Gentle Nuances

[TW: mention of (corrective) rape, gaslighting, denial, verbal & psychological abuse, mention of personality disorders (ASPD, NPD)]

Have you ever been serenaded? I have, many times.

Several members of my family are musically inclined, including my father. Once or twice he may have written a song about me. My grandfather on that side used to lead a country band, and the older generations on both sides of my family like that kind of music a lot.

So I grew up hearing a hell of a lot of country music, and very little else. It’s not really my style, though. I find it too whiny and woe-is-me most of the time, and too religious or heteronormative the rest of the time. It’s kinda like emo, but for conservatives. Besides that, it’s also just really formulaic, and too often feels like I’m listening to the same song over and over again.

Music is a big deal for me, though. I’m not patient enough to keep playing instruments myself, so I stick to vocals only—but almost never in front of other people. I tend to surround myself with musical people, some of whom are even professional musicians.

One such was my perpetrator. He was primarily a percussionist, but also played guitar and sang—and not badly, either. Occasionally he would share his own original compositions with me.

More than once, both in person and through Skype, he sang me this song.

It’s so thick with irony, it’s a wonder he never choked on those words.

“Only those who accept will find that acceptance in return.”

Must be a lesson learned the hard way by now.

The haunting, the theme of death and rebirth… This is the type of song that only accumulates more and more layers of meaning. The more time passes, the more it builds up.

He sang it like a prophecy.

Three years from now, when it will have actually been ten years, how many more times will it have been fulfilled?

All of this is so contrary to the image that most people tend to have of abuse and sexual violence. There is no room for any kind of gentleness in the popular imagination of such things, which so very often does exist in reality. As an ordinary human non-monster, if not necessarily a “nice guy” (few people who knew him well enough to make a judgment would have granted him that—more often he would’ve been considered an ass or just plain rude),  how could he be capable of such a crime?

That was his own reasoning, of course. I didn’t even call it for what it was, mind. I tried to let him know it was unacceptable without ever saying anything like that—because I also thought I must have been wrong to think I had never given consent, and I said as much. But saying anything with even the slightest similarity to something “so vile” offended him—despite his protests that he “could never be offended”—so much that he went off on a diatribe about how I’m like a “five-year-old with a gun” and obviously just disabled.

A month later he pointlessly admitted that if he had a time machine, he would probably rape someone. And also told me I should rape my cousin. Surely he would claim that he was “trolling” to get a rise out of me, and wasn’t serious… but his gleeful description of how she was at the perfect age to remember just enough, and it would haunt her for years belies that. I can’t help but wonder how many other victims he’s had, and exactly how deliberate his choice of song was, in light of its theme of haunting.

I have evidence of all of this in writing, because he was reckless enough to say it on IM. I suppose that was nice of him? Or perhaps more accurately, as the philosopher Jagger once said… if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

I am neither drawing nor implying that I have come to any conclusions in this post, by the way. These are just observations and questions. I will not appreciate it if others decide to use this as evidence in favor of one point or another—and especially not any kind of eliminationist or violent rhetoric.

There have been questions raised over the years of whether or not he might have ASPD or NPD—someone I knew who is actually diagnosed with ASPD suggested the former, and I would not be entirely surprised if that assessment turned out to be true. As such, I’m fairly suspicious of any apparent displays of empathy or gentleness by him—including his very vague expression of regret four years after the fact. But there is not enough evidence to draw any particular conclusion. And I remain truly unconvinced that none of his affections were sincere, even if they were limited.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter. A diagnosis wouldn’t excuse any of it. It is only useful insofar as it would suggest appropriate treatment. And I also do not accept the idea that people with ASPD are incorrigible or totally incapable of empathy anyway—apparently, hallucinogens might be an option.

There’s a temptation, I think, for people to use these diagnoses (as well as BPD, but that’s usually only applied to people perceived as women) to write people off, to ignore the actual complexities of abusers and abusive situations. The cognitive dissonance created by the contradiction between the abuse itself, the occasional kindness of the abuser, and the usually very violent narratives associated with abuse is what makes this such an attractive option—and also what enables it to happen in the first place!

