and in her early forties, she met Franc. Kind, charming, considerate Franc. For ten years she would be in his thrall, even when he too was telling her what to wear, what to eat, even what to think. Look What You Made Me Do is her candid and utterly gripping memoir of how she was trapped by a smiling abuser, not once but twice. It is a vital guide to recognizing, understanding and surviving this sinister form of abuse and its often terrible legacy. It is also an inspirational account of how one woman found the courage to walk away.

30 review for Look What You Made Me Do: A Powerful Memoir of Coercive Control

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andreea

    "Domestic abuse is like cancer: everybody knows somebody.It's only when you start to speak about it that you find out just how many women have been through it and carry that burden about with them." I have always wondered why do women put up with abuse relationships. Can't they see the toxicity of it? How can they love somebody who's physically and mentally hurting them? The answers are by far more complex (and scary) than I could have imagined. I strongly recommend this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle B

    Helen’s honest account of her abusive and controlling relationship with her ex-partner, gives an insight into what it must be like to be in a such a terrible relationship and provides an explanation to the often asked question, ‘why doesn’t she just leave him’. The only reason I haven’t given this book five stars is because I felt it could have done with a bit more editing in some parts which were overly repetitive (although some of this is may be to reflect the way in which Franc’s behaviour wa Helen’s honest account of her abusive and controlling relationship with her ex-partner, gives an insight into what it must be like to be in a such a terrible relationship and provides an explanation to the often asked question, ‘why doesn’t she just leave him’. The only reason I haven’t given this book five stars is because I felt it could have done with a bit more editing in some parts which were overly repetitive (although some of this is may be to reflect the way in which Franc’s behaviour was repetitive and would wear Helen down). But, this does not detract from the fact this is overall a very good book a worthwhile a read for anyone wanting to read a first hand account of this type of relationship. I would highly recommend to anyone who is in, or is helping anyone in, an abusive relationship that they also read after Helen’s book, ‘Power and Control: why charming men can make dangerous lovers’ by Sandra Horley, a book Helen refers to. Thanks to NetGalley for a free Kindle copy of Helen’s book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Wow!... As a survivor and a trainee counsellor I found this book of great value. It evoke a number of feelings (somatic at times like sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach) and strong emotions. The narrative swings rather elegantly from the “love story” with her abuser and facts and stats, like a gently vascilating single lamp casting inscrutable light on the ugly truth about coercive control. A must read for anyone affected by abuse directly or indirectly. I’m still gobsmacked by how accurate Wow!... As a survivor and a trainee counsellor I found this book of great value. It evoke a number of feelings (somatic at times like sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach) and strong emotions. The narrative swings rather elegantly from the “love story” with her abuser and facts and stats, like a gently vascilating single lamp casting inscrutable light on the ugly truth about coercive control. A must read for anyone affected by abuse directly or indirectly. I’m still gobsmacked by how accurate her depiction of abuse was. I thank you Helen for finding the courage to speak for in your story I heard a bit of mine.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anne-marie

    Excellently written and well-paced journey through a controlling relationship. It provides real insight into how a perfectly intelligent person can find themselves in a coercive relationship. It suggests a pattern where the abuser is initially extremely charming (think knight in shining armour) to collect information about the victim and to win trust. Once the victim is ‘hooked’, the abuser slowly starts to introduce rules and limitations and to generate doubt inside the victim through lies, den Excellently written and well-paced journey through a controlling relationship. It provides real insight into how a perfectly intelligent person can find themselves in a coercive relationship. It suggests a pattern where the abuser is initially extremely charming (think knight in shining armour) to collect information about the victim and to win trust. Once the victim is ‘hooked’, the abuser slowly starts to introduce rules and limitations and to generate doubt inside the victim through lies, denials and manipulation. The author addresses the suggestions of those on the outside such as ‘but why don’t you/didn’t you just leave the relationship' and really illustrates the complexities that disarm the victim from doing so. This is a great book and very helpful for anyone who wants to understand more about bullies and how they operate, not only in personal relationships, but also in the workplace or elsewhere.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pippa

    This book is a real eye opener to what it’s like to live with a partner who is a controller. I would recommend this book to everyone as it’s extremely informative you would be surprised just how many people are in an abusive relationship. Helen I wish you well you have helped so many by writing this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma Shepherd

