How Carrie became susceptible to domestic violence – How we grew up shapes how susceptible we become to abuse as adults.


Carrie was 26 and knew she was hot. She had dark brown hair that hung below her shoulders and wore sweats with a tight tank top and bare midriff that made it hard to avoid admiring her Survivor abs. Her face was also clear and beautiful which made it easy to miss the fear in her eyes.

“They gave me your number from the hotline,” she said as she selected the chair furthest away from me.

“How are you feeling?

“Like shit. How are you feeling? Must be hard helping people fix their lives.”

“I don’t fix people.”

“What do you do?”

“Listen to their stories, try to understand them.”

“Why would you want to listen to my story, let alone understand it?”

“I like listening to stories. And it’s a mistake to think I won’t be able to understand yours.”

“So what’re you like a biographer who identifies with his subjects then grows to like them?”

“I don’t always like them. When I saw Silence of the Lambs, I identified with Hannibal Lecter’s alienation. That doesn’t mean I want to have dinner with him.”

“You wouldn’t wanna have dinner with me.”

“That’s when he beat you, isn’t it, when you were having dinner.” .

“What’s the point of going over it again? It never lessens the pain.”

“No, but it lessens the loneliness.” She looked at me for a long moment like a terrified child.

          “I keep hearing Samantha screaming. We were at the kitchen table. I’d baked chicken with mushrooms and broccoli. Sam is just three years old. She was scrunching her nose at the broccoli and I told her she’d have to eat it with her chicken. I asked Carl if he’d emptied the vacuum cleaner knowing he hadn’t done it. It must have been my sarcasm, the way I looked at him. He grabbed my hair, slammed my head down on the table. Sam started screaming. He must have grabbed her and locked her in her room. He dragged me to the basement door and pushed me down the stairs. I remember crawling back up, blood dripping on the steps, crying out to him I was sorry. I don’t know how much later it was when I realized he’d unlocked the door. I saw him lying on the sofa. I almost went to him to promise him it wouldn’t happen again. But I thought of Sam’s screams, the way he sometimes smacked her. Adrianna broke into sobs. “I had to get my baby out of there,” she said as tears streamed down her face.


Carrie was tough. She grew up in Bed-Sty and never took shit from anybody. Once in her junior year in high school, on the subway returning from a football game, a guy in her algebra class started squeezing her thigh. She dumped her hot latte on him and punched him hard in the face. When he hit her back, she kicked him in the balls and the guys on the train had to keep her from stomping him. With most of the other guys at school it was different. She delighted in the horny way they looked at her and she’d let them slide their hands down her pants and touch her ass. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t attracted to them. How they loved her ass. And when her breasts grew larger she felt awesome. She’d let them suck her nipples as they massaged her ass and made her come. But the orgasms were nothing compared to the feeling she got when they gave in to her, the way she could manage them. Every day when she returned home, she’d savor her conquests – in the cafeteria, a supply closet, the boys’ locker room. The power she had over them. It was the best part of her homework.

Carrie admired her father. He was tough and buff and riveted bolts on a New York City skyscraper. Before that he drove a garbage truck for the city but got fired for punching his boss for giving him shit about putting in too much overtime. Once he told her you learn a lot about people from picking up their trash. He’d never finished high school but was clever enough to buy a rundown bar in Green Point, just before the neighborhood was invaded by people hungry for cheaper rents and more closet space. He made a shit load of money but blew most of it on drugs and gambling. When he was high, he had rough sex with Carrie’s mother and sometimes beat her. It infuriated Carrie when she had to listen to her mother’s cries and sobs at night. Her mother was weak and passive and resented Carrie for being so much like her father. Carrie could tell by the way her mother looked at her, with a mixture of resentment and disgust. She knew her mother hated her. That’s why it amused her when she lectured her mother on how to handle her father. “If you punched him hard in the face, just once,” she told her. “It’s a management problem.” Carrie knew how to manage her father, not by punching him in the face but by letting him hug her, dry rub her ass and sometimes more. The same strategy she used at school. When her mother finally left her father, Carrie stayed with him because he told her he needed her. He’d also saved enough money to pay for her four years at NYU.

Carrie met Carl at a theme party in his dorm. The theme that night was Gold Pros and Tennis Hos. She noticed him staring at her, legs splayed, swiveling her hips on the dance floor. He started to dance with her, cupped his hands around her ass and pulled her tight against him.

“You’re as subtle as a garbage truck,” she said.

“I can’t wait to own your gorgeous ass,” he answered.

