What is gaslighting?

According to Dictionary.com, gaslighting is “to cause (a person) to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation” ( retrieved 8/19/2016 from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/gaslight?s=t).

If you do a google search for “gaslighting” you get a number of search results such as: “10 Signs You Are A Victim Of Gaslighting”, “Stop Calling Women Crazy – Gaslighting, Hysteria…”, “Are You Being Gaslighted? Psychology Today”, “10 Things I’ve learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic…”, and the list continues…

Believe it or not the first documentation or official recognition of gaslighting occurred in the form of a play in 1938 titled, “Gas Light“.  A movie followed in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer and highlighted the spousal abuse by the husband’s manipulations to make his wife think she is crazy.

Gaslighting is a thing, or a verb to be literal.  It is an action or manipulation by one person of another, or even several.  Gaslighting is not just a characteristic of abusive relationships, but is a tactic used in organizations by individuals also!  The specific culture of an organization and its leaders can also add fuel to the fire.  More specifically it is a tool used in discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation towards employees.

How do I know?  It happened to me.  It not only happened to me, it happened to many other women that worked in Law Enforcement at the same police department.  It continues to be a tool used across the country by police departments who have negative organizational cultures towards women and minorities and any other individuals that tend to be abused and devalued.  It is used to negate or reduce their own responsibility (legally and financially) for how they treat their employees.  If legal remedies are sought by the victims of discrimination or sexual harassment it can be even worse.

Here’s how it works.  It is based upon the continuance of inequality to maintain the status quo of privilege.  When an employee complains, let’s say a female police officer complains about a coworker sexually assaulting her (true story, but not my experience).  This could look like CSC 1, 2, 3, or 4.  For more details look at Michigan Compiled Laws or MCL 750.520a, b, c, d…what this means is there are levels of seriousness.  Sexual contact or touching (grabs bottom or breasts over clothing), sexual assault (sticking hands  inside clothing), using force, coercion from a person in a position of power such as a supervisor or boss or someone in some sort of authority position…(“If you want to keep your job…, pass your probation…, if you want to ever get a job again…).

If she decides to pursue a complaint and goes to a supervisor or management and they tell her if she values her job, she will keep her mouth shut (again, true story).  If she doesn’t keep her mouth shut and stands up for herself that is when the fun starts.  If women do this they are called crazy, crazy ex-girlfriend, crazy ex-wife, disgruntled employee, bitch, witch, money grubber and there are more…

In Law Enforcement it is easy to get rid of an employee complains, especially if you have the department psychologist in your hip pocket.  In my department women who were sent for Fitness For Duty Evaluations, had typically complained about something that was criminal, unfair, discriminatory etc.  There was not usually a “precipitating event”.  All the women in my department that were sent to the police department’s psychologist after complaining or sticking up for themselves, LOST THEIR JOBS.

Male officers who had criminal, domestic, or very serious issues, were sent to the Police Psychologist, given a suspension sometimes, and allowed to go back to work after their “punishment.”  The majority of them DID NOT LOSE THEIR JOBS!

So back to gaslighting…what does it look like?  Shea Emma Fett said “I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.” (http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/

Nathan Bernardo describes a gaslighter as a workplace bully:

Gaslighting occurs at the workplace in the form of bullies unscheduling things you scheduled, misplacing files and other items that you are working on and co-workers micro-managing you and being particularly critical of what you do and keeping it under their surveillance.  They are watching you too much, implying or blatantly saying that you are doing things wrong when, in fact you are not.  As you can see, this is a competitive maneuver, a way of making you look bad so that they look good; and it is a way of controlling you.  It is coercion through manipulation, so it is violent and meant to make you be overly careful and worried about what you do instead of seeing what they are doing.  In the end they will push you out of the job entirely.  they will get allies to do this in a technique known as mobbing. Mobbing is harassment and abuse committed on one person by a group.

There have also been a large number of books written about gaslighting.  The reason I am writing about this, is because we all want to be successful in work, in relationships, etc.  Gaslighters are abusive and you can stop them.  But you have to realize that you are being gaslighted in the first place.  This takes recognition of your self worth, that you are not crazy, and that you are being targeted and manipulated.

Altheia Luna lists some tactics used by gaslighters, and she is right on!  She says, “Gaslighters use a variety of subtle techniques to undermine your reality and portray you as the messed up one.  These include, for example:

(I don’t have the entire list just the highlights here).

*Discrediting you by making other people think that you’re crazy, irrational or unstable…..

*Twisting and reframing.  When a gaslighter confidently and subtly twists and reframes what was said or done in their favour, they cause you to second-guess yourself–especially when paired with fake compassion, making you feel as though you are “unstable,” “irrational,” and so forth.

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/

Amber Madison in her article “Stop Telling Women They’re Crazy,” actually gets to the point I’m trying to make here…

Back in the day, when people didn’t want to pay attention to a woman–or were generally disturbed by her behavior–she was taken to a doctor and diagnosed with hysteria.  Hysteria was a catchall diagnosis for women who were feeling nervous, irritable, too horney, not horney enough, “causing trouble,” or were suffering from a wide variety of other ailments thought to be caused by female biology.  The word actually came from the Greek “Hystera,” which literally means uterus.  So, in short the problem of having hysteria really meant the problem of being a woman.

