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Look What You Made Me Do: A Memoir

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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 Memoir

  1. 4 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. "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

    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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cleopatra Pullen

    I have recently read Jane Monckton-Smith's excellent book on dangerous relationships and that led me to this memoir. This book looks behind the statistics and what we think we know what happens within these types of relationships to the truth of how previously successful women can end up with 'low self-esteem' and unable to register any sensible thought except 'I love him' Helen is writing about one past relationship although she helpfully makes the link to two others that were significantly contr I have recently read Jane Monckton-Smith's excellent book on dangerous relationships and that led me to this memoir. This book looks behind the statistics and what we think we know what happens within these types of relationships to the truth of how previously successful women can end up with 'low self-esteem' and unable to register any sensible thought except 'I love him' Helen is writing about one past relationship although she helpfully makes the link to two others that were significantly controlling and shows us the reality which is often not pretty. This isn't a book that just says I was a victim, it goes some way to show why those who try to support people in this situation become so frustrated because we don't feel the fear, from the outside it makes no sense. And yet, I have seen someone cower on receiving a text message, not because they had done anything wrong but because that was how the abuser was determined to make them feel. If you want to understand a little bit more - read Helen's book

  4. 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.

  5. 4 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 5 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Jane

    The tone of the book is awful. Right at the beginning of the book the author pushes her anti-porn views which in my opinion have no place in a book on domestic violence. It’s 2021 we should be working on the legalisation of the sex trade to protect women - not continue with the shaming of it. Throughout the book she repeatedly refers to ‘abuse & work place bullying’ and this frustrates me as they are simply not the same and I’m not sure whether she did this to try increase the book sales by incl The tone of the book is awful. Right at the beginning of the book the author pushes her anti-porn views which in my opinion have no place in a book on domestic violence. It’s 2021 we should be working on the legalisation of the sex trade to protect women - not continue with the shaming of it. Throughout the book she repeatedly refers to ‘abuse & work place bullying’ and this frustrates me as they are simply not the same and I’m not sure whether she did this to try increase the book sales by including 2 birds 1 stone but it actually feels like it’s been trivialised. I actually did not finish the book, due to the simple fact the authors way of writing was not likeable in any fashion. There are plenty of books on domestic violence that are well-written by people with a much deeper understanding - avoid this book.

  9. 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... 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...

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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"

  14. 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    'Look What You Made Me Do' is the author's direct account of her experiences being a survivor of coercive control, which became recognised by the UK as part of the Domestic Abuse framework in 2015. Due to the nature of this read, in its entirety, it could be upsetting for some readers, and it is recommended that full research is completed before reading this. Being a non-fiction memoir, the account written contains full, raw, explicit disclosures, and contains very sensitive material. It makes f 'Look What You Made Me Do' is the author's direct account of her experiences being a survivor of coercive control, which became recognised by the UK as part of the Domestic Abuse framework in 2015. Due to the nature of this read, in its entirety, it could be upsetting for some readers, and it is recommended that full research is completed before reading this. Being a non-fiction memoir, the account written contains full, raw, explicit disclosures, and contains very sensitive material. It makes for a distressing, uncomfortable read, exposing the author's vulnerability and ordeal. Praise must be given to the author for the courage and strength that it must have taken to create this book, and I give credit for the enlightening, interesting and educational way she writes. Although this was in audio format, I am confident some will find this comforting as well as having compassion for the author. My only criticism is that the narration of the audiobook fell flat for my preferences and became too monotonal for me. However, taking into consideration the painful subject of this book, I was able to overlook this and complete the read. Highly recommended to all fans of non-fiction, true-life survivor stories. A very important book, in any format, that must be shared with all.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I actually meant to download See What You Made Me Do but I downloaded the wrong title. However this one was super good!!!! I will never again say, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Instead I am going to say, “Why doesn’t he stop punching her? Why does he promise to stop choking her but doesn’t keep his promise? Why do the police do absolutely nothing when she calls them bc she thinks her husband is going to kill her? Why are women with restraining orders more likely to get killed by the person they I actually meant to download See What You Made Me Do but I downloaded the wrong title. However this one was super good!!!! I will never again say, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Instead I am going to say, “Why doesn’t he stop punching her? Why does he promise to stop choking her but doesn’t keep his promise? Why do the police do absolutely nothing when she calls them bc she thinks her husband is going to kill her? Why are women with restraining orders more likely to get killed by the person they took the restraining order out on? Why is it ok to punch, kick, choke, or rape your wife but if he did that to anyone else he would get arrested and put in jail?” Once again blame the woman who has been isolated from her friends and family with no job or money to leave and will lose her children or get murdered if she leaves and then people have the audacity to ask “Why doesn’t she leave?” It’s time to change the narrative. Why doesn’t HE LEAVE? It’s time to change the laws, it’s time for police to get a clue and learn about violent men, and men to admit they have a problem and get help for their mental illnesses.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tes

