VFA Recommended Books

Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship
Lisa Aronson Fontes, Author

This comprehensive, exceptionally helpful guide to coercive relationships will enable readers to identify abusive patterns, determine safe responses, and plan exit strategies. Fontes (Interviewing Clients Across Cultures) has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is an expert in family and domestic violence. Her expertise comes out in every page as she outlines problem behaviors and presents multiple options (leaving, defining new boundaries, determining how to safely stay in a relationship) in a non-judgmental but pragmatic fashion. She is also sensitive to issues around coercive relationships for teens and the LGBT community, cautioning readers to not think of coercive relationships as only involving male-on-female abuse.

Overall, Fontes has a firm command of both the explanations and descriptions of coercive behavior, as well as how people in such relationships can extricate themselves. She is careful to detail numerous ways coercive behavior can occur, making sure readers know that physical violence is not always inevitable. Fontes minimizes clinical terminology, resulting in an eminently readable book. Readers who want to check their own relationships or keep an eye out for their loved ones will find this to be a fascinating, disturbing read.


“I wish I'd had this book in my youth, when I was the victim of coercion that whittled away at my self-esteem. This book should be in every women's center, police station, and therapist's office. It cuts through the jargon, gets to the heart of the matter, and provides tools of liberation.”
—Magdalena Gómez, author of Shameless Woman

“The first comprehensive guide to overcoming coercive control. Dr. Fontes provides simple tools to assess your own or a loved one's relationship and offers practical steps to getting free, illustrated with real-life stories. The writing is sharp and evocative and the research is impeccable. A path-breaking work.”
—Evan Stark, PhD, MSW, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University School of Public Affairs

“Dr. Fontes makes the dynamics of coercive control understandable to everyone. In plain language and with clear examples, she describes the tactics of domineering individuals and their effects on victims. Dr. Fontes is particularly thoughtful about including diverse couples and families. After reading this book, no one will be able to ask, 'Why does she stay?'”                             —Juan Carlos Areán, Director, National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities

About the Author

Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD, has a doctorate in counseling psychology and has worked in the areas of child abuse, violence against women, and challenging family issues for over 25 years. A professor, researcher, and popular conference speaker, she teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She survived a relationship that included coercive control and stalking.

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