I will close with this thought: there was absolutely nothing out there addressing the kind of situation I was in with this guy. It was some form of “intimate partner violence,” but… Whatever weird vague-on-purpose undefined relationship we had (he probably would have framed it as “FWB” or its vulgar cousin, but of course I didn’t agree, and he should not be granted frame control anyway) was totally not covered by any materials focusing on intensely possessive monogamous romantic relationships, and even beyond that there was a disconnect between all the focus on physical violence and what I was observing, and so much of it happened from a distance that it wouldn’t have been possible for that to happen anyway—there certainly wasn’t any need for it. That’s all 100% ignoring the issue of asexuality, which obviously he tried to persuade me out of.

There is still so, so far to go.

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6 thoughts on “Gentle Nuances

  1. Thank you for writing this. I know how hard it can often be to put such personal stuff out there, and I am sorry you had to live through this and so much more in the first place. But I really appreciate reading posts like these.

    And by the way, in regards to what was likely just a rhetorical question… no, I actually have never been serenaded. ;)

    There is so much “nuance”, as you said, about abuse that is important for people to read, to learn, to understand. The scripts we have currently for being wary of partner violence are not nearly enough.

    And I like that you mentioned the personality disorder stuff and how it ties into empathy and being abusive and all of it. I have so many thoughts on that. I’m sure I’ll blog about it eventually. But yeah, my interest in it means it’s nice to see you writing even just a small amount about the topic.

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    • Well, not totally rhetorical. I’m genuinely curious how common that sort of thing is. :P It seems… not very?

      I think I had to post this, despite how uncomfortable it is—although doing it has actually alleviated my symptoms. It was always more a question of when than anything else… because whenever I go ahead with this book, it would be impossibly incomplete without the context of this song (and several others). I obviously can’t include that IN the book, but. You know, when THIS is what it sounds like? Words can only do so much to get that across. Showing people directly is better.

      Hopefully it will broaden the narratives around abuse a little bit.

      There’s so much more to be said about personality disorders. This is all just skimming the surface for now. I can’t really share a lot of the stuff I’ve learned from Mr. Scorpion the Diagnosed and Treated Sociopath (his preferred term—I know preferences are changing in the U.S. these days though), but it’s quite interesting. Also interesting: my ex is apparently well aware of the criteria for diagnosis. So IF it’s a condition he has… he probably knows it? His level of self-awareness has always been a salient question, and definitely not one I have an answer to. I tend to get a little sick of people who have never even met him speculating about it, though, especially when they have no real insight/understanding of personality disorders anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. This post touches on so many things Ive been thinking about recently in regards to my own history.

    Its important, I think, to talk about how abusers are three dimentional people and possibly sometimes kind and even lovable. Important, not for the abuser’s sake, but to acknowledge that survivers may need to grieve and miss some aspects of those relationships. It reduces the impact of abuse if you concider the perpetrator to be a “monster” since being being hurt by a person you trust and care for is so different from being hurt by an inhuman source, like a natural disaster or a wild animal.

    I also strongly suspect ASPD is a possibility in both of my abusive family members, which unfortunatly brings up the concern that those few scattered “kind” moments were just part of the “charming” facade people with ASPD are said to have.

    Im not sure what hurts more: The idea that our abusers were “heartless” in the first place (negating many good memories) or that people with a capacity for empathy and compassion could then wish us so much harm.

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    • Not sure what hurts more—yes, exactly! I’m not sure which is worse either. It’s so painful, either way. It really would be a lot easier if they actually WERE consistently cruel, as so many people assume is the case.

      I sometimes feel like the way that people react to hearing about abuse is… it’s almost gaslighting in itself, to say that our perceptions of abusers in their kinder moments are just wrong, even though there’s the possibility that it’s all a facade. It’s nowhere near that certain. Even worse when they say our feelings towards them are somehow not what we think they are, and not okay. That’s something I want to touch on in another post.

      Lots of other scattered thoughts and memories this whole thing is bringing up…

      Liked by 1 person

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