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Domestic abuse: What is Gaslighting

Domestic abuse: What is Gaslighting

Domestic abuse is the term to address the fact that abusive relationships are not just about physical violence.

It is a term that covers financial abuse, coercive control, psychological and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, harassment and stalking as well as online and digital abuse.

What is Gaslighting?

The origins of the definition refer back to a 1938 play called Gas Light. The husband tries to drive his wife crazy. He dims the lights, which were powered by gas, and when his wife calls it out he denies the lights have changed.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse

Gaslighting is where a perpetrator causes their victim to question their own feelings, reality and memory. It is used to gain control and power over the victim.

The aim is to breakdown a person’s ability to trust their own perceptions. This results in the victim being less likely to leave the abusive relationship.

It happens gradually

This emotional abuse happens gradually.

At first, the perpetrators actions may simply seem like misunderstandings.

However, over time the behaviours continue and worsen. This can leave victims feeling confused, isolated and losing sense of reality.

The victim may begin to rely on their abusive partner to define their reality.

5 Gaslighting techniques used by abusers

  1. Countering

    The abuser calls the victims memory into question, potentially attacking their memory skills

  2. Withholding

    Abusers pretend to not understand or refuse to listen. Sometimes they claim that the victim is trying to confuse them.

  3. Trivialising

    Victims are made to feel that their needs and feelings are not valued, for example being accused of being too sensitive or blowing things out of proportion.

  4. Blocking or diverting

    Abusers change the subject or question the victims thoughts such as question where they got ‘crazy’ ideas from or accusing them of imagining things.

  5. Forgetting or denial

    ‘You making things up’ or ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ are phrases often used as the abuser pretends to forget what happened or what was said.

Do you always apologise to you partner?
Are you constantly making excuses to family and friends for your partner’s behaviour?
Do you feel like you used to be a different person, have more confidence, more relaxed or have more fun?

This could be symptoms of being a victim of Gaslighting.

No abuse is ok in a relationship.

It takes courage to leave.

Help is available from various organisations such as Women’s Aid, Respect or a local refuge such as Stop Domestic Abuse.

Equally, you can speak to us free from pressure just to know what your options are and how we can help protect you and your family.

Call us on 02392 483322


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