Faces of Carson

Marlena held the beveled edges of a wooden handle in one hand and a pen in the other. The wooden handle was attached to a miniature stop sign that her Carson domestic violence advocate  had made for her. The octagonal top of the stop sign was about a foot across. Just as with a street sign, the front was red, with the letters “STOP” across it. On the back, however, white space on which Marlena was preparing to write.

For a few weeks now, her Healing Alliance support group had been learning about health relationships and about how tricky it can be to figure out if you are in an abusive relationship at first. That’s because abusive relationships start out looking the same as healthy relationships most of the time. Both start with romance.  Had Marlena’s husband Bill sat down with her on their first date and after ordering dinner and complimenting her on her hair, offered her a lifetime of humiliation and controlling behavior, she’d have definitely refused. But in the early months, all the way up until they were sexually involved, he offered her the kind of love anyone would want. Looking back all those years, and thinking about what her Carson advocate had been teaching. Marlene figured that when they became sexually involved , on some level, Bill decided that he owned her.

That’s when things had really changed. They were small signs at first. Eventually, after they got married, he would sexually assault her, telling her that she was “his” and sex was his “right” whether she gave consent or not.

Her Carson advocate had asked her to write on the back of this stop sign significant things that she would want her teenage self to know about being that relationship.

 Marlena held the pen and thougth about her teenage self. Her hair had been red then, where it was white now. She wrote, “Have a good argument first, before you decide if it’s a good relationship. See if the solution is all about him and what he wants.” “Notice if he makes you feel good momentarily then puts you down immediately.” Notice if you feel loved a majority of the time.” “Notice if he can accept influence from you.” “Notice if he punishes you when he is wrong about something.”

The tears rolled down her face as her mind moved through the forty years of marriage. There had been all those kids to care for.

“Notice  if you’ve been isolated from your acquaintances.”Notice if he shows any attention to you for your hobbies  or interest AFTER he thinks you are committed” she wrote to her young self. And finally, her hand pausing, she wrote “Listen to your grandmother.”

Before Bill had stopped Marlena from seeing her,  grandma had said many times, “Trust yourself, Marlena, no matter what, I will be here for you.” And that why she trusted her Carson advocate. Because that’s exactly what her Carson advocate says to her.

By JAC Patrissi

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