Seduced into Darkness: Transcending My Psychiatrist's Sexual Abuse
About the Book
Seduced into Darkness: Transcending My Psychiatrist’s Sexual Abuse is a vivid and captivating story of hope for survivors of abuse as well as a case study in a skilled manipulator’s tragic exploitation of his professional power. This poignant memoir chronicles the traumatic psychological abduction and sexual exploitation of depressed college student Carrie Tansey at the hands of her psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Romano—thirty-one years her senior.
For three years, their secret “affair” was carefully calculated and controlled by Romano, as Carrie’s mental and emotional health continued to deteriorate, bringing her closer and closer to the edge. Their dual relationship finally came to light when Carrie’s suicide attempts landed her in a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Gradually, she began to reclaim her power, reported Romano to the state licensing board, successfully sued him for malpractice, and testified before the state legislature to bring awareness to such abuses.
As Carrie tells her tale, it is a journey paralleling that of the mythical archetype Persephone, the naive innocent who was abducted into darkness, reemerged and regenerated herself, then fearlessly returned to the prison she had fled, this time to help free others.
Journeys to the underworld come in many varieties, but there are two themes especially prevalent in the mythology of all cultures across the millennia: those of abduction and those of rescue. In Seduced into Darkness: Transcending My Psychiatrist’s Sexual Abuse, you will be witness to both journeys. While the story that Carrie Ishee tells here involves a harrowing abduction by her psychiatrist, through her telling of it, another story—one of empowering rescue—emerges.
In the ancient tales, the natural world often brought the signal that the time for a journey had come. A burning bush impels Moses toward Canaan; Odysseus finds his ship carried away by Poseidon’s winds; an owl arrives in the home of Harry Potter.
In Carrie’s case, the signal came from the sky. Carrie and I met for an astrological consultation in the summer of 2011. We approached the session as all good astrology does: not as an oracular revelation with the sky as cause and her life as effect but rather as an opportunity to gaze together into the mirror of the stars and planets on the day she was born, and to consider creatively how the stories they told were reflected in her life. As we did so, we followed an ancient tradition that began thousands of years ago, when human beings still recognized our connection to the natural world, and when it did not seem strange to imagine that the macrocosm of the sky might reflect the microcosm of human consciousness.
As we examined Carrie’s chart of stars and planets that morning, what we saw reflected back to us was a configuration of celestial bodies associated with a famous myth of the ancient world: the abduction of Persephone. The planets and asteroids named after each of the key players in this myth were arranged in Carrie’s chart in an unmistakably potent way. We saw Hades emerging from his underworld kingdom, kidnapping Persephone, taking her into his realm, raping her, tricking her into staying, and making her his queen. A precise geometric alignment known as the “finger of God” or “finger of fate” tied the characters of the story together in her chart. As we further explored this, Carrie shared how much the story was reflected in the tragedy and triumph of her own life. Even more striking, the arrangement of the planets on the day we met only emphasized the original configuration. The “Cave of Hades” was open once more. There was an opportunity for Carrie to make a second, voluntary journey into the underworld in order to find the abducted Persephone, reclaim her, and give her a voice.
Carrie courageously chose to make this second journey by writing Seduced into Darkness, and we are all richer for it. Her story clearly echoes the Persephone myth’s themes of seduction and betrayal. As a psychotherapist, for me to see this myth enacted under the auspices of psychology was truly chilling—surely the touch of Hades. It may be hard for many in the healing professions to read parts of this book. The repeated violation of the healer’s sacred promise to “do no harm” is painful to witness. And yet to turn away from such an assault is to be complicit in it.
As Carl Jung once wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” And James Baldwin warned: “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” Carrie’s story is a kind of archaeological dig into the healing professions, one that should cause all psychotherapists, social workers, doctors, energy healers, and other healing practitioners to recognize and own the shadowy underbelly of their own work, rife with its often-hidden power dynamics and potentials for abuse. Stories like this one are more common than we wish to believe. Many of our modern-day Persephones remain silent.
Like many underworld journeyers, Carrie eventually returned to the surface world bearing gifts. To me, the gifts of this book are twofold. The story itself reveals the profound limitations and harms of an exclusively medical model of psychological healing. It pulls up the rot in the roots, points out the poison in the soil. We are forced to face the enormous shadow that looms whenever we narrow our perspective to extremes, and are reminded how easy it is to be hijacked by the very places in the psyche that we blindly exclude from view. At the same time, the very way in which Carrie’s story is told embodies a more-comprehensive paradigm of healing, which in its breadth and depth has the promise to return us to the original meaning of the word psychotherapy: to heal (therapie) the soul (psyche).
