After That Assault, Things Got Messy – Part 5 (The Gaslighting (Etc.) Never Stops)

October 27, 2016

[Trigger warning: There are some details surrounding sexual assault in this post.]

Picking up from last time – As we all know, I’ve already given so many more details than I ever thought I would. I thought mostly they were pretty relevant. Hopefully I was right. (Getting too detailed may be making us lose the forest through the trees instead of being more helpful and/or transparent… I don’t know.)

As I try to not stretch this story out for the rest of time, I don’t think it’s worth going through the whole entire roller-coaster ride of every single thing that went wrong…

But basically, we had that breakfast. There were tiny apologies here and there for some small things – that would only come at the bitter end of an exhausting (for me) argument.

So often, when we would argue, he would interrupt my thought at the very beginning with a question designed to shut me down. I’d try to answer it, but it would spur some other leading question to show why I was wrong. I often couldn’t even get out a full thought, or sometimes even a full sentence, out without being shut down.

I used to profusely thank him whenever he’d let me speak. The bar for not only what I would accept – but what I’d heap praise on got lower and lower. It had to, because I was trying with every fiber of my being to find the positive. (And if I didn’t lower the bar, there seemed to be none to find.)

So, I’d be shut down. And then I’d apologize. (Of course – big running theme here…)

I remember him one time telling me that what I was saying was unfair, because he would “never disrespect a woman.” And he would “never pressure a woman.” And then weirdly I’d feel bad for saying things about “such a good man” (even though he obviously disrespected me and not only pressured me, but took pressure to a whole other forceful level).

Anyway, breakfast was at least civil, though not perfect.

And we had multiple conversations between that and the next time I saw him – some where we tried to talk about normal stuff, and mainly a number of them where I kept trying to bring up how wildly unbelievable uncomfortable I’d been with him…
(Sometimes we talked about the last time I was in his apartment, but most of the serious talks about how uncomfortable I’d been with him revolved around the first one – the time in my apartment…)
Either way, anytime anything even semi-serious came up about how unsafe I’d felt with him, I was “handled” every time… whether it be with pivoting, distracting, sweet-talking, crazy-making, whatever… It just seemed like I could not make my point (or be truly heard) to save my life.

During those two or so weeks of mainly talking on the phone (because I was in California), I blocked sexual assault guy from Facebook. And I did offer that information up to him (without him having to notice and ask), because I thought it was better to be open and honest and to try not do confusing behaviors without explaining them (as much as/best I could). And I apologized for blocking him…

I just – the morning I did it, I’d been taking a shower and I had a flashback to that time in his apartment immediately after the assault had occurred and I’d gone to take a shower to get him off of me, and he followed me in there.

I remember it so vividly. I remember leaning on the shower door because I felt I couldn’t even totally stand on my own in that moment. I remember how close his face was to me and the exact ways his eyes looked at me like everything was fine when I was beyond miserable.

I do understand that the, I suppose, “officially traumatic” part, I guess, was before the shower… But sometimes, especially in the weeks close-ish to the assault, I’d have flashbacks in the shower of that shower, and it’d be really upsetting.

And it just so happened that this time, I got so upset about it that I threw up. And then – even though I used to not check Facebook all that often (though I’ve been checking it way too much lately), I checked it that day. And I saw his face. And I got a little sick again. And I blocked him. (His face was literally making me sick, and I could not handle it.)

And I offered that information up, like, “Hey, I’m really sorry. I’m not trying to be mean or punish you. I am just personally unable to look at you in my feed right now. And I tried merely unfollowing you at first. But you still showed up in comments of our friends’s post, or in a Facebook group we’re both a part of. And I just can’t see your face that much right now. It’s a little too painful.” I think I may have even told him it made me physically ill.

I tried to be civil and nice. (And he seemed to take it in a nice way.)

I know I tried my best to be nice while explaining how upset I was with him.
And in doing that… in trying not to anger him (and trying to kind of, in certain ways, protect myself), I maybe did sugarcoat it a little too much in a couple of instances, or maybe talked too much about adjacent things that bothered me… But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were times I did say he made me physically ill, times I said I had nightmares, time I referred to that night (or really either of those nights) as “horrific,” times I went through specific troubling details of what happened (especially on that first night) and why it wasn’t okay, times when I said he took my agency away. (I’ve never really used the word “agency” a lot in this context, but he does all the time, so I used that language in case it might help it easier for him…

I maybe wasn’t perfect in every conversation. And I did see how the point got lost sometimes (which is always hard with any point when you’re with an emotionally abusive person incredible at gaslighting). But I did say things clearly, multiple times (even if not literally every single time I spoke to him). And I can’t force someone to hear or understand – even though I did my best to continue to explain everything as well as I could.

Anyway, I’m pointing out this Facebook blocking part to say that there is obviously some huge cognitive dissonance here. Because at this point – at the point where I was literally throwing up thinking about him touching me – I was still of the mindset that we would try to “make things work.” I was still of the mindset that we would indeed have sex again. And I know that logically that maybe doesn’t make the most sense in the world (or perhaps even any sense at all).

Because when I thought about the actual act of having sex with him again, it made me feel sick… But when I thought about the idea of everything being okay, I still thought that was the answer… I was on team make it work no matter what. Stupid or not, I thought that was the “answer” to my flashbacks and sickness, etc.

Because, I think in a lot of ways, that’s what you do with an abuser. They’re the source of your trauma, but also your love. I can’t speak for all abuse victims, but I didn’t even see a way “out.” I only saw a way “better.” (If I could just be “good enough,” this would all go behind us.)

In some ways, I kept thinking this was a “normal” fight or that this feeling would pass when my anger dissipated – which, of course it would, right? ‘Cause obviously he’d apologize for real, right? …And he’d work to treat me differently and with more respect? (Wrong.)

So, let’s get back to the place between breakfast and the next time I saw him in person – in the land of those mini-phone fights in the next post.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?