The Violence of the Night: The Perception of Trauma in a Song
The purpose of this study was to explore by means of Q methodology the possibility that music can serve as a vehicle to understand women's experiences of relationship violence, trauma and the symptoms of related posttraumatic stress. Q sorts prepared by 16 respondents regarding themes in Natalie Merchant's 1995 song I May Know the Word reveal two distinct factor viewpoints. Participants who define the "violence of the night" factor interpret it literally as portraying sexual assault, battery, and rape, while participants who define the other factor view the song as involving an abstract internal struggle or conflict. This Q set cannot be used as a diagnostic tool for relationship violence without additional research to determine whether factor loadings are influenced significantly as a result of empathic association rather than personal experience with violent relationships. However, results in this study illustrate a marked tendency among these respondents for those who reporl abuse histories to identify with the literal interpretation of the “violence of the night" factor.