Since early 2022, gaslighting has been used in a High Court ruling in the family courts for the first time ever, we’ve been asked what is gaslighting in a relationship?
The term made headlines after finally being used in a family court judgment on 20 January 2022, giving it legitimacy and credibility while serving as a warning to abusers. (Thank you to Holland Family Law, Leicester for another great article!)
It’s been described as a ‘milestone’ moment across the legal profession, a moment when Mr Justice Stephen Cobb, the High Court judge who ruled on a recent case of a man accused of raping his partner and convincing her she had bipolar, used the term gaslighting to define the man’s behaviour.
Why is the use of the term gaslighting in the family courts so significant?
The lawyer representing the woman in this case, Dr Charlotte Proudman, said: “For too long abusers have distorted victims’ realities and there has been no legal word or concept to expose it. Finally, we have one: gaslighting. Everyone should remember this.”
“I see it happen many times in cases and it won’t stop. I expect to see it used more because it single-handedly explains victims’ experiences of abuse. The courts must address this. In this case, the judge also found that the partner raped and abused her and controlled her. It’s a powerful judgement by a highly experienced judge and I welcome it,” Dr Proudman added.
The use of the term is so significant because it’s the first time it has ever been used in a case of domestic abuse, and gives legitimacy and credibility to those suffering abuse.
The case in question was shocking, with the accused convincing his partner that she had bipolar, while also raping her and controlling her. What’s more horrifying is that the accused is a mental health care worker.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is defined as:
“Manipulating someone by making them question their very grasp of reality by forcing them to doubt their memories while pushing a false narrative of events.”
As for what is gaslighting in a relationship? It’s abuse – an extremely effective form of manipulation, where the manipulator convinces someone that they cannot trust their own perceptions of events or even their own emotions, to the point that the manipulator controls their victim’s reality.
The victim’s self-esteem, self-efficacy and trust in others is completely destroyed, leaving them in complete dependence on their manipulator.
Gaslighting in a relationship… the behavioural signs
There are many behavioural signs associated with gaslighting in a relationship, these include, but are not limited to:
- Attacking your worth and using the things you love against you
- Giving you the occasional positive reinforcement so that you drop your guard
- Invalidating your feelings
- Making statements and then later denying making them
- Pretending not to understand what you’re saying
- Questioning your memory of facts and events
- Suggesting that you are imagining things or that you’re ‘crazy’
- Telling you that other people are talking about you behind your back
These are just some of the tell-tale signs of gaslighting in a relationship. Unfortunately, it has become all too common in relationships and can destroy lives.
Escaping your abuser
If you think you are being subjected to gaslighting and want to leave your abuser, you need to be aware that the very tactic they have used to break you, they will use to try and keep you in the relationship.
They will give their view on family laws and what they are entitled to and all the things that you’re doing wrong. Your abuser could attack your parenting, question your ability to support yourself if you left or even your understanding of the legal system. However, it doesn’t mean that your abuser is right. You can still get out of an abusive relationship.
It’s vital that you have a strong legal advocate in your corner if you are the victim of gaslighting and domestic abuse. Holland Family Law will be by your side, advising you of your rights, validating your reality and standing up for you and your children.
If you are in immediate danger, call 999 or head to your nearest pharmacy and look for an ‘Ask for Ani’ display. If you know someone who is suffering abuse, stand up for them – don’t stay silent.