    A brave look at the hidden types of unhealthy control in a relationship. Helens story is written openly, not overly polished and comes across as honest. In reading this, I’ve seen a lot of my previous relationships and need to please others. Reading this after leaving a long lasting job, I can see the behaviours at work too... thank you Helen.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Until publication of this book the issue of coercive control in relationships what not much heard about. Thankfully it is now, and the law has been changed to accommodate it. Very well written and something that everyone should read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    Aside from the fact this was a book I needed to read right now this is an excellent memoir. At times it is heart-breaking to read, as it should be - this is a harrowing subject and I did shed tears - not just for the author but for myself and with the stark nature of the factual information enclosed for the depressingly large number of other women who have experienced this psychological torture. Unfortunately for me the size of this number is not a shock through lived eyes I see around me everyday Aside from the fact this was a book I needed to read right now this is an excellent memoir. At times it is heart-breaking to read, as it should be - this is a harrowing subject and I did shed tears - not just for the author but for myself and with the stark nature of the factual information enclosed for the depressingly large number of other women who have experienced this psychological torture. Unfortunately for me the size of this number is not a shock through lived eyes I see around me everyday flashes of "Franc" (the abuser in this book) not all are as awful as he but does that excuse their behaviour or erase the damage they cause? For me one of the strengths of this book is that is raises the subject of serious psychological abuse outside of a romantic relationship - whilst it is always said "who knows what goes on behind closed doors" and this is indeed true and works for relationships of many types abuse often occurs right in front of people, perpetrators can be friends, colleagues, relatives as well as romantic partners and victims can be tormented in plain sight for some this may even add to the thrill, it may help them legitimise their behaviour "if there was anything wrong with it so-and-so would have said you are being over sensitive" There are different types of abusers - Helen herself has been in relationships with two - they often are not conscious of their behaviour or at least that is unacceptable and IF any "bad" behaviour is admitted to then you drove them to it and thus the title is perfect and if you finish the book then I hope you will also see why. I was really impressed by the inclusion not only of statistics and definitions to help guide the reader but also recent changes in law which might help those in a similar position to seek help or prosecution if they feel able to do so (even though this is statistically unlikely). The recognition of coercive control as abuse helps legitimise suffering that someone has repeatedly told you isn't real, that is all your fault and whilst for some it comes alongside physical violence as the book says "Not all abuse leaves a mark" or at least not a physical mark that others can see, it certainly leaves a mark psychologically and the impact of that on your behaviour, on who you are many will notice, they will just not know the reason why - or perhaps they will consider that psychological damage isn't as valid as physical? After all your legs work, you don't have a broken arm, what are you complaining about? Abuse isn't just one person's story - this is one person's story and it helps you understand that it's about more than just a snapshot in a person's life, it's about history, society and one thing this book has left me with is a long list of further reading. At times I was so immersed in this book I it felt like I wasn't reading a memoir - it couldn't possibly be real - it was gripping fiction surely? But it is real - and it happens everywhere - everyday For victims (many of whom will not want to be known as such because these women are far from weak) this is a book that may be raw to read but one you will probably identify with, see yourself reflected back at you from the pages - your "Franc" maybe different in his exact modus operandi but I am sure you will recognise some of the patterns - feel some of fear, the self-loathing and no matter how long you have been in "recovery" the pull towards a dangerous drug. For everyone else please read this book - I'm sure there will still be a big part of you that says "Why did she stay?" and/or "I'd never accept that" but this gives just a little insight into the world of coercive control and why it isn't as simple as "just leave"

