Gaslighting

Excuse the serious post prefacing all the fun Halloween fodder but I wanted to put this together following a conversation I had this morning with my husband.

He was telling me about a woman who went to prison for murdering her husband with a hammer. She’d been driven to breaking point by his behaviour and maybe then this behaviour didn’t have a name. It does now, a word bandied around a lot in the media at the moment: gaslighting.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around the definition of this word and now I have, it’s brought up a lot. In relation to the news story, a change in law to recognise gaslighting as a legit form of abuse has affected the sentence this poor woman has been serving. Turns out this man had been manipulating her and making her think she was crazy from the start. I hope they release her because she could so easily be me.

Just in case you’re not aware, a definition:

Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person’s reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. ~ Dr. Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect

For me that statement rings so familiar, in particular the latter point. My greatest shame in life is how far down I fell as a result of a very bad relationship. Rock bottom. I woke up eventually on the ground, looking upwards thankfully but it would have been such a relief and so easy just to take that final step and just let go.

Of course my experience is in no way as extreme as the woman in this story but that’s the point. Control and manipulation can be so insidious, so commonplace within a relationship that you don’t even recognise it. It’s like a slow gas leak, pumping poison into your self-worth.

The man I lived with cheated but told me I was paranoid when I found nude photos on his phone. He’d emotionally blackmail me into doing things sexually that I definitely wasn’t comfortable with (pictures, public places). When we went to Barcelona he managed to get me to go topless on the beach by going on and on until I felt I had no choice (I cried secretly because I felt so bad about my body then and he knew it).

Often he’d remind me I was very lucky he didn’t hit women – that I needed psychiatric help, and my own mother agreed with him (my mother despised him and would never have entertained a conversation alone with him, yet still I believed him). He’d project every single one of his insecurities and fears onto me and that’s the crock – I believed him. I questioned myself. I lost the will to live and I stopped fighting.

What’s more I believed that I loved him, that no relationship was worthwhile if it wasn’t difficult. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the thought of him now sickens me to the core. Much as I wish it wasn’t true I still bear the light scars of that relationship – but more than that: I still have work to do on forgiving myself.

I feel like a different person now and my strength probably comes from this experience but I’m glad there’s a term for it now. Or at least that I understand it. I don’t share this to be all woe is me. Many (too many) women will see themselves in these stories but we need to talk about our experiences when we can, to ensure that none of us feel alone in the things we’ve survived.

So when snobs get all high and mighty about a show like Love Island I tell them to shush because at least it’s educating the next generation on what to look out for. Maybe I’d have got out sooner or not gone in at all, if I’d know more about it then.

Peace out, fuck face.

I Let You Go (Book) Review

I-LET-YOU-GO-400x618px1mayBefore I begin this, please be aware that I’m going to *spoiler the fuck out of it*.

(Pardon my French).

It’s impossible to review without letting a few things slip and since the premise of this book is built on a twist, it’s really not fair of me to just put it out there without warning.

If you’re intending to read this book then don’t read this post. Or… read it after. You might want to talk about it.

My Review: 

5 year old Jacob is hit by a car and killed on the way home from school one afternoon and the driver fails to stop. Jacob’s mother holds him in her arms as he passes on, and her life will never be the same.

Blaming herself for the accident, she feels all eyes are on her, accusing her of neglect and eventually, she leaves her home in Bristol to escape the past.

Jenna chooses a secluded cottage on a cliff in Wales to deal with her past, where she builds a new life, a far different life to the one she knew.

Meanwhile, DI Ray Stevens is on the case with his protege Kate, who won’t let the case go, even when their original campaign yields no leads.

Will Ray and Kate unravel this complicated story and finally find the driver responsible for robbing Jacob of his life – and find justice for his mother? And will Jenna ever put her guilt behind her and be happy again?

Only one way to find out!

My Thoughts:

Reading this book has opened my eyes to the concept of the ‘trigger warning’ and I wonder more than ever before about when and where they should be placed. I mean, I get that it must be hard to warn readers when you’re presenting a thriller with a twist that most of them won’t see coming but honestly, I went into this book expecting something completely different and getting way more than I bargained for.

I don’t know if I was ready to read another book about spousal abuse. It left me feeling uneasy and yes, unlatched memories I wasn’t up for revisiting.

