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Domestic Violence Awareness Month: What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a common form of manipulation that could cause victims to blame themselves for abuse in a relationship.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a national campaign that tries to educate people on the signs and impact of domestic violence.

One common tactic abusers use against victims in abusive relationships is called "gaslighting." This kind of manipulation can lead someone to question their own perception of reality, making them doubt whether what they think is true is actually true.

As a result, victims can end up blaming themselves for abuse. It can also lead victims to return to their abusers.

Sometimes, abusers try to gaslight victims because it could lead to victims advocating for them when confronted by police. It could keep them from being arrested and going to jail.

"When law enforcement gets involve, most times their perpetrator doesn't want them to be arrested and go to jail," said Donna Mix, the executive director of Branch House Family Justice Center.

Some common examples of gaslighting can include abusers telling victims they have a bad memory or outright denying that any abuse ever happened. It can also be a subtle phrase that casts doubt on the victim's account of events, such as by saying, "I'm sorry you think that I hurt you."

Gaslighting often starts small, according to reports. Abusers may cast doubt on whether a victim accurately remembers spending money, or whether an abuser is flirting or simply being polite. However, the behavior can develop over time and leave victims without control over their own lives.

It mostly happens when a victim wants to believe their abusers, simply because they are in love with them. Sometimes, abusers may not even consciously know they are gaslighting partners, according to reports. They may not be acting with malicious intent, even if they are still manipulating someone else.

Some signs that a person may be a victim of gaslighting include constantly making excuses for their partner's behavior, constantly second-guessing themselves, ruminating about a perceived character flaw or feeling confused about their relationship.

And anyone who suspects someone may be manipulating them should reach out to a trusted friend or family member.