Guest Post by Carly edited by Lauren Rose

Carly was a great kid – straight As, AP classes, thriving social relationships – everything was perfect. But then, she downloaded a dating app that changed her life forever.  She met Frank; he was ten years older than Carly; he seemed to have it all together. He was an excellent speaker and businessman and knew exactly what to say to wrap Carly around his finger by the end of their very first date.  Their relationship was a whirlwind!  Frank won her parents over, and although the control increased a little by little, like a frog boiling in water, Carly remained enthralled. Their pace evoked questions from friends, but Frank and Carly vowed to live chaste lives, believing it is “better to marry rather than to burn with passion,” continuing toward marriage at a fast pace.

The marriage happened, and with it, death to Carly’s autonomy. Frank did not like to hear the word “no” and it didn’t change his plans when he did. Carly thought they could work it out through counseling at their church.  In counseling, she was taught wives weren’t allowed to say no to their husbands, and her marriage vows were her consent.  This advice, of course, only made it worse. Desperate, Carly reached out for help, but Frank became angrier for Carly asking for help to the point where he forbade her from speaking with certain people who gave her any advice other than to submit to him.  Carly tried everything! She apologized for being an unsubmissive wife and sought to make herself available for all of his needs. She cooked and cleaned and did her best to fulfill every one of Frank’s demands.

But he always needed more!

Having children took a toll on Carly’s body.  She became frail and tired, and subsequently even more isolated. Frank monitored texts, Facebook messages, emails, and even Google searches to keep her under the control of his influence. Getting just a few hours of sleep with a newborn, Frank would wake both Carly and the children up with nonsensical monologues or arguments and loud music. Functioning on such little sleep, it wasn’t easy to think clearly and to know when Frank was telling the truth and when he wasn’t. Out of desperate confusion, Carly searched and found Called to Peace Ministries (CTPM) online. The educational materials helped her make sense of what was going on and giving the courage to seek real help. After trying for so many years to fix things independently, she finally understood the dynamics of what is going on and that she couldn’t fix her marriage on her own.

After several events leading to the revealing of Frank’s pedophilia, Carly understood she was not the only one being harmed by their relationship kicking in her protective instincts. One evening, Carly got up the courage; while her husband was out, packing up a few of her and the children’s belongings, she fled to her brother’s house. Upon her leaving, realizing he was losing control, Frank began playing a new game to win Carly back. (This is typical of abusers; it is about power and control for them, and they will start to place nice to hook their victims back in, and CTPM educated Carly to understand this dynamic). Frank immediately apologized, but CTPM resources helped Carly understand that apologies are standard and do not mean he has changed. They also helped her understand what true change would look like, but that never came.  A friend added Carly to an online support group with CTPM.

Carly stayed with her brother a few more weeks to see if Frank’s behavior would genuinely change. When Frank realized his tactics weren’t winning Carly over, he switched to aggression to show his anger of losing control of Carly. He cut his wife and children off financially and began a legal battle to gain control of the things Carly cared about most – the children.  Frank was able to drain Carly’s already limited funds through frivolous motions and threats, forcing her to remain dependent upon her family’s generosity. CTPM online support group became a safe haven for Carly and a place to ask for advice and receive emotional support. When Carly’s car died, CTPM was there for her financially, too. They kept coming through again and again when she needed it most, indirectly saving the little children from their abuser.