Best Books to Read on Your Path to Healing After Abuse

Here are my top picks for the best books available about recovering from abuse. These are titles I personally believe every woman should read on the path toward healing after an abusive relationship.

Get all my favorite reading lists here.

Best Books for Making Sense of Toxic Situations

Myths We Believe, Predators We Trust: 37 Things You Don’t Want to Know About Abuse in Church (But You Really Should) – by Sarah McDugal and Daron Pratt
Debunk 37 common myths about the predators you trust, in this powerful guide to making your church a safer place.

  • If someone was abusing a child close to you, could you tell? 
  • Don’t victims often make up accusations to get attention? 
  • Does forgiveness include letting sex offenders attend church with children? 
Myths on forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation, and reporting allow predators and abusers to easily manipulate, charm, and deceive far too many trusting leaders, parents, and children. 
Don’t let it be your church. Don’t let it be you.
Safe Churches: Responding to Abuse in the Faith Communityby Sarah McDugal, Jennifer Jill Schwirzer, and Nicole Parker
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceYou can’t tell who the abusers are in your church.
You’d like to think you can, but you’re wrong. 
And you need to know why.

This book is for you if you want to…
– discover how to recognize and respond to red flags.
– feel more equipped to educate your church staff.
– protect the vulnerable.
– discern genuine repentance.
– reflect God’s character to your church’s children.

Safe Churches presents proven approaches to handling abuse at church in ways that are both biblically redemptive and legally responsible.
GET IT in PAPERBACK: (Coming Soon!)

Your Sexually Addicted Spouseby Dr. Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means
A MUST READ for every spouse who has discovered that your husband has been involved in ANY level of infidelity — including the use of pornography, one-night stands, emotional attachments, the adult industry, long-time affair(s), child molestation, sex addiction, or other unfaithful behavior in real life or through a screen. Have you felt like counseling just made the situation worse? Did your counselor blame you for being “part of his addiction problem” instead of comprehending your betrayal and trauma?

Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage: A Christian Woman’s Guide to Hidden Emotional and Spiritual Abuse by Natalie Anne Hoffman
A MUST READ for every Christian woman in a confusing and painful marriage relationship.
Do you believe you are alone? I want you to know you aren’t.
Do you believe you can’t find peace? I want you to know you can.
Do you believe you don’t have choices? I want you to know you do.
This book isn’t for the parents who raised you, the pastors who condemn you, the friends who don’t understand you, or the partner who dehumanizes you. This book is for you — the woman in the pew who somehow, by God’s divine intervention, finds it in your hand and has to catch your breath because you suddenly feels like you’re free falling.

Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft
He says he loves you. So…why does he do that? You’ve asked yourself this question again and again. Now you have the chance to see inside the minds of angry and controlling men—and change your life.
In Why Does He Do That? you will learn about:
• The early warning signs of abuse
• The nature of abusive thinking
• Myths about abusers
• Ten abusive personality types
• The role of drugs and alcohol
• What you can fix, and what you can’t
• And how to get out of an abusive relationship safely

The Emotionally Destructive Marriageby Leslie Vernick
For any woman caught in an emotionally destructive marriage, Leslie Vernick offers a personalized path forward. Based on decades of counseling experience, her intensely practical, biblical advice will show you how to establish boundaries and break free from emotional abuse.
Learn to:
· identify damaging behaviors
· gain the skills to respond wisely
· promote healthy change
· stay safe
· understand when, why, and even how to leave
· recognize that God sees and hates what is happening to you. Trying harder to be a perfect fantasy wife won’t help fix what’s wrong your marriage. Discover instead how you can initiate effective changes to stop the cycle of destruction and restore hope for the future.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse by Ruth A Tucker
Ruth Tucker recounts her harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her husband, a well-educated, charming preacher no less — in hope that her story would help other women caught in a cycle of domestic violence and offer a balanced biblical approach to counter such abuse for pastors and counselors.

Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuseby Shannon Thomas
Within every community, toxic people can be found hiding in families, couples, companies, and places of worship. The cryptic nature of psychological abuse involves repetitious mind games played by one individual or a group of people. Psychological abuse leaves no bruises. There are no broken bones. There are no holes in the walls. The bruises, brokenness, and holes are held tightly within the target of the abuse.
A guided Personal Reflections journal is included in the back of the book to help the reader go deeper in their application of the six stages of recovery. The journal can be used individually, in a small group setting, or with a therapist.

sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceSo many of us suffer from chronic guilt feelings; we assume that these feelings reflect God’s opinion of us. 13 Weeks to Peace offers mental and emotional healing with principles from God’s Word. Learn how to deal with subjects such as the power of forgiveness. This book illustrates that the Bible contains a more accurate, comprehensive, and effective system of psychology than can be found anywhere else.
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceSomewhere along the line, a bond fractured, or at least twisted into a malfunctioning tangle. You regret it, but cannot seem to fix it.
13 Weeks to Love shows how to live God’s love and how doing so fulfills the purpose for which He created us. God is love and we, as His image bearers, possess the capacity for love.

