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What it is and why you should know about it.

You may have seen in the news that controlling and coercive behaviour within a relationship has become a criminal offence. Not only this but the behaviours that are considered controlling or coercive now include financial, physical, sexual, and psychological (emotional) abuse. Anyone charged with this offence can face a fine or up to 5 years in prison.

Many people are aware of the signs of physical and sexual abuse in a relationship however when it comes to emotional abuse, the signs may not be so easy to see.  Many forms of emotional abuse are hidden and take place over a long period of time, meaning that even the most mentally strong person can be vulnerable to emotional abuse.

There are different forms of emotional abuse however the most recent form to come into the spotlight is gaslighting. This is where the victim is manipulated by their partner into questioning their own version of events and their perception of reality. In the long term gaslighting can reduce the victim's confidence and self-esteem whilst increasing trust in their partner so that they believe what their partner is saying without question. The victim will doubt themselves and no longer trust their instincts or `gut feeling' and will look to the abuser for clarity.

Gaslighting usually involves the victim's partner lying about a conversation or event or even denying that something happened in the first place. At first the victim will be sure that they are right however may begin to doubt themselves as the relationship goes on and the lies continue. There are 5 main signs within a relationship which signal that gaslighting is taking place:

  • The abuser will tell obvious lies to the victim;
  • They will deny that a conversation happened, even if there is proof that it did. They may suggest that the victim took the conversation the wrong way or did not understand what was said;
  • They will use the victim's insecurities against the victim and criticise them on what the victim thinks are their strengths. For example, they may make negative comments about the victim's intelligence or appearance or the victim's ability to do a particular task;
  • They will wear the victim down over time. Gaslighting will not happen over a few weeks. It can happen over months or even years. At first the abuser may seem kind and may not begin to manipulate their partner until months into the relationship;
  • They will manipulate the victim into isolating themselves from others. This may happen by making the victim doubt the trustworthiness of other people which then forces them to rely solely on their partner.

A victim of gaslighting can feel very alone in the situation they are in and as if there is nothing they can do about it. It is very important to be aware of the signs of gaslighting so that if you do notice the signs, you can begin to look for a way out of that relationship.

The changes in the law mean that victims of financial, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse have more options available to them and are now in a stronger position in terms of their legal rights.

QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright  have a team of trained staff who are able to help you with your matter and provide you with the help and information you need. If you feel that you or anyone you know is a victim of gaslighting or any form abuse, do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Team on  01905 721600 for a first free initial assessment.



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