Domestic violence is more commonly associated with visible signs of physical abuse. What you may not know is that there are several other covert ways abusers gain power and control in their relationships.
As these types of abuse are covert and subtle, I have written about these as an adjunct to my article, “9 Types of Domestic Violence & Abuse”, as they have just as much potential to wreak emotional and psychological damage to the recipient. My aim is to promote awareness, either for yourself or someone you know whom you may suspect as being in an abusive relationship.
WHAT IS GASLIGHTING?
Gaslighting is a term that is taken from the 1944 film called ‘Gas Light’, in which the husband attempts to manipulate his wife into believing that she is crazy. It is a type of psychological and emotional abuse, which, at its most subtle, is an attempt to sow doubt into the victim’s mind, and at its most extreme, can ultimately strip away someone’s self-trust, sense of judgement, reality, emotions, and eventually has them questioning their own sanity. Because it is subtle in nature, the victim doesn’t realise it is happening, nor just how much their reality is being controlled and distorted.
Gaslighting is deliberate psychological and emotional warfare used to destabilise your very sense of self by questioning your memory, perception and self-trust.
Gaslighters may use statements such as:
- “You’re imagining it”
- “That never happened”
- “I never said that, you’re making it up”
- “You’re too emotional/sensitive”
Repeated Lying and Exaggeration
With an air of confidence, gaslighters can deny outright something they said previously, even though you know what you heard. They may blow a small issue out of proportion, or exaggerate a character flaw they claim to see in you, in order to blame you for something you know you did not do. This serves to make you question whether what you are feeling is real or not.
Negating and Twisting
Gaslighters may negate, distort or ‘forget’ parts of an argument or discussion that might have taken place, in order to make you feel like you are the one in the wrong. They may twist something in order to make themselves look more favourable, and make you feel like you are the bad person. Over time, this creates seeds of doubt and confusion about your reality, which is how the gaslighter maintains a sense of power and control over you.
Accusations to Kindness
Positive reinforcement is used to keep you off-balance. As a manipulator they know that in order to keep you in the relationship they must show praise and kindness, to give you a false sense that everything is ok and you ‘must just be imagining’ everything else. This can be a dangerous time when the gaslighter starts to escalate his or her tactics.
You Are the ‘Crazy’ One
You will start to question your sanity when gaslighters discredit you to others by calling you crazy or irrational, so that you begin to completely distrust yourself.
It must be emphasised that gaslighting is a tactic that happens repeatedly and forms a pattern in a relationship over a period of time. In the heat of an argument it is normal to disagree about what someone said, or what they heard: this is not gaslighting. If you wish to read further about the psychology behind gaslighting, Stephanie Sarkis writes very informatively in her blog posts on the subject www.stephaniesarkis.com
GPS TRACKING AND MONITORING
Another form of covert abuse is around the use of technology. As with all new technology, it brings negative aspects along with the positive. Stalker apps and GPS locators are now cheaply and freely available and being used by perpetrators to track their victims and their children. These are not just limited to computers and mobile devices (phones, iPads, etc), but have been found on items of clothing, in cars, even on a child’s toy.
Browser history on computers can be monitored and followed if the cache or history is not deleted. ‘Incognito’ mode (Chrome) or ‘Private Browsing’ (Safari), ‘Private Window’ (Firefox) offer some protection, and it is important to remember that not all history can be deleted completely. The local library or a friend’s computer are safer alternatives to personal computers for someone concerned about their safety.
Trackers placed on phones give away some clues that they have been compromised. Some examples that may form a pattern over time include:
- Phone battery life drains a lot faster
- Phone may ring but no-one is on the other end, but you can hear a beeping, or a squeal type of noise
- Phone emits a low hum
- Phone emits an interference-type sound such as clicking, echo, or static noise
- Phone suddenly shuts down or resets randomly
- A sudden spike in data usage
Financial abuse has only recently been acknowledged as a form of abuse. It is a common co-factor in domestic violence, as it can be used to exercise control and power over a partner or family member, and is the main contributing factor to why a victim can’t ‘just leave’ an abusive relationship. Alarm bells should start ringing if any of the following are occurring:
- Having to hand over your income to someone
- Being denied access to funds to purchase groceries, clothes, household items
- If you have to account for your spending with receipts
- Not being allowed to view financial documents and bank statements
- Trying to talk about finances incites anger, conflict or threat
- Having the house and bank accounts in your spouse’s name
- Money is being hidden in secret accounts, or being used to buy big-ticket items you have not been made aware of
Remember, any form of abuse or violence is unacceptable, nor is living in fear of your safety or your life: it contravenes the United Nations Human Rights Act. If something does not feel right, something probably isn’t. Please seek help. Click on the button below to call for your free 20 minute consultation.