(http://www.refinery29.com/2014/09/75146/stop-women-crazy-emotions-gender)

I read a book that kind of encompassed what many women went through in Victorian times.  Now there are laws against this type of behavior, but it is still happening in more subtle ways…I highly recommend it. The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace.

More next time…

 

Wrongful Conviction: It Could Happen to YOU!

There is an organization called the Innocence Project.  Take a look at their site and statistics, you might find some of it enlightening.

The Innocence Project exists because so many innocent people have been found guilty of crimes they did not commit.  Most of us never think about this.  Some just don’t realize this happens (the reason for my post is to educate) and many believe that if a person was arrested that they must be guilty. Others feel powerless to do anything about it.  How do you change a broken system?  Others just do not care as long as it doesn’t affect them, they don’t have to think about it.

According to Acker and Redlich (2011, p.13),

  • “Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.”
  • “[U]nvalidated or improper forensic science…is the second-greatest contributor to wrongful convictions.  In more than 50% of DNA exonerations, unvalidated or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction.”
  • “False confessions:  “In about 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.””
  • “In more than 15% of cases of wrongful conviction overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jailhouse snitch testified against the defendant.”
  • “Government misconduct: “The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are replete with evidence of fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments…””
  • “Bad Lawyering: One of the contributing factors to wrongful convictions exposed through DNA analysis is representation “by ineffective, incompetent or over-burdened defense lawyer.  The failure of overworked lawyers to investigate, call witnesses or prepare for trial has led to the conviction of innocent people….”

We will come back to why I am blogging about this, but for now, more about me.

When I went into Law Enforcement I was naive.  I thought that Police Agencies did their best (some candidates are great deceivers) to hire smart, educated, ethical individuals.  I was so wrong about this.  Some agencies do a good job, but others are only as good as their human resource department, IF they have one.

Mark Baker (1985), Author of COPS made an observation that I have found to be very accurate in my own experience.  Baker observed that, “In any department, anywhere, you can take 5 percent of the cops and they will be honest under any circumstances and they’ll never do anything wrong. They are the priests of the department. 5 percent on the other end of the spectrum would have been criminals had they not become policemen. They are in fact, criminals who happen to be cops. The remaining 90 percent will go whichever way the peer pressure goes.”

IN ANY ORGANIZATION THIS CAN OCCUR.  Organizational culture is a difficult thing.  Most times, the head of the organization sets the tone and example for everyone else.

Not only do Police procedures and actions contribute to wrongful convictions, but so do Prosecutors.  Most of the time their conviction rate (higher is better) is what gets them re-elected.  It’s all about the politics.  They do not prosecute the cases they think they might lose.  When they have convicted someone, and new evidence is discovered, ego can get in the way of justice.

Then there are the Judges.  Once a conviction has occurred they are not necessarily interested in wasting their time granting Due Process that could help a prisoner prove his actual innocence.  Judges also do not like to step on other judges’ toes (by criticizing or overturning their rulings), especially if they work together.  There is also ego here.  Who can tell a Judge he’s wrong?  If they do not use their role properly as impartial triers of fact, it is unlikely that Due Process (a Civil Right) or justice will occur.  Many are not impartial.  This can result in wrongly incarcerated persons NEVER receiving justice.  They lose their freedom, reputation, their livelihood, and many times their family.  Life in prison is very dangerous.  If you doubt me, check out this blog, written by the sister of an innocent man chronicling his experiences. Freedom for 50.  This is only one of many.

Stanley Denhof is a victim of S.A.I.D Syndrome click on the link to read more about it.  I have also read all the reports and case information including the “forensics”.  I have attended court hearings, and read all the court filings.  As a former police officer/detective and somewhat intelligent…I have been utterly appalled at how obvious his innocence is, the extreme efforts people go to for revenge.  Equally disgusting is how some lawyers take clients money and don’t do the job, and how Prosecutors and Judges can live with themselves and continue to block minimal Due Process (a civil right) owed to every human being.  If this can happen to a man who finally divorced his wife (who vowed to ruin his life) over her numerous affairs, it could happen to you.

Just a caveat…I am not anti-police.  I am not anti-court system.  I am not anti-government.

I am anti-corruption, anti-falsehood, anti-injustice, and anti-criminality within the justice system.

I am in favor of changing laws that give these Public Officials immunity when it is later found that they knew or should have known that the conviction was politically motivated.  There should not be immunity when a witness is discovered to be lying (but the judge did not do anything about it), or when ANY official commits Brady Violations (withholding evidence that could prove that the defendant is innocent).

Something else to think about.  In a sexual assault case…where there is a wrongful conviction…if there is no DNA there is likely no exoneration either and a possibility that a sexual assault never occurred, especially in a S.A.I.D. case.

Public Officials involved in the Court system need to remember.  If you convict the wrong person, the real perpetrator is still out there.  There is NO justice in this.

Remember a wrongful conviction could happen to you, all it takes is to piss off the wrong person or one of the 5% (the criminal element that can hide in plain site in any organization).

I’ll leave you with this Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

References

  • Acker, J. R., & Redlich, A. D. (2011). Wrongful conviction: Law, science, and policy. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Anonymous. (1985). Baker, mark, author. COPS: Lives in their own words. Wilmette: Hendon Publishing Company