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Partner or Perpetrator: Shining a light on... GASLIGHTING

View profile for Victoria Poole
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For those of us who are old enough, we will remember watching the movie Gaslight as a child with our parents/grandparents, the movie was a psychological thriller about a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she was descending into insanity. The young woman in the movie was Ingrid Bergman, whose performance won her an Oscar. More recently we watched gaslighting reappear on our screens, with Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) and Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train .

Whilst watching the portrayal of Gaslighting in the movies and the shocking impact this had on its victims, this is, sadly, all too familiar for many individuals, who live in this situation daily.   

What is clear is that Gaslighting is a very real problem for many people and the effects it has on its victim’s mental health can be life changing.

What is Gaslighting?

This is form of coercive control used to distort a victim’s sense of reality and self-esteem.  It is psychological abuse, where a person manipulates information to make their victim question their own reality, thoughts, feelings, and memories. It's a way of control, that can cause long-lasting harm to its victims.

As a victim of gaslighting it can be difficult to “put your finger on” what exactly is happening to you so, its important to be able to recognise the type of behaviours and how they make you feel.

  • Self-Doubt - you start to doubt yourself as your partner lies to you with ease. Whilst you know or strongly suspect they are lying to you, they deny this causing you to doubt yourself; Questioning your memory of events or what has been said.
  • Withholding information from you, but then insisting they told you and you forgot.
  • Discrediting you - they may lie to you and tell you that other people also think this about you.  Telling other people that you are mad.
  • Minimizing your thoughts and feelings - by minimizing your emotions and how you're feeling or what you're thinking and communicating to you that you're wrong, so you start to question yourself.
  • Shifting blame - making you question if you are the cause of their bad behaviour. For example, they may claim that its your fault they behaviour the way they do.
  • Making you doubt your memory of events - retelling events in ways that are in their favour, so you begin to doubt your memory of what happened.

Effect of Gaslighting

This can cause victims low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns including addiction (alcohol/drugs) and thoughts of suicide.

At SH&Co., we witness the devastating effects of coercive control has on its victims, which is why we have a skilled team of family law specialists who can help victims of domestic abuse. 

We offer a first free initial consultation so if you are concerned about domestic abuse, of any other aspect of family law, please call us on 01606 48777 to make an appointment.

Further confidential help is always available:

  • The National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline - 0808 2000 247- is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • Refuge
  • Women’s Aid