quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

the game i just played, secret little haven, ended on a note of the protagonist reconciling with her abusive father, who spent the entire duration of the game gaslighting and manipulating her.

in the final conversation, her father unleashes abuse after gaslighting after manipulation at full force. the protagonist, who you play as in choosing which messages she will send, asks that her father shut up and listen. eventually, by speaking through the friends he has tried to tear her away from, she unveils much of what he has been doing wrong. and getting to lay all that out, tell your abuser just what the hell theyve done? its cathartic.

the protagonists fathers reaction is a nearly immediate shift in tone. he hears. he listens. he responds, not in gaslighting or even debate, but in genuine attention. he wants to know what he has done wrong, and he speaks as though he means, for real, to fix it.

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

the moment i saw the shift, realized that this was the direction the story was going, i was filled with dread. (but i probably shouldve expected this from the start.)

nearly five years ago, when i was twelve, my mom, my two little siblings and i left my father. i dont remember what he was like. i was young. it was not me but my mom who received the brunt of his manipulation; my siblings and i mostly (though not entirely exclusively) experienced the side-effects. we were rarely the direct target of his manipulation—but then, we were young, in a tightly-restricted environment, and had a mother by our side.

Show thread

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

secret little haven tells a story which is fundamentally different from my own experiences, in a number of ways. but many of those differences are only so because of chance, or of circumstance. like in any story-based game of such a personal subject, it was only natural that i project onto the protagonist—through the choices she makes, the ways she reacts to people around her, the fear and frustration of going through what she does. essentially, the game, like any story, becomes a sort of "what if?" scenario:

Show thread
Follow

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

what if i were an only child? would he have been stricter?

what if i grew up in a town rather than a place isolated away from the world? would he have been more controlling?

what if he we had not left, five years ago? what if he—as the protagonists father did—got fed up with struggling to control our mother, and chose to take me away and move somewhere he could target me alone?

what if i had to go through understanding my gender identity and coming out around him? what if i didnt have my own safe place to experiment with that?

these are not new questions. they are the same ones ive asked myself since getting away from him. by and large, they are questions i have buried, because i can never know their answers, and because pondering what could have been does nothing to change what is.

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

but really, they were buried for a deeper reason than that; its the same reason the ending of the game threw me off and made me feel so discomforted.

pondering all those what-ifs made me feel connected to the protagonist. though the abuse and gaslighting she goes through is much stronger and closer to the surface than what i ever did, it was still reminiscent of what my father was like (if not to me then to mom), and so there was a connection between my and the protagonists respective abusers as well.

so when the protagonist stands up to her father, and he actually listens?—in manner that the game writes as genuine, not one more mode of gaslighting but the seed to repairing the relationship between the two...? i was scared.

Show thread

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

i was scared, because all those what-ifs boil down to the question "could i have made things right, if i had no choice but to?" and that question always had the undertone of a predicate i could never control, could never hope to know for myself: "did he actually care about me?"

secret little haven is an excellently crafted tale of coming out, and its story and characters are all touching in so many incredibly special ways. but it proposes that, in the end, yes: yes, an abuser can actually care about their victim; yes, their sense of relationship is deeply broken, but—yes, with time and understanding, the relationship can be repaired.

and... yeah, its not wrong.

Show thread

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

the story i tell myself—that he was terrible and could never have changed—is one i tell to make dealing with having left him easier. i do not have to consider facing him, or what facing him would have looked like, when the option to do so was hopeless all along. it is a facade i raise so i can claim to be free of the fear that i might have repaired our relationship.

when i look behind the facade, there is no way for me to genuinely say it is impossible. people are complex, and, despite my desire to pretend otherwise, he is a person. i dont know what he was psychologically capable of; i try to assume "anything", to treat everyones brain in good faith, so i have to do the same of his. perhaps we could have found way to spend time together and put finality to the abuse he has doled me and my family. maybe, like the protagonist and her father did, we could have figured it out.

Show thread

quirk [GG], past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

there is no solace. things could have gone differently. all i can accept is that today, i am here.

but neither is there regret. perhaps this is another lie i am telling myself? but in my mind, we did nothing we were unjustified in. we could have attempted reconcile, but he never showed any sign of being open to it; not even after leaving. he caused and has continued to cause traumatic pain for us all and for that, even in a world where we chose to salvage what remained of our relationship, he would never be obligated forgiveness. in the same way, today, he is in no manner obligated attention of mind, time, or energy spent in reparations.

our lives are our own, not his, and while i accept that things could have gone differently, whether i will work with him or resolve to move on from that time—will always remain my choice and my choice alone.

Show thread

quirk [GG], play secret little haven 

all this said i really do genuinely recommend secret little haven. my writing about my experiences relating to its story do not do the game or its story justice, and they dont try to, either—if it sounds at all interesting to you, please check it out, support the author, and play it!!

ristar.itch.io/secret-little-h

Show thread

quirk [GG], play secret little haven 

@quasar much love. im so glad you got so much out of that game <3 i dont think i could manage it but thats ok! ^^

quirk [GG], play secret little haven 

@hazelbunny thank you <3

past parental abuse/gaslighting, (hypothetically) facing abuser, discomfort, long 

@quasar I want to affirm your entire experience here. I can't speak to particulars but I can tell you that whether you could have worked to keep your dad in your life or not, you have no duty to and he does not deserve that effort.

<3

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Plural Café

Plural Café is a community for plural systems and plural-friendly singlets alike, that hopes to foster a safe place for finding and interacting with other systems in the Mastodon fediverse.