Prison Saved my Life!
by Darcy Flierl
The first sign of violence was when he flicked a cigarette at my face. Just like when Peter Carter held my hand upon meeting him for the first time when I was 11 years old, I was being tested by my abuser. How much will she take? How far can I take this? Will she tell or keep the abuse a secret? My calm and forgiving response set the stage for next time and the time after.
I had some of the traits of many victims of domestic violence. I had been sexually abused, struggled with self-esteem and self-worth, and I had been exposed to a drug and alcohol culture, which made his use seem “normal”. Also, I thought I could save him. After all, I was a Social Worker, a Certified Addictions Professional and Practitioner in the Healing Arts. However, when he chose me as his victim and I do believe I had been chosen, he made a few poor judgements.
First, I wasn’t dependent on him financially and second, I had an amazing support system. Lastly, I’m ridiculously principled.
I wish I could say that when that cigarette burned my lip that I had ended it right there. Just as I wish I could say that when Pete Carter held my hand that day, I would have called my mom and told her how weird I felt. Truth is, I had no idea how bad things were going to get. Over the next few weeks the abuse escalated to a point that I was becoming scared for my life.
Beyond being exhausted and confused by his behavior, he also worked hard to deplete me by keeping me up all night knowing I had to work the next day. At times, I would be driven to fighting back which further confused me because I would think, “well, I’m violent too”. I was convinced the 18 bottles of beer daily was the root of all of this and if I could just get him to stop drinking, things would be normal. This thinking was faulty, because the drinking was his mask, his excuse as to why he abused. Blaming alcohol, allowed him more time and control over me. While I was busy trying to get him sober, the violence persisted.
It wasn’t the night that he jumped on my back when I was sound asleep and started wailing on the back of my skull that I left, nor was it the morning I woke up to him kicking the back of my legs for no apparent reason, that I found my strength. It was when he emotionally and verbally berated me for hours upon hours for a restaurant I had “liked” on Facebook. I finally told a friend what was happening and she convinced me of two things: the abuse was escalating very fast in a short amount of time and he was probably going kill me and next time he touched me, I had to call the police. A few nights later, I woke to a blow to the head by the force of my cell phone, and I saw a look in his eyes that made me believe my life was seriously in danger. I didn’t think, I acted. I ran for my life and I called the police.
He was a habitual offender and it was his third arrest for a violent crime. I’m not proud, I visited with him regularly when he was in the county jail, I wrote a letter to the judge pleading in his defense, I met with the State Attorney’s office to attempt to convince them to drop the charges. He was the victim and he needed help is what I said. What everyone else knew was, I was the victim and I needed help. The six year prison term is exactly what I needed to become well again, to make sure that I would never be under his sick twisted spell again, and to wrap my head around what the hell happened and why.
A few weeks ago I got the call from the Florida Department of Corrections that “his” sentence was coming to an end. It triggered me in a similar way as the day Peter Carter requested he be removed from the Florida State Sexual Predator Registry. I wrote a lengthy letter to the state about how Pete Carter’s sexual abuse impacted my life and how those memories never go away. His request was denied. It brought me satisfaction, but not like the day I learned he had died. His passing brought me peace, not because I carried hate but rather because I carried fear for any child that may also not have yet found their voice and become prey to his sexual perversions.
Tomorrow I will be getting another call from the Department, letting me know my abuser is free from prison, his time served for this crimes. I’m not afraid he will contact me, I’m not afraid he will hurt me or come after me. I’m afraid for his next victim. Prison saved my life. It gave me the time and clarity, distance and perspective to move from victim to survivor. For six years, some other woman’s life was likely saved from the same mind blowing, heart wrenching abuse as well. If only there were a domestic violence registry like there is for sexual predators……. Women could maybe avoid the manipulation, lies and dangers of these very sick and twisted individuals. It’s widely known that abusers never “recover” just as sexual predators always have “urges”.
When I reflect back as to what I should have done, could have done, got out sooner, avoided it all together, I always come back to one thing……… reporting the abuse gave me voice. The prosecution by the system, gave me life. I will forever be grateful to the Martin County Sheriff’s office and the State Attorney’s office for doing what needed to be done when I didn’t have the fortitude.
Darcy Flierl is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addictions Professional, and Certified Yoga Teacher currently offering individual and family psychotherapy in Stuart, Florida. She also enjoys teaching in the Human Services Department as an Adjunct Instructor for Indian River State College and is Consultant for Non Profits along the Treasure Coast.
She has held board positions on for a variety of local and statewide agencies from the Department of Juvenile Justice’s State Advisory Group to CHARACTER COUNTS! and others. Darcy has received a variety of awards for her community work such as; Soroptimist’s Rising Star Award, the Community Champion Award from the United Way and for community advocacy from the Tobacco Free Partnership and was a 2013 Nominee as a Woman of Distinction.
Besides working to make Martin County a healthier place, she donates her time doing River Advocacy for the Indian River Lagoon and raising awareness about many issues effecting young people and families. She treasures her time with her husband, and children attending local events and enjoying Martin County’s recreational opportunities.
For more information about Darcy you can visit her website at: www.darcyflierl.com
If you have a have a question or a comment for Darcy you can email her at AskDarcyFlierl@gmail.com