here's a book with information that not many people have wanted to hear.The outing of the subject of No More Secrets complicates anyone's simplistic gender-based analysis of violence against women. In the past, women -- both straight and gay -- working to stop wife assault argued that widening the discussion to include the problems of lesbians would get in the way of dealing with male violence -- and, besides, wouldn't do much for the image of lesbianism in the wider culture.
Only in the past few years -- and especially with the rise of the Coalition Against Same-Sex Partner Abuse (CASSPA, info at www.womanabuseprevention.com), which launched a poster campaign last week -- has the queer community leapt in to meet the issue head on.
Janice Ristock's book can only help. Her perspective is sophisticated, layered and brings to the table many themes -- gender, abuse history, race, class and homophobia.
This last has had an especially awful impact: lesbians experiencing abuse are doubly isolated and shamed in a homophobic culture. Many are abused in first relationships inside communities that are new to them. And when an abuser says, "I'll out you if you tell," the threat has real teeth.
Ristock is an academic, not a literary stylist, and she's seriously constrained by the rigorous demands of reporting data. She has to tell us all about earlier research -- who did what and how it fits into the big picture -- before she gets to her own study. Each chapter begins with what she's going to talk about and ends with a recap, which makes for some heavy going.
But as always on this subject, when the survivors speak in their own words, the material is mind-blowing.
Ristock launches her book Tuesday (June 4) at the Women's Bookstore. See listings, this page.Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org
NO MORE SECRETS: violence in lesbian relationships by Janice Ristock (Routledge), 242 pages, $32.95 paper. Rating: NNN