  9. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Writing such a book is a very difficult thing; the book is worth five stars for that. However, I had a couple of issues with it. The style is mostly fine, although the bits of letters written between Helen and Franc sometimes burden the book too much. Towards the end there is a part that drags way too much, repeating the same things without offering new perspectives. However, it is an important book, and I am glad the author could go through with it. Conceptually, I found that a couple of the id Writing such a book is a very difficult thing; the book is worth five stars for that. However, I had a couple of issues with it. The style is mostly fine, although the bits of letters written between Helen and Franc sometimes burden the book too much. Towards the end there is a part that drags way too much, repeating the same things without offering new perspectives. However, it is an important book, and I am glad the author could go through with it. Conceptually, I found that a couple of the ideas were expressed in a manner that can be misunderstood. There is a passage where the author says that the abuser does not realise what they are doing. I don't think it is true at all, and it takes away part of the responsibility. They are well aware of what they are doing, otherwise they would not put that much of an effort to isolate the victim from friends and family and they would start behaving abusively right away. Instead, they build this fantasy relationship, being cautious not to show their cards while starting the programming. Whenever they are at risk of losing their victims they tend to do some "gesture" which shows their "kind and soft" side, because they know what they normally do is wrong. Then, they start again. Also, it seems to be suggested that the cultural idea of the woman as servant to the man is the basis to allow such abuse. It is not. It may be for somebody, but everybody is exposed to the risk of being abused. As said, it is programming, brainwashing, and it can happen to everybody, even to those who think they are too smart for them to be caught by this, even to those that think they would recognise everything and leave. Moreover, it happens to men and women, albeit it happens to women more often. It also happens, very often, between mothers and daughters. I have seen people who were brainwashed at work being convinced that they were not and judge harshly people that were victim of abuse. This attitude adds to the issues of coming out of such a horrible situation. Another major issue, for me, is that the relationship is still often referred to as love. It is not. It NEVER is love when it develops like this. NEVER.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Helen Childs

    Having left this for about a month (very hard going, as can be expected), I returned to it yesterday, determined to finish the final half. I finished the book this evening...not sure 'enjoyed' is the best word, but I found this compelling. What a strong lady, not only did she live with this horrible man, she also had absolute arseholes to contend with in the workplace. What an absolute relief she got out the other end! A hopeful message to those suffering...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hemmings

    The front cover of this book states “not all abuse leaves a mark” and I believed this to be mor walnut emotional abuse and coercive control but personally I found this to be more about domestic abuse. I found some of the book to be boring and pointless rather than focussing on the actual issue of coercive control

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lingrell

    Love is measured in all sorts of ways. It didn't come as a surprise to see how long it took for Helen to disentangle herself from this sort of manipulation and pain associated with heart's desires. I was hoping she could've been strong enough to dump him as brutally as he treated her.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Roussos

    A harrowing story of domestic abuse and coercive control and how one woman overcame it... twice. Look What You Made Me Do is well written and I often found myself in complete disbelief after reading some of the correspondence between the author and her abuser. Definitely worth a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charmaine Saliba

    A MUST READ! 'Look what YOU Made Me DO' is Helen Walmsley - Johnson's story of her relationship with two abusive men. Every woman should read this, because no one is immune of abuse. Thanks Ms Walmsley - Johnson for sharing your story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Usherwood

    Very powerful book. Must read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    I read to the end desperate to find some redeeming feature. Boring, repetitive and monotonous. A shame as this is a hot topic which we definitely need to have a conversation about.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jayne

    This is an essential read for anyone who has experienced abuse at home or in the workplace. How do we ever let things get so far?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tina Towey

    Blindingly depressing and monotonous Relentless and repetitive. Sorry this was tedious to read. Could have been half as long. Misery memoir no redeeming features.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    A compelling and terrifying insight into some of the factors that make people stay in abusive relationships.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    A horrible account of Helens 4/5 years with Franc. Coercive control, manipulation, violence ... well done for speaking out and highlighting these issues. I enjoyed the read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trish Tuthill

    This book is my version of The Archers. Confronting and triggering but definitely needed. Thank you Helen for your honesty and bravery.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    A challenging, confronting and honest look at abuse

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lucy-Brier

    This was an incredibly powerful book! Her raw honesty creates a real sense of connection as you're reading and I finished feeling so united and empowered.

  24. 4 out of 5

    S D

    A really interesting and shocking story. Important issues raised that we should all be aware of..

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    A memoir of living through coercive controlling domestic abuse. This is brutally honest and distressing. Not enough is written about this form of abuse and for the author to be able to share this tale is a credit to her. Written in the form of letter and diary extracts as well as prose, it is well written. A tale of survival and strength and is a recommended read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Penny Scott

    Very Bravely told story. Repetitive parts of the letters around a third into the book were perhaps unnecessary as the excess distracted from the flow of the novel, without offering anything new.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Tobin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy West

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cephalopod

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hemmings

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