Editor’s note: The following was written by Noelle R. Andrews, author of “Aftermath of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Read about her book in the article posted earlier today.
Some people are born selfless. Mother Teresa, who worked with Calcutta’s poor for decades, is a classic example. The caring people who worked with lepers on Hawaii’s island of Molokai are another.
Other people, like me, take up a cause because some experience has affected our lives in a profound way. Susan G. Koman’s sister died of breast cancer. The foundation she created in her sister’s honor is one of the best-known fundraisers for this disease. Jennie McCarthy has fought to raise awareness for autism, after her son was given that diagnosis. Mary Tyler Moore has been a champion for finding a cure for juvenile diabetes for years. The list of people who have been drawn to a worthwhile cause because something has personally affected them or their family is long, and includes ordinary people in addition to celebrities. I am one of those ordinary people.
I was married to a man I believe to be a psychopath. Nothing has ever affected me more than the devastation I encountered during the marriage and subsequent divorce. The relationship came close to destroying me, and has inspired me to try to warn others of the hidden dangers.
Most dangerous of all people
I consider psychopaths to be among the most dangerous of all people. Imagine a human who cannot love. Their sole motivation is to dominate, to win. Now add in the fact that they have been studying human behavior with an impassionate and clinical eye their entire life, so as to learn how to blend with the rest of the population, in order to mimic appropriate emotions in the appropriate situation. Then realize that they do not demonstrate the typical fear response to situations that would cause others to modulate their own behavior. They behave without regard to consequences. They are typically mesmerizing, charming, and charismatic. They draw in their victims with an intense stare and have an uncanny ability to sniff out others’ needs, desires, and weakness. They feel no remorse, so the lies they tell in order to draw in victims are believable, at least at first. These are among the most gifted storytellers you will ever meet.
This terrifying subset of people comprises up to 4% of the population, and they do not care whom they use, hurt, and destroy in order to get what they want. And sometimes all they want is to demonstrate that they can behave like this and get away with it.
Liane Leedom MD, in a recently published paper analyzing the memoirs of victims of psychopaths, describes the “meaning making” in which victims of psychopaths participate. After being debased and discarded, these women were left with a need to make sense of what had happened to them. They were imbued with a sense of mission, of trying to make a difference in order to right a wrong. They wrote about their experience in an attempt to understand, and in an attempt to educate.
What is more damning: to sit back and do nothing, or to take action? I suppose my memoir might be interpreted by some as a way to extract vengeance. The term justice, I believe, is more appropriate. Vengeance, to me, implies an immediate sense of retribution, an impulsive act designed to satisfy only the individual extracting that vengeance. Justice, on the other hand, is a thought-out reaction to a harmful act, geared toward the benefit of society in general. Would I gain satisfaction from knowing that the man who set out to destroy me was brought to justice by the law? Certainly, of course I would. But even more importantly, it is to the greater good of society to have one less predator on the streets. And if by going public with my story, I can educate others about an insidious, pervasive societal problem and therefore decrease the numbers of victims, all the more better.
Writing under a pseudonym
People have criticized me for writing under a pseudonym. Other victims’ memoirs identify their predators, why didn’t I? They interpret my desire to remain anonymous as evidence that I must be lying. The antagonist in stories of the well-publicized victims’ memoirs (MaryJo Buttafuoco, Barbara Bentley, Donna Andersen) are either dead, indicted or in prison. Mine is not (yet).
I write under an assumed name for self-protection. Countless other victims, like me, write under assumed names for the same reason. We have set ourselves against our worst fears, that of an opponent who lies without remorse, who feels no guilt. Are we brave, or merely foolhardy to “bait” those whose only motivation is to win and dominate?
My guess is that we are a combination of both. My overwhelming need to have my experience count for something meaningful has overridden my fears of retribution on his part. Remember that the burden of proof for defamation and libel lies on the plaintiff, and that truth is the best defense against claims of defamation and libel. I am confident in wielding the double-edged sword of truth and justice.
Noelle R. Andrews
Author of “The Aftermath of Rock ‘n’ Roll”