Lifelines: Culture, Spirituality, and Family Violence


252 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-88864-312-8
DDC 362.82'92




Reviewed by Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas is a middle-school guidance counselor, teacher, and social
worker in Milton, Ontario.


The study of family violence issues is still in its infancy. Although
the subjugation of women was addressed by writers such as John Stuart
Mill as far back as the 19th century, only in the past three decades
have women have had the courage to speak out about what has gone on
behind closed doors. For women raised in the more traditional,
hierarchical religions and surrounded by the messages of ancient
cultures, the veil of privacy has been even more opaque.

Lifelines is an attempt to draw back the veil and create opportunities
for women to tell stories of their culture, their spirituality, and
their abuse. It is frustrating for the reader to experience vastly
differing perceptions of life by those most wounded. The desire to pull
together threads of truth, to sense a pattern is sometimes overwhelming.
In fact, the authors describe Lifelines as a catalyst for “women to
follow the thread backwards to its source, the sacred texts and their
directives to women and men.”

The book should give rise to follow-up volumes that accomplish what it
could not. We need more information about the messages of the ancient
religions and cultures so that we can better understand the perceptions
of the women who tell their stories. We need to hear debate about how
the clash of different cultures creates confusion for women of devout
faith. Finally, we need stories of resilience, rebirth, and new visions
about how to help.

Lifelines leaves the reader with untidy questions and vague discomfort;
in doing so, it reminds us that our understanding of family violence is
a slowly evolving process. Recommended for general readers, and for
survivors, frontline workers, educators struggling to understand family
violence issues.


Boehm, Reinhild, et al., “Lifelines: Culture, Spirituality, and Family Violence,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,