She let him drag her to his room, excited by playing the sleazy slut. What turned her on most was the power she knew she had over him. She let him pull off her clothes and throw her down on the bed. When he moved to take her she flipped over suddenly and let him do doggy. She came quickly as he thrusted into her. Her pleasure was intensified when she imagined her mother watching.

It was still dark when she awoke and realized she’d been so exhausted she spent the night with him. She sprang for her clothes as he stirred. As she was leaving, she couldn’t resist asking him, “When are you going to take me home to daddy?” Before he could answer, she jumped on the bed and massaged and sucked his penis until he came. When she got up to leave, he followed her but she escaped before he could touch her. Perfect, she thought as she glided through Washington Square Park on the way back to her dorm, one bird with two shots.

The next time she saw him she was walking on West Fourth Street by the park. He pulled up beside her on a motorcycle. She didn’t recognize him until he took off his helmet.

“It’s an 800 cc Harley, but if you go for a ride with me your tits will get wind burned,” he said.

          “800 cc’s is the smallest size Harleys come in,” she shot back and he laughed. The way he looked, his hair all askew from the helmet, the longing in his eyes, made her laugh with him.

“I’ve got another helmet,” he said.

Carrie had never seen the Jamaica Wildlife Preserve, four miles of hiking trails that wound around salt marshes populated by geese, owls and other assorted species. When they arrived, he took her by the hand and without a word led her to one of the hiking trails where they walked about a mile before he spoke.

“The thing I like about this place is people, complete strangers, always give you a friendly greeting. It’s like they’re not from New York,” he said.

“It helps that they’re strangers,” she answered.

Later they stopped and rested on one of the railroad ties that serve as benches overlooking the duck ponds.

          “Sometimes I imagine I’m a goose among geese, living a pacific life of anarchy,” he said, “from T. H. White, The Once and Future King; when Merlin transforms young King Arthur into a goose among geese so he can understand the true meaning of anarchy.”

          Carrie shook her head, then burst out laughing. “An anarchist, learning to write computer code at Cooper Union. In three years you’ll be lobbying for tax breaks for Apple.”

          “It’s more complicated,” he protested. But before he could finish she got up and speed walked away. His head’s so far up his ass, it’s crushing his diaphragm, she thought. Yet a part of her was touched by his bewilderment.

The next weekend she let him take her to Storm King. “The Alexander Calder sculptures perched on the hills are awesome,” he said earnestly. She smiled at him sweetly. “Like great birds of prey or is that geese?” He  looked at her crestfallen. It surprised her that she was tempted to comfort him. As they wondered the grounds, he told her his heart wasn’t in engineering and computer systems, that he really wanted to be an architect. He had this child-like dream of designing a series of pedestrian plazas along 5th, 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan with trees where people could stop and rest and take time to breath. Half of her believed he was feeding her romantic bullshit. The other half felt he was incredibly naive. “Green spaces versus lucrative construction contracts for high density growth in Manhattan? Easier to get a liquor license,” she said.

Carl kept calling and she saw more of him. It must be the sex, she told herself. He started doing things that surprised and pleased her. Instead of yanking off her clothes and throwing her down on the bed, he helped her undress slowly. Once when she tried to pull him down on top of her, he held her by her armpits, gently nuzzled her breasts and kissed her tenderly. When he finally took her she felt he really wanted more of her besides her body.

She spent more of her nights with Carl. They found a tiny sub-let in the East Village. She welcomed the routine they created: breakfast at daybreak; running to her first class at Stern as he hurried off to Cooper Union; engrossed on their laptops in the Bobst Library or in good weather in Washington Square Park. On weekends they took long walks on the High Line, eat pizza washed down with too much Stella Artois and strolled down to Battery Park. A warm, peaceful feeling grew inside her. Everything around her appeared more vivid, even the brownstones in the East Village took on a luster she’d never noticed before. She felt in harmony with the neighborhood. One day on her way to class she wondered if this is what it felt like to be in love. She quickly dismissed the thought.


“I can’t remember exactly when it changed,” Carrie told me. “For a long time our love making was sweet and tender. Then he started resenting me and the sex got rougher. It was like he was trying to pry me open. He used his fingers and sometimes a dildo while he was inside me. Once he used a butt plug which really hurt me. He came almost instantly. He told me that if I tried harder and we did it more I’d start to enjoy it. I felt like he was trying to poison me. I was then that I knew he really hated me. Right after that I got pregnant.”


If you were Carrie’s therapist, what would you say to her?  Should Carl be a part of her therapy? Could her father play a role in her therapy? And what about her long, lost mother?


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