Book Review: 'Look me in the eye: Caryl's Story'

A memoire of abuse, humiliation, and hope. Photo: Merwelene van der Merwe

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2013—A memoir of abuse, humiliation, and hope.

Domestic violence. It happens every day, and every day women and men choose to stay with their abusive partners. Why they stay is a mystery to many, including law enforcement, family members, and friends of the victims. We often hear frustrated victims and advocates say, “If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, you’ll never understand.”

In her first book and personal memoire, Look me in the eye: Caryl’s story, Caryl Wyatt with Anita le Roux attempts to shed light on what kept her in a marriage that was abusive—verbally, emotionally, and physically—for more than a decade.

What could possibly have kept Wyatt in her violent marriage for over ten years? Why did she keep returning to her abusive husband and even remarry him? How could she possibly continue to love a man who had her arrested and thrown into a South African prison?

Often, books about domestic violence/intimate partner abuse are written by victims/survivors as a therapeutic exercise that highlight the abuser’s behavior with the intent to educate others on how to recognize a perpetrator. For example, my novelette Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath mainly focuses on identifying the red flags of the abuser. My personal life story is not included in these pages.

By contrast, Wyatt’s story also focuses on her behavior. She infuses a thorough and candid peak into her childhood and young adult experiences, which she strongly believes contributed to her co-dependent tendencies and to her unhealthy “addiction” to her husband Danny.  Wyatt offers examples of her accountability and the shame and guilt that accompany them.

“The only way I could deal with the rage as a young woman was to deny it. Truth be told, I was angry with both parents, but for the sake of my psychological survival, I needed at least one parent whom I could idolize. I chose my dad for this purpose. I saw little enough of him to risk disillusionment,” writes Wyatt.

Survivor stories like Wyatt’s also focus on a victim’s sometimes-violent reactions to the abuse being inflicted. This approach provides a necessary balance and allows the reader to answer objectively, rather than subjectively, the questions: Who is actually responsible for the violence and its perpetuation?

Wyatt details her outburst that leads to her arrest and brief incarceration:

“Then, as if hypnotized by the sound of breaking glass, I walked around the living room sweeping everything onto the floor. I ripped the glasses from the bar shelves and with a vengeance, getting more and more demented as I thought of the role alcohol played in our marital problems; of the heavy drinkers we had become and of the way he and his friends would go out and get smashed night after night.”

Wyatt alludes to the possibility that her husband has a personality disorder, specifically narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). She is quick to note that only a professional can diagnose NPD. However, Wyatt voices her distrust of educated professionals who themselves were duped by her husband’s charisma and manipulations. Wyatt dedicates a chapter to describe her husband’s ability to dupe lawyers, counselors, and even a sex therapist they visited together:

“I could tell from the onset that she liked my husband, perhaps even fancied him. This disturbed me but I went against my better judgment and continued the sessions with her. A short time into our therapy it became perfectly clear that she could no longer discern between the lies he was telling and the truth.”

Despite the pain and suffering evident throughout Wyatt’s life and marriage, her story ends with hope. She shares her healing and recovery approaches, including her love of art and her love of dancing.

Although Wyatt’s story is unpleasant at times, it’s a lesson in understanding the many struggles victims face when making the decision to finally leave their abusive partner. In order to help victims, we must be willing to understand victims. Well-written and accompanied by several pages of photographs from the author’s personal collection, Wyatt’s memoire is a must read for counselors, law enforcement, and anyone who has been affected by the after math of abuse, either personally or as a friend or family member.

Complete with an introduction by Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love, Look me in the eye: Caryl’s story is available through Wyatt’s website: http://abuseisnoexcuse.blogspot.com.

 


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Paula Carrasquillo

Ms. Carrasquillo lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a master's degree in communication and adult education from Regis University in Denver, Colo. and a bachelor’s degree in English from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. In addition to her column for The Washington Times Communities, Ms. Carrasquillo contributes and edits stories for various online outlets including Elephant JournalPaula's Pontifications, and Places to Yoga. She also works as a Web editor and analyst for a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Bethesda, Md. In May 2012, Ms. Carrasquillo published her first novelette, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Visit her online portfolio to learn more about her education, career experiences, and her next book.

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