Gaslighting – is it a form of domestic violence?

Gaslighting – is it a form of domestic violence? 9 April 2021

Reality TV is a controversial issue and one which even divides the team here at Berryman Partners. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, shows such as MAFS and Love Island can be credited with opening public discussion about toxicity in relationships and domestic violence issues. One such issue that is frequently highlighted, is that of gaslighting.

What is Gaslighting?

The phrase comes from a film called ‘Gaslight’ made in 1944 but is a term that is used commonly today, in relation to domestic violence issues.

Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse where false information is presented to a victim which causes them to question their own memory and perception, or for want of a better phrase, their own sanity.

Where physical abuse has taken place, the perpetrator may deny that they ever abused their partner and claim that the victim’s recollection of the event is inaccurate causing doubt in the mind of the victim. The behaviour of the perpetrator will also commonly involve manipulation, denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying.

What to do if you think you are a victim?

  • Keep a diary, recording details of events. This also includes incidents where your ex has lied and any conversations you have had with them where they downplay or completely ignore their behaviour.
  • Reconnect with family and friends that you have been distanced from. Ask for help and let your loved one’s know what you have experienced.
  • Seek out professional help from your GP or a counsellor.
  • If the behaviour has become physically abusive, controlling, or abusive, report it to the Police. You may have grounds for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO). The Police apply for these on your behalf.

What to do if you have been accused of gaslighting?

  • Keep calm in all interactions with your ex-partner.
  • Keep a record of conversations.
  • Ask someone to accompany you to act as a witness if you are meeting your ex-partner face to face, for example at the beginning and end of any time you spend with your children, when you undertake ‘changeover’.

Why is gaslighting relevant to a family law case?

If you have been a victim of gaslighting, you may find it difficult to trust your own instincts. You may feel powerless in your interactions with your ex-partner. You may feel particularly concerned about your children spending time with your ex-partner. Children can be victims of gaslighting too. The definition of family violence used by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is very wide and the Court recognises that protecting children from harm is of the utmost importance. It may be appropriate that the contact your ex-partner has with your children should be limited. Do not feel that you must agree to anything your ex-partner proposes regarding the division of assets or arrangements for your children. We always recommend that you obtain legal advice before entering any form of arrangement, formal or informal, with your ex-partner.

Our empathetic family law lawyers are here to guide you through the separation process. We recognise that for any victim of domestic violence, separation is a particularly difficult process whilst you work to regain control over your life. Contact Us today to get in touch with our experienced family law lawyers.

This blog was written by Senior Associate,
 Liz McIntyre
Liz practises in the areas of Family Law, Wills & Estate Planning,
Deceased Estates, Wills disputes and Conveyancing

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