More of my top picks for emotional healing are available on my Amazon book lists here.

Best Books for Learning to Move Forward

The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists by Eleanor Payson sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceExplains narcissism, narcissistic relationships, and how to interact more safely with a narcissistic person and recognize abusive behavior patterns.




Safe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceA MUST-READ for anyone who is/has been in even one abusive or addicted relationship. Identify your own patterns of choosing unsafe friends and relationships, and develop internal changes to break those cycles and choose safe people to surround yourself with.



ONE FACE: Shed the Mask, Own Your Values, Lead Wisely by Sarah McDugal
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceStop obsessing about making everyone happy, and find the courage to do what you know is right. Develop regret-free strategies for decision making. Learn how to shed your masks, own the core values God created in your heart, and make wise choices regardless of what people expect you to do.


Untwisting Scriptures: That Were Used to Tie You Up, Gag You, and Tangle Your Mind – by Rebecca Davis
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceDoes the Bible really teach that you’re supposed to yield your rights? Have you ever been accused of being bitter? Maybe you thought you really weren’t, but how can you tell? Is that “root of bitterness” truly as insidious in your heart as some have suggested? If you “take up offenses” by trying to help someone who is being mistreated, are you really in danger of becoming the most bitter of people?
Untwisting Scriptures presents the beautiful truth of God’s Word, exposing sin where it needs to be revealed, and offering hope to those who most desperately need it. Scriptures can be untwisted. You can rise up from spiritual abuse and walk in the freedom of Christ.

Change Your Words, Change Your Life, Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speakby Joyce Meyer Ministries
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resource“Words are a big deal. They are containers for power, and we have to decide what kind of power we want our words to carry. I believe that our words can increase or decrease our level of joy. They can affect the answers to our prayers and have a positive or negative effect on our future.”
Joyce examines the tremendous power of words — the vehicles that convey our thoughts and emotions — and provides a series of guidelines for making sure that our talk is constructive, healthy, healing, and used to achieve good results.

Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy Rather Than to Make us Happy? by Gary Thomas
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceA great read if your marriage is on the mend. Or if you’re single again and open to remarrying, or looking to recalibrate your view of marriage in a new relationship.
THIS BOOK IS NOT for those who are in the middle of toxic abuse, trying to decide whether to stay/leave, or on the receiving end of narcissism or gas lighting (where your addicted spouse makes you feel like you’re crazy and everything is your fault). If this is you — read Is It Me?, Safe People, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, or The Wizard of OZ instead.

How We Love, Expanded Edition: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Kay and Milan Yerkovich
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceAre you tired of falling into frustrating relational patterns in your marriage? Do you and your spouse fight about the same things again and again? Relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain why the ways you and your spouse relate to each other go back to before you even met.
Drawing on the powerful tool of attachment theory, Milan and Kay explore how your childhood created an “intimacy imprint” that affects your marriage today.
Their stories and practical ideas help you:
· identify your personal love style
· understand how your early life impacts you and your spouse
· break free from painful patterns that keep you stuck
· find healing for the source of conflict, not just the symptoms
· create the close, nourishing relationship you dream about.
NOTE: This book is an excellent tool for difficult or mediocre relationships, not merely marriages. HOWEVER, it is NOT a resource for fixing abusive relationships.

Best Books for Porn-Proofing Your Kids + Parenting After Abuse

(See a full list of top books for kids, sex education, and porn-prevention here.)

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures – by Kristen Jensen & Gail Poyner
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceGood Pictures Bad Pictures is a comfortable, read-aloud story about a mom and dad who teach their child what pornography is, why it’s dangerous, and how to reject it. Using easy-to-understand science and simple analogies, this ground-breaking book engages young kids to porn-proof their own brains.

The 5-point CAN DO Plan teaches kids how to avoid the brain-warping images of pornography and minimize the troubling memories of accidental exposure that often tempt kids to look for more and lead them into a dark and destructive addiction. To stay safe in the digital age, kids must install an internal filter in their own brain. Good Pictures Bad Pictures shows them how.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jrby Kristen A. Jenson
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resource
Young children deserve to be armed early against internet dangers. Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. makes it easy for parents to protect their young kids ages 3 to 6.
Using gentle, age-appropriate messages, children will learn to Turn, Run & Tell when they are accidentally exposed to inappropriate content. Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Jr is a comfortable, effective way for proactive parents to empower their young kids with their first internal filter!