    I found it hard to put this book down, and at the same time I found it hard to keep reading at points. This was one of those stories that got into my head and seemed to bleed into my own life somehow; the anxiety, the worry. The author did a great job of bringing me along on her horrible ride. The subtle, coercive, abusive behaviours written about in this book resonated with me, not only because I feel I've experienced some of them before, but because I think I'm also guilty of perpetrating them, I found it hard to put this book down, and at the same time I found it hard to keep reading at points. This was one of those stories that got into my head and seemed to bleed into my own life somehow; the anxiety, the worry. The author did a great job of bringing me along on her horrible ride. The subtle, coercive, abusive behaviours written about in this book resonated with me, not only because I feel I've experienced some of them before, but because I think I'm also guilty of perpetrating them, in less violent ways. Helen did what I think was a beautiful job of illustrating the perspective of the abuser. I have come away from this book wondering whether those who cause suffering really intend to, or if they merely act with the misguided view that they are being helpful, or out of emotions which they have never been taught how to handle.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    A memoir of a woman being abused and gaslit by her partner. Having read INVISIBLE WOMEN previously and being well aware of the shocking statistics about violence against women here in the UK I found this an invaluable and powerful read, perhaps because it's written in such a matter-of-fact way. The abuse and violence meted out here just feels so ordinary, even banal. Reading this as a man is not an easy experience, because there are elements of Franc that I believe many of us can identify with; A memoir of a woman being abused and gaslit by her partner. Having read INVISIBLE WOMEN previously and being well aware of the shocking statistics about violence against women here in the UK I found this an invaluable and powerful read, perhaps because it's written in such a matter-of-fact way. The abuse and violence meted out here just feels so ordinary, even banal. Reading this as a man is not an easy experience, because there are elements of Franc that I believe many of us can identify with; it's all too easy to want to control someone that you're in love with. My thanks go to the author for helping shine a light into one of the darkest areas of the female experience and on reflection perhaps helping me be a better person.

  19. 4 out of 5

    S

    “1 in 4 women are abused by their partners. Women suffer in silence for years. And because the very nature of abuse is control through fear, shame, and guilt, some never speak about it at all. But by not speaking, women who have suffered leave control in the hands of their abusers. Speaking about it is problematic, but it strips away the stigma and robs what has been done to us of its power. It is both a relief and a release. But most important of all, it helps identify this form of abuse and pr “1 in 4 women are abused by their partners. Women suffer in silence for years. And because the very nature of abuse is control through fear, shame, and guilt, some never speak about it at all. But by not speaking, women who have suffered leave control in the hands of their abusers. Speaking about it is problematic, but it strips away the stigma and robs what has been done to us of its power. It is both a relief and a release. But most important of all, it helps identify this form of abuse and protect ourselves (and others) against it”. The fear, inadequacy, shame, isolation, and psychological scars .. will they ever go away completely?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nathalie Bilinsky

    This was an uncomfortable book to read, excruciating at times, and must have been a very difficult (and brave) book to write. I expect many women have endured aspects of this sort of behaviour from their significant others, if not to this extreme. Coercive control is such a prevalent and pervasive issue in our society, and every much as serious as physical violence yet so much more difficult to recognise ... that I would recommend this book to everyone to better understand the insidious nature o This was an uncomfortable book to read, excruciating at times, and must have been a very difficult (and brave) book to write. I expect many women have endured aspects of this sort of behaviour from their significant others, if not to this extreme. Coercive control is such a prevalent and pervasive issue in our society, and every much as serious as physical violence yet so much more difficult to recognise ... that I would recommend this book to everyone to better understand the insidious nature of it.

  21. 5 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

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy O'Brien

    Thought provoking, visceral and very triggering for emotional and physical abuse victims. This book stirred so many emotions in me. As someone who has been in and out of various narcissistic relationships, this book resonated with me on a deep and profound level. Thank you for writing this book and shedding light on mental abuse.

  23. 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. 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.

  24. 5 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.

  25. 5 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. 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.

  26. 4 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.

  27. 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?

  28. 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. 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    S D

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

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Usherwood

    Very powerful book. Must read.

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