In a profoundly personal way, Carrie has tapped into deep veins of myth and meaning that long predate our current diagnostic manuals and treatment algorithms. These deeper ways of knowing do not cancel out the usefulness of the medical discoveries and advances of the past hundred fifty years. They do, however, invite us to hold them with a much greater humility in our hearts and minds, in the much wider context of thousands of years of healing history on this planet. They invite us to enter the process of healing from a place of wonder and curiosity, relinquishing the security of authority and its seemingly infallible answers. And they remind us that to imagine ourselves as gods, as some healing professionals do, is always hubris.
Seduced into Darkness is sacred medicine for practitioner and patient, and boldly challenges all of us to explore our own heroic journey of the soul.
—Jason Holley, M.A., LPCC
Psychotherapist and Evolutionary Astrologer
Santa Fe, New Mexico
About the Author
Carrie Ishee has been a student of healing, human potential, and consciousness for more than 35 years. Her quest to know herself began in college when a severe health crisis compounded by her psychiatrist’s seduction and sexual abuse shattered her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
After doctoral studies in clinical psychology, she worked as a behavioral therapist, pursued a master’s degree in art therapy, and later completed a two-year training program in life coaching. Her work today is focused on helping victims such as she once was break free from suffocating shroud of trauma to create lives of meaning, purpose, and passion.
Praise for Seduced into Darkness
Kudos to Carrie Ishee for writing this book to help others realize that victimhood is not the end-all but can be the beginning of the Hero’s Journey to become a Survivor, and—as Carrie demonstrates—a Thriver!
—Charles L Whitfield, M.D.
Author of Healing the Wounded Child
Carrie Ishee has shared a physical, emotional, and psychological journey showing us how in her words, “Trauma recovery is a spirit path toward wholeness and wisdom.” Her courage to speak truth to power shines a bright light on abuse, and we are better for it. Her book should be required reading in any ethics course for healthcare professionals.
—Ann Filemyr, Ph.D.
President, Southwestern College, Santa Fe, N.M.
I was stunned when Carrie—one of the most positive, optimistic, and creative people I’ve known—shared this dark and twisted story of her past with me. It is a testament to her intelligence and resilience that she not only pursued justice but also used this searing life experience for her own and others’ positive growth.
—Valerie Plame, Author of Fair Game
Carrie Ishee’s compelling true story of her psychotherapist’s exploitation, betrayal, and abuse follows her journey from depression and attempted suicide through survival to strength and a fulfilling life of meaning and value. The story resonates in today’s environment, documenting the real-life impact of the betrayal and exploitation of patients.
—Gerald S. Smith
Former Counsel to the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine
Carrie beautifully shares the moment of deep healing through art therapy when her image revealed with painful honesty what words hadn’t been able to. What began as a lighthearted abstract led to the opening within her psyche of the harshest painful truth about what had actually happened to her. It is no surprise that she became the gifted professional art therapist that she is, now offering important healing opportunities to others.
—Deborah Schroder, ATR-BC, LPAT
Chairperson, Art Therapy/Counseling, Southwestern College, Santa Fe, N.M.
A beautiful and evocative account of how a client feels on the other end of the so-called slippery slope, the receiving end of egregious sexual exploitation. In this book, Carrie Ishee makes the path intelligible and sympathetic without recourse to angry polemics or victimology. You will hand your heart over to her and thank her for your deepened understanding of this terrain and for the knowledge that there but for the grace. . . .
—Andrea Celenza, Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Harvard Medical School, Author of Sexual Boundary Violations: Therapeutic, Supervisor, and Academic Contexts
As Earle Plumhoff and I walked out of our initial meeting with Carrie, I voiced what we were both thinking: How are we ever going to get her through the rigors of litigation? She seemed so fragile, and a lawsuit would involve divulging the most intimate secrets of her life in a public setting. Carrie had suffered a terrible wrong that deserved to be rectified so she could live the life she deserved. Getting through the litigation would allow her to triumph in taking back the power that had been taken from her. Carrie persevered, and through her strength, justice was done.
—Robert Hanley, Attorney at Law, Nolan, Plumhoff & Williams, the firm that tried Carrie’s lawsuit against Dr. Romano
In Seduced into Darkness, Carrie T. Ishee shares her harrowing experiences sinking into the depths of despair and suicidal depression as a result of emotional and sexual exploitation by her psychiatrist. The book also documents her inspiring healing and transformation: Carrie not only recovers from such a life-altering trauma but also allows it to become an initiation into a greater level of consciousness and self-compassion.
Carrie’s personal narrative demonstrates her amazing resilience—not only to survive but also to live beyond the trauma and tap into deep healing through the arts, especially music, visual art, and writing. Her masterful weaving of her story on many levels—psychodynamic, interpersonal, sociocultural, and archetypal—makes this a standout among personal narratives and memoirs. Seduced into Darkness provides a compelling and instructive read, and a helpful model for others on a healing journey.
—Catherine D. Nugent, LCPC, TEP
Executive Director and Principal Trainer,
Laurel Psychodrama Training Institute
Former Chair, Committee to Implement the Recommendations of the Maryland Sexual Exploitation Task Force
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