The abuse suffered by our protagonist is way more violent than anything I’ve experienced (luckily) but Jenna’s dialogue as she realises her relationship has gone bad but doesn’t know how to leave, the heinous things her husband says to her and the way she almost loses her family forever, is all too real to me.

My own experience of psychological abuse (and it is abuse) is way more subtle and therefore harder to accept when you’re in it (e.g. “I’m imagining it, aren’t I? Maybe he’s right, I’m being paranoid.”) – but it’s still abuse. I started to read these scenes and I was like “Great. Another fucking man ruining another fucking life!”.

The book is, of course, more than that. It’s fairly gripping; the initial story is heartbreaking and it’s written quite well (but not amazingly). You might find yourself rooting for Jenna, despite the horrible accident she’s supposedly caused. You might find yourself rolling your eyes at the predictability of DI Stevens, the detective assigned to solve the case, as he battles with his feelings for a young, pretty colleague (but of course!). You might find yourself getting irritated that his wife Mags is painted in such a dowdy 2D light, despite the fact that she was an even better copper than Ray, before the kids.

And you might click your tongue at the idyllic retreat Jenna takes herself on to escape the past. Windswept beaches, a rescue dog and wellington boots. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? And just how perfect is her love interest, Patrick? So far so Sleeping with the Enemy (1991).

I know these aren’t really criticisms, as such. Just that most women escaping domestic violence don’t have the luxury of escaping to the wilds of Wales, I guess. I don’t know what I expected of this book really, if anything but it didn’t give me anything new, or thought provoking. It just turned my stomach and made me feel angry in the second half, especially when the true culprit of all the terror gets his underwhelming just desserts.

Maybe I’ve just over-saturated my consciousness with thrillers lately, and much better ones too, like The Girl on the Train. I’ll think very carefully before I read another book in this genre, even though it’s one I’m generally attracted to.

Book details:

  • I Let You Go
  • Publisher: Sphere (7 May 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 0751554154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751554151
  • Bought paperback (new)

Don’t Call Me Baby

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The recent 100 Catcalls in 10 Hours video making its way around the internet is an interesting piece of journalism but it’s not that surprising. Every woman I know experiences similar, perhaps not in the same volume, every day.

It’s shocking that cat calling is still a thing but it very much is still a thing. It might be easier to walk past places synonymous with that sort of behaviour, say building sites now that they have anti-harassment signs slapped all over them but what about the men in the streets, boys walking home from school; shops, public transport, the list goes on?

The men who whisper “Dayum” under their breath as you walk past, who tell you you’re pretty. It doesn’t matter how they dress it up or what they say, it’s not on. Some argue that they’re just being complimentary, nice; that women should be flattered, even grateful for their attention. Any attention actually.

Sometimes if you fail to respond, which is almost always because who is ever pleased with unwanted attention?, the tables will turn and you’ll find yourself being abused. Stuck up, fat, ugly – we’ve heard it all.

Now I like a good-looking man as much as the next girl and I like to appreciate. I might make a comment to my friend but there’s no way I’d whistle and click as he wandered by. It doesn’t compute that there are people out there that don’t see this is anti-social behaviour.

The other day I got followed home. I thought I was being paranoid at first but it wasn’t that. I guess it was my mistake to make accidental eye contact with an older man as I disembarked the train at Bexhill. As he followed at an uncomfortable pace behind me, instinct told me to go somewhere bright and crowded, rather than walk down my mum’s road which is poorly lit.

So I headed to a busy shop and bought a loaf of bread. As I slipped onto the end of the queue, I saw him come to the door and look around, seemingly to look for someone. I assume it was me. Thankfully he was gone by the time I left the shop but it was frightening. When I relayed the story to my husband he said he didn’t like to hear these things because it scared him.

It scares me too.

Nobody deserves to feel intimidated as they go about their day. Or night. There have always been bad people out there who do evil things and in an ideal world, it wouldn’t happen anymore. One in three women would not be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, women would be able to take a taxi home and know they were safe.

I don’t know how we can change the attitudes of these pigs who think it’s acceptable to intimidate, even if they don’t think they are but I do think that if there are videos like the aforementioned out there, perhaps these same men will come to be embarrassed and ashamed of their behaviour and working on changing it.

It’s not a great answer and I wish I had a better one but it’s a start.