When Perpetrators are Victims: Noah's Story

When I think back to my experiences working in the criminal justice system as a psychotherapist and forensic evaluator, I am reminded of this quote by Carl Jung: “The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”  

As you may know, a basic tenet of psychotherapy is to listen empathically, which means that we suspend our own beliefs and feelings in order to hear and feel someone else’s experience. What I quickly realized when I sat in the room with murderers, rapists, armed robbers was that I had what I am going to call “an empathic conflict.”

Hearing atrocities committed toward other people – stories oft told with cold, detached gazes, flat voices and an absence of emotion, my first inclination was to feel empathy for their victims. But I was there to hear their stories. I was there to listen to them, to try to reach the few inmate-patients that I could.

Soon I learned that many of the inmate-patients I worked with were victims too. I heard awful stories, stories I wish I could erase from my mind. Histories of abuse and neglect: people being burned by their parents, people being raped by one parent while the other one watched, people being offered for sex in exchange for drugs.  

Some didn’t have any history that would explain their criminality, but in situations where they were a victim turned perpetrator, I wondered: Who were they to me? Were they victims or were they perpetrators? My empathy swung back-and-forth between their victims and them. Sometimes I would be so angry at them – my own patients, while listening to the crimes they committed. I stopped doing clinical work in forensics because of this, but continued with my research.

I used my experience, both as a clinician and as a researcher, to write my Close Enough to Kill series. Each of the characters taught me something, and the stories weren’t always easy to write. Before writing the series, I had only written non-fiction. I had no idea how much fiction writing was like being actor. When I’m deeply engaged in my characters’ minds, I feel their feelings, all of them, like a roller-coaster – up and down, good and bad.

My forthcoming release is a story told from the perspective of Noah Donovan, whose betrayal (in Circle of Betrayal – book 1) inspires the entire series. Writing Noah’s Story was painful, exhausting, disturbing, eye-opening. A few times I stared at the computer, my jaw hanging, wondering what the hell just went from my fingertips onto the screen. What really happened to Noah Donovan? Perhaps he wasn’t simply the cold, manipulative man I had thought. Perhaps Noah was also a victim.

Noah exploits women. As a woman, I felt furious with him. And yet, as the story went on, it became clear that he was the greatest victim. A few times I felt sick as the story of how he became who he was unfolded.

Being inside the head of someone while writing fiction is more intimate than psychotherapy; I am not listening empathically, I am (through the characters) telling the story. I become them. They tell their story through me. The experience of writing through Noah created an empathic conflict.  One that was more intense than what I had experienced in a clinical setting. Fascinating and disturbing.

Another thought I had after finishing Noah’s Story was that I had met and even dated a few men like Noah Donovan. Maybe if I had written the book while I was still single, I would have recognized the inner conflict and saved myself some heartache.

 Live (Write) and Learn.

Noah’s Story will be available Tuesday July 18. For a chance to win a signed copy, please sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page.





Circle of Truth (Close Enough to Kill - Book 3) now available

“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” – Carl Jung

I am excited to announce that Circle of Truth, Close Enough to Kill series, book 3 is now available in both paperback and digital versions.

I searched the book for a satisfying teaser to share, not an easy endeavor. There are many twists in the plot and I didn’t want to spoil any of the suspense. Prerelease readers have called it “suspenseful and hard to put down.”

Here is an excerpt, giving a peek inside the mind of a murderer, a killer whose love turns to rage, causing an explosion of fierce and deadly passion. Who will be the next person, close enough to kill? You will soon find out.    

She fondled the knife handle, her thumb moved up and down. Oh, it felt good. It really did. She released a long abdominal breath, closed her eyes and rubbed the knife from bottom to top. Her eyes were hollow. She thought about the hours leading up to Noah’s murder.

The pain. The pain.

Noah — love of her life, man of her dreams — the pain he caused her ate at her insides. She remembered. She had cried, hunched over, folded in half, broken, trampled, paralyzed. She lay on John’s couch, moved her thumb up and down the edge of the knife. She was almost in a trance as she thought back on those devastating hours after she found out about his betrayal. Those hours that broke her forever.

She remembered feeling empty, like she didn’t exist anymore. His betrayal took her soul right out of her. Whoever she was before, the she that existed for him, that woman was no more. Instead she felt a void; a part of her had been ripped right out, and in its place was a rage like she had never felt before.

It had no words.

Everything became colorless.

She had played Evanescence’s song “My Immortality” over and over on her computer. Amy Lee’s voice bellowed the exquisite pain only someone whose heart had been crushed could ever comprehend. She sat, listened to the song, to the words. She tried to swallow her feelings. She tried to rationalize, to compartmentalize. Nothing would ease the pain and that wordless rage seethed.

He had always been the one. Always. She had given him all of her, everything she had. And he didn’t care. He took her for granted. He made her expendable.

She sang along with Amy Lee: These wounds won’t seem to heal,this pain is just too real. There’s just too much that time cannot erase.

She tried to use Amy Lee’s words as her own, to help her integrate the betrayal and stop the simmering volcano that engulfed her. She sang at the top of her lungs. Tears flew out of her eyes. Her body sliced into itsy-bitsy pieces. Her open crevices filled with that inarticulate rage, a rage so deep it seeped through every pour. It swallowed her. It became her.

She picked up a knife. Amy Lee’s voice still rang loudly in her apartment. She stopped hearing. She held that knife, rubbed the blade. She didn’t know why at first. She just fondled the edge with her thumb, over and over. It was then, while she massaged the blade that she knew what she had to do. She would Kill Noah. (Capital K). There was no other way out. She had to do it. Nothing could stop her.

She thought back on that first moment when she plunged the knife into Noah’s chest, the way it felt when it penetrated his flesh and she saw inside of him. She looked at the tip of the knife she held presently and sat up on the couch. Noah had begged and begged for his life. Even while she killed him, she still loved him.

Thank you all for your interest and support. I hope you enjoy reading the book, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will be giving away 3 signed copies to subscribers of my newsletter. Winners will be notified on Friday.