Tales of the Exodus Series by Nicole Parker

sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourcesarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceTrauma is painful, especially when you’re a child. Forgiveness is confusing, and just how are you supposed to comprehend that God is good when bad things keep happening?
Give your children tools to comprehend the pain of trauma, the goodness of the Gospel, and a God who loves them even when it hurts, with Nicole Parker’s bestselling children’s series. 

The Well Armored Child – by Joelle Casteix
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceProtecting your child from sexual abuse can be as easy as opening a book.

Author Joelle Casteix has filled the need for an easy-to-read toolkit for parents when it comes to preventing childhood sexual abuse. When her own child was born, she was deluged with tomes that covered everything from breastfeeding to choosing the right college. But one book was noticeably absent. It’s the book that can help parents take action to prevent their child from becoming another statistic.

The Well-Armored Child gives parents the tools and strategies to understand how predators “groom” children, why many of our trusted institutions cover up abuse, and how to empower children without shame, fear, or inappropriate discussions of sex.

When Dad Hurts Mom – by Lundy Bancroft
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceCan my partner abuse me and still be a good parent? Should I stay with my partner for my children’s sake? How should I talk to my children about the abuse and help them heal? Am I a bad mother? Mothers in physically or emotionally abusive relationships ask themselves these questions every day. Whether it’s physical or “just” emotional abuse, whether it’s aimed at them or you, whether they see or hear it — your kids need you.
This book, the first ever of its kind, shows mothers how to:
• Protect children and help them heal emotionally
• Provide love, support, and positive role models, even in the midst of abuse
• Increase their chances of winning custody
• Help their kids feel good about themselves

The Quincy Solution – by Barry Goldstein
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceWhen was the last time you were filled with hope? How about right now? As we struggle to better protect battered and sexually abused women and children, communities in the US have successfully reduced domestic violence – dramatically. And saved millions and millions of dollars. If the Quincy Solution was adopted in the rest of the country we could save $500 billion! And millions of women and children would sleep at night, knowing they no longer had anything, or anyone, to fear.
Find out, in Barry Goldstein’s important and meticulously-researched book, how Quincy, San Diego and Nashville tackled the problem; and won. Barry Goldstein has dedicated his career to stopping men’s violence against women and preventing the mental, emotional and physical trauma it inflicts on their children.

Best Books for Understanding Predators and Abusers

No Visible Bruises – by Rachel Louise Snyder
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceIn No Visible Bruises, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder gives context for what we don’t know we’re seeing. She frames this urgent and immersive account of the scale of domestic violence in our country around key stories that explode the common myths―that if things were bad enough, victims would just leave; that a violent person cannot become nonviolent; that shelter is an adequate response; and most insidiously that violence inside the home is a private matter, sealed from the public sphere and disconnected from other forms of violence. Through the stories of victims, perpetrators, law enforcement, and reform movements from across the country, Snyder explores the real roots of private violence, its far-reaching consequences for society, and what it will take to truly address it.

The Sociopath Next Doorby Dr. Martha Stout
Who is the devil you know? Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband? Your sadistic high school gym teacher? Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings? The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own?
In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. He’s a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.
A shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five— has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.

The Gift of Fearby Gavin de Becker
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceTrue fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse. Learn how to tell the difference. In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the man Oprah Winfrey calls the nation’s leading expert on violent behavior, shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late.
Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker, whose clients include top Hollywood stars and government agencies, offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including:
• how to act when approached by a stranger
• when you should fear someone close to you
• what to do if you are being stalked
• how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls
• the biggest mistake you can make with a threatening person, and more.
Learn to spot the danger signals others miss. It might just save your life.

Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders – by Anna Salter
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceWhat motivates sexual abusers? Why are so few caught? Drawing on the stories of abusers, Anna C. Salter shows that sexual predators use sophisticated deception techniques and rely on misconceptions surrounding them to evade discovery. Arguing that even the most knowledgeable among us can be fooled, Salter dispels the myths about sexual predators and gives us the tools to protect our families and ourselves.

Seducers Among Our Childrenby Patrick Crough
A collection of advice from a retired police investigator, on how to not only protect one’s children, but also teach them to protect themselves from sexually abusive persons who will try to lure them.

Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptionsby Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde
sarah+mcdugal+author+speaker+healing+famine+women+development+leadership+wild+abuse+child abuse+ sexuality+ biblical+sex education+parent+resourceThese founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic, have convinced some of the world’s greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain.
The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education.

Watch my 2-minute book reviews on YouTube here:

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