Recently, multiple celebrities including FKA Twigs and Evan Rachel Woods have come forward publically to share their experiences of intimate partner violence. In reading their stories, staff at Sojourner observe the many similarities they share with the clients we work with each day. It is an important reminder that abuse can truly happen to anyone. One common theme that occurs in both their descriptions of abuse and in the experiences of many of our clients is gaslighting.
The term “gaslight” has become a cultural buzzword, but people may not know the intricacies of the concept. According to Wikipedia, “the term originates in… Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations…In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The play's title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas lights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions.”
Simply put, gaslighting is the abuser’s attempt to make their victim question their own sanity, judgment and sense of reality. Gaslighting may sound or look like:
"Calm down. You're acting crazy"
"Are you sure? You have a really bad memory...."
"No, I didn't touch you! You tripped and hit your head. That's why you passed out."
"I know you are cheating on me. I can tell!"
"That's not who I am, drinking makes me a different person."
"You're lucky to have me. I treat you better than anyone else ever would."
Gaslighting often starts gradually but can eventually lead to a person feeling confused, constantly second-guessing themselves, feeling that any issues or abuse in the relationship must be their fault and/or knowing that something is wrong but being unable to articulate it. To learn some helpful strategies to protect yourself from gaslighting, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
If you believe you or someone you love is experiencing gaslighting or any other form of domestic violence, please reach out to our 24/7 Crisis Line to be connected with an advocate at 952-933-7422.