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As human beings, vision is one of our most important senses and, as such, we like to understand the world through our eyes. When considering what is the ‘truth’ therefore, we find it difficult to be satisfied by only what we are told, and hope to rely on physical evidence for clarity.

The point I make is that when we think about the terms ‘domestic violence’ or ‘domestic abuse’ our minds rush to physical acts of cruelty, which are significant by virtue of their very nature. What we seemingly find difficult to process and quantify is the subtle acts, the carefully crafted blows, the perhaps forgivable small acts when considered as isolated events.  

You may have heard the term ‘gaslighting’ which originates from a 1944 film called ‘Gaslight’ – the story of a beautiful, unmarked, young woman embarking upon a whirlwind romance with a charming young man – a familiar prelude? With apologies for the spoiler alert; woman left questioning her own sanity, woman grapples with the concept of reality, woman scarred, woman a victim of numerous and continuous perhaps forgivable small acts.

To put a twist on a well-known saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words and games define me.”

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, a relation of coercive control. This type of abuse is becoming more recognised within society and within the Courts. The term ‘gaslighting’ was published for the first time ever in the High Court case of Re B-B (Domestic Abuse: Fact-Finding) on 20 January 2022.

I must also make clear at this point that emotional abuse does not discriminate by gender. In 2018 the landmark case regarding victim, Alex Skeel documents the first woman in the UK to be convicted of coercive control – and rightly so.

Things to look out for:

  1. Forever feeling in the wrong coupled with a fast decline in self-esteem and confidence.
  2. Exploitation of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
  3. Dread of another’s presence and the uncertainty as to their ‘next move’– the good old ‘egg-shell walk’.
  4. Constant digs and criticisms – laughing at you, not with you.
  5. Utter denial to such extent you convince yourself it was never said, never intended, never happened.

At Ramsdens we understand abuse in its many forms. We see it clearly and all too frequently. Should you need any guidance or assistance please contact Zoe Cross,  our team on 08000 147720 or send us an email at to discuss how we can help.


The above article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any part of the information given.