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Ever been gaslighted? Gaslighting in relationships

Written by

Carole Hack

Published on

May 31, 2024

Family Law Executive, Carole Hack discusses gaslighting as a form of domestic abuse.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of domestic abuse because someone who is being gaslit, is being covertly emotional/psychologically abused. It is not just a form of acute manipulation, but used to exert power over their victim. This form of abuse can occur in many different settings and types of relationships.
A ‘Gaslighter’ is someone who tries to persuade their victim into being unable to believe whether what is happening is real or not. It is a cruel form of emotional abuse that seeks to make a victim doubt their own sanity. Gaslighting can have an extremely adverse effect on someone’s mental health. It destroys a person’s self esteem and can leave them feeling vulnerable and isolated.

What does gaslighting look like?

Signs that you might be experiencing gaslighting in a romantic relationship could be that you find yourself apologising to your partner when you’ve not done anything wrong, but you feel you need to “keep the peace”. You might defend your partner’s behaviour by downplaying what they have said or done when speaking to others and to avoid getting into discussions with others about it, you might start trying to withdraw from them because that makes life easier for you.

Some examples of gaslighting:

  • Making you question your own judgement
  • Persistent lying
  • Undermining your confidence
  • Making you feel inadequate
  • Trivialising your thoughts or feelings
  • Criticising you, for example, about your looks or your abilities
  • Isolating you from family or friends

Am I being gaslit?

Because of the vulnerability of a victim and the mind games an abuser uses to continue gaslighting their victims, it can make it very difficult for someone to know if they are even experiencing gaslighting. This form of abuse is a long way from disagreements in a relationship where feelings might run high and having opinions on how the other person has reacted to a situation can be quite “normal”. In those circumstances, there will be room for compromise, negotiation and sometimes a decision may be reached to agree to disagree if no common ground can be established.

When you are being gaslit in a relationship, one partner may consistently carry out any of the above traits with the sole purpose of undermining and making their victims think that they are imagining things. In most cases it is a deliberate choice. Whatever the reason, gaslighting is a destructive and unacceptable behaviour and can seriously harm the victim.

How do I stop it?

If you feel that the way your partner engages with you is a form of gaslighting, it is important to do something about it. You may want to talk to friends or family who can give you a third-party perspective on the situation. You may find it useful to collect proof of events so that you have a record of what’s happened. Taking photographs, making written records of events and conversations so you know you are not going crazy will help, despite someone trying to tell you otherwise.

Gaslighting and the courts

Gaslighting is becoming more and more prevalent in domestic abuse cases as people become more familiar with the term and the behaviour it entails.
Following a hearing at the High Court on 20 January 2022 reference was made to the abusive behaviour of gaslighting for the first time giving the form of abuse legitimacy in the eyes of the law. This will no doubt have a huge impact on cases involving gaslighting now that it is recognised and given credence at this milestone hearing. Please see judgment here – BY -v- BX judgment (judiciary.uk)

Getting help

Domestic abuse can take many different forms. In whatever way you are experiencing it, it is important to ask for help as soon as possible.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 and ask for the police. Here are some websites that can help;

How can we help?

Here at Amphlett Lissimore we have experienced lawyers that specialise in domestic abuse cases. They are here to help you escape your abuser and provide legal protection for you. These proceedings can be issued, and a non-molestation order granted under the Family Law Act for an order on the same day an application is made if your case is urgent. This can be done without your abuser knowing about the proceedings until a non-molestation order is granted to protect you.

If you have children, we can also assist you by removing you and your children from that abusive relationship. This can be done by making an application to Court under the Children Act 1989 for a prohibited steps order. A prohibited steps order can prevent the abuser from communicating with your children. If an application is urgent, an order can be granted by the family Court without notice to the abuser if necessary. In addition to providing urgent legal advice, we can put you in touch with organisations who can provide additional help and support.

Need help now? Call us on 020 8771 5254 and ask to speak to Estella Newbold-Brown or Carole Hack.

About the Author

Carole Hack is a family law executive with over 35 years of experience helping families. Carole specialises in family law cases that involve domestic abuse, child arrangements, parental responsibility, and guardianship.

 

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