‘Gaslighting’: a disturbing phenomenon that many people still have never even heard of

“Like other types of abuse, gaslighting can happen in all sorts of relationships, including personal, romantic, and professional … [Gaslighting] is like someone saying the sky is green over and over again, and at first you’ll be like ‘no, no’ … Then over time the person starts to manipulate you into saying ‘I guess I can’t really see what color the sky is.’ It’s just this sense of unreality.”

From an excellent article back in June 2017 in Time magazine. Read it here.

Nowadays a specific law under the Serious Crime Act 2015 aims to combat behaviour that often begins at this simpler end of gas lighting but which very quickly becomes controlling and coercive. Make no mistake, this can be a severe mental form of domestic abuse which is sadly so effective often because sufferers are slow to spot the signs in themselves and, indeed, sometimes even blame themselves – this is in the very nature of the criminal offending against them.

Gaslighting hit the news a couple of years ago when it was a main storyline in the Archers. Read a good feature on it from the Guardian here.

The website of the Crown Prosecution Service has a good section on it here. I quote from the CPS website below, to give you an idea about the law:

An offence is committed by A if:

  • A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person, B, that is controlling or coercive; and
  • At time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected; and
  • The behaviour has a serious effect on B; and
  • A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

A and B are ‘personally connected’ if:

  • they are in an intimate personal relationship; or
  • they live together and are either members of the same family; or
  • they live together have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.

There are two ways in which it can be proved that A’s behaviour has a ‘serious effect’ on B:

  • If it causes B to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them – s.76 (4)(a); or
  • If it causes B serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities – s.76 (4) (b).

For the purposes of this offence, behaviour must be engaged in ‘repeatedly’ or ‘continuously’. Another, separate, element of the offence is that it must have a ‘serious effect’ on someone and one way of proving this is that it causes someone to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them. There is no specific requirement in the Act that the activity should be of the same nature. The prosecution should be able to show that there was intent to control or coerce someone.

The CPS have done an excellent job of summarising what is quite an extensive and detailed criminal offence.

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