Something I think is not talked about when healing from a gaslighting-induced non-reality is how virtually every memory needs to be reprocessed. What I mean is, the things I experienced at the time were essentially out of the context of reality. Now that I understand what was real and what wasn’t, a lot of these memories aren’t what they seemed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they often make a lot more sense now.
Lately one of these memories has been intrusive in my thoughts, so I’ve had the unavoidable opportunity to contextualize it: Something that Avery said more than once to me while sexually abusing me was, “You’re going to be celibate after this.”
At the time, this confused me. This was coming from a person who had explicitly told me and proved that he was able to predict exactly how I would respond to anything. So my confusion was twofold: 1) why would he say that? And 2) why does he think that? I had no idea.
And then he turned out to be correct. And probably grappling with the additional confusion that resulted from seeing his prediction come true only further distracted from the disturbingly simple explanation for how he knew it would be. Because to me, as crazy as it may sound, at the time his ability to predict how I would react to anything was evidence of how well he knew me, which I mistook for evidence of friendship.
I know how nonsensical it all sounds now. I can see now how declaring I’d be celibate after him is not just confusing but messed up. I can see how asserting that he knew exactly how I’d react to anything was also somewhat red flaggy or at least strange. But at the time it was coming from a well-established friend who I trusted; I was biased towards seeing him as good and trustworthy.
When I truly understood that Avery is a rapist, many things began to make sense. “You’re going to be celibate after this” is one of those things.
Here is what I believe now:
Avery is a rapist. He raped me. His intent was to rape me.
He loved exerting his power over me not just sexually but also mentally. He loved it so much he couldn’t resist bragging to me about it, which is why he told me he knew how I would react to anything. It’s also why he boasted that he knew I’d be celibate after him; he couldn’t help but make a record that he knew how deeply he got into my head and how much damage he was causing. He delighted in being able to say something to me that was such an obvious doorway to reality and watch me completely miss it because he had successfully gotten me to believe in him so much. It’s the same reason he made his yearbook quote “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” He can’t help but show off what a good manipulator he is. It makes him feel superior to everyone when he can leave these gigantic Easter eggs in plain sight and watch while no one sees them. It makes him feel like a god to be able to puppeteer his victim’s life so completely.
And now I know. And there is relief that it finally makes sense — he said I’d be celibate after him because he knew 1) that I did not enjoy what was happening and 2) that I believed that’s just what sex was like.
I’m glad I understand now. I’m glad things make sense. I’m glad I know the truth. But there is also a constant wonder, does he know what my next move is? Does he still know me that well? Do I have any autonomy, or is he somehow still pulling all the strings? The more monstrous I realize he is, on one hand, the more motivated I am to be strong and continue to fight for justice, but also the more scared of him I become, because although I believe I know him better now than ever, I am not able to predict what he will do or what he is capable of doing.