As I have talked about in previous posts, sexual abusers are not always strangers. Ninety-three percent of the time, children know their abuser. And sometimes, when our children are older and start to date, their abuser is someone that they are involved with in a romantic relationship.
Today I have a guest post by Sarahbeth Caplin, who was raped and emotionally abused by a boy she began dating during high school. She writes about how he used music to connect with her. When he had her charmed, he turned the relationship into one of control, force and violence.
As parents we need to be aware that our teenagers can be taken advantage of by predators their own age, or older. Sarahbeth does a beautiful job of telling her story by way of her relationship with music. Thankfully, she survived the relationship and has reclaimed her life. If you would like to connect further with Sarahbeth further you can do so on her website or on Twitter: @SbethCaplin.
Songs for Myself: Taking Back My Abuser’s Favorite Music
Ours was a relationship based on music. While our mutual friends at the party thought we sneaked away to make out, given the obvious insta-spark between us, the truth is we sat in his car with the windows rolled down and compared playlists on our iPods.
I was pleasantly surprised to see many of my favorite bands and artists in his library. I also saw many unfamiliar band names that would eventually make their way to my own collection. In addition, he owned both existing Avril Lavigne albums and a handful of Britney Spears: one of his sisters must have put those in there. Right.
There was a straight-from-a-B-list-chick-flick moment when we were driving, and White Houses by Vanessa Carlton came on the radio. Seizing an opportunity to charm him with adorkable cuteness, I deliberately turned to face him for the lyric Maybe I’m a little bit over my head/I come undone at the things he said. I remember his half-grin, half-smirk; the kind that seemed to say “She’s crazy, but I think I kind of like this girl”. That song instantly became Our Song of the summer, but I didn’t pay enough attention to how it ended. It started with a sweet, innocent, if not naïve young girl who thinks she’s fallen in love. Just before a reflective piano measure, Carlton laments with the wisdom of an older, broken woman, He’s my first mistake.
By the end of the summer, he sent me a music video via Myspace (it was still in vogue at the time) to Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt. I watched it over and over and cried and cried and cried, yet had no idea this was still just the beginning.
If you love music, as I do, then I don’t have to tell you about the impact it can have on your emotions. I don’t have to explain the surreal experience of being taken back in time by a single chorus, verse, or chord. Like many relationships, there were the touchy-feely songs that allowed me to relive the heart-in-throat moments when love became tangible. But there are also songs that take me back to the moments of being pinned beneath him in a college dorm (What did I do to you?/What did I do to you? ‘So Far Away,’ Nine Days); of being forced to walk behind him in public places because, by that point, no one could know we were still together (Your subtleties/They strangle me. ‘It Ends Tonight,’ All-American Rejects).
As horrible and utterly narcissistic as he proved to be, the man had impeccable taste in music. Breaking up left me with the daunting task of cleaning out my iPod, which was not as easy as it should have been when some of his favorite bands were my new favorites. I figured I could sort the artists as follows: what’s his, what’s mine, and what’s shared. The shared stuff – the music I loved before I even knew him – would stay. But what about everything else?
In the end, there were some songs I simply could not part with. The fact that he liked them didn’t make them bad songs. There eventually came a point where it wasn’t trashing and deleting that had to be done, but reframing. The lyrics that used to be triggering could be turned around and made positive. The same bands would put out new albums soon enough: their old songs might naturally lose their appeal, and ultimately, their power.
The anger I keep for you/The bitter lessons I will keep for me/There’s nothing I can do/To save you from your own hell/There’s nothing left for you/The end is now/The war is over (“The War is Over,” Trust Company).
The war is over. Reparations have just begun.