Source: IMDB "Gaslight"
Source: IMDB “Gaslight”

When Paula was young, she suffered a traumatic loss – the death of her aunt and guardian.  The murder was never solved and the young Paula traveled to Italy to escape this horrible past.

Years later, she falls in love and marries a man who convinces Paula to move back to England to the small house in a square that she used to share with her aunt.

But it isn’t long before strange things start happening.  Paula starts hearing noises at night, seems to grow forgetful, and thinks she sees the gaslight in her room flicker after her husband leaves the house.  As these strange events persist, her husband asks her to not leave the house and not let any one in either.

Side note:  When houses used gas for light, if I were in the living room reading and you turned on the light in the bedroom, the gaslight in the living room would flicker.  If this were to happen when you were alone in a house, you would get creeped out.  I mean, imagine if you were home alone and all of a sudden, the light in an empty room turned on.  Scary, right? If it happened enough, you’d wonder if your house was haunted or worse, that you were going crazy.

It’s not really a spoiler alert to tell you that Paula’s husband is behind all of these weird events and worse, that he manipulates his wife into nearly having a breakdown.  It’s an interesting movie and if you have a chance, check it out.  But this 1944 movie isn’t just a psychological thriller, its premise coined a term for a very real terror – gaslighting.

Taking its definition from the movie, gaslighting refers to psychological abuse in which the abuser lies and twists the information or situations in order to disorient their victim to the point of making the person doubt their memory or sanity.

According to the CDC psychological or emotional abuse can include:

  • Humiliating the victim
  • Controlling what the victim can and cannot do
  • Withholding information
  • Isolating the victim from friends or family
  • Controlling access to money or denying the victim access to money or other basic resources
  • Threatening loss of custody of children
  • Disclosing information that would tarnish the victim’s reputation
  • Prohibiting access to transportation
  • Stalking

 According to a PDF report from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • 17.9% of women have experienced a situation where an intimate partner tried to keep them from seeing family and friends.
  • Women who earn 65% or more of their household’s income are more likely to be psychologically abused.
  • And it’s not just women  – 4 in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Educate yourself at National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


7 thoughts on “Gaslight(-ing)”

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