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…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 3

MARIAN **name changed**

M was an intern that applied for a recruit position.  As an intern she would take telephone and walk-in reports and write them up.  She did a great job.  When she was hired Woody told her she should have a plan B.  They then marked her down for her report writing (Huh??) and eventually had her so stressed out that she was told quit or be fired.  She quit.  She then joined the military and was so extraordinary, at the end of training, even though she was injured and couldn’t finish, her commander awarded her, her dress blues.  She never recovered from her injuries.  She died during the early stages of our first lawsuit. If she was exceptional in the military why wasn’t she good enough for GR?

LIZ **name changed**

Liz, was another police department intern that was hired as a recruit. She made it through academy like the others. In fact she was exceptional. During her field training her trainer required her to have 15 traffic stops a night (in a 10 hour shift) which included getting a Polaroid picture and thumb print.  There were many times a Sgt wasn’t available which meant waiting, and making the detained subject wait until a Sgt was available to bring over the photo/print kit.  This took a lot of time, resulted in her not making her quota and she was marked down.  Being an intelligent problem solver, she went and bought supplies and made her own kit, this angered her Training Officer.

Liz’s trainer told her that no one wanted her there.

She was coming in an hour early, leaving hours late and doing her trainers paperwork. She was single with two children and had to hire a live-in nanny.  She wasn’t getting any sleep, her hair was falling out.  They wore her down and gave her the quit or be fired speech.  She quit.  When we called to tell her about our suit, she immediately said, “I’m in!”

SAM **name changed**

SAM in B&E squad consistently given 2-3 times the number of cases her male partner was assigned and then berated for having so many open cases (her male partner was nice enough to recognize this and help her).  This is different than what happened to me.  She was later transferred to the Auto Squad because she didn’t want to go to Auto Squad.

PATRICIA

One night, the vice unit pulled over a black man and asked for a patrol car.  Patricia was sent.  Vice told her to search his car.  She asked “For what reason”.  They didn’t have one and he wasn’t under arrest.  They told her to do it anyway.  She refused.  The man asked her “Can they do that?”  She told him they can’t do that without a warrant, or without your permission and you don’t have to give it to them.  He said “No, you can’t search my car.”  They arrested him, handcuffed him, placed him in Patricia’s car, searched his car, didn’t find anything and left.  She was left to deal with the situation, calling dispatch to contact Vice to come back and deal with the situation. They ignored dispatch.  Patricia had to ask for a supervisor and complained about their behavior. The Supervisor asked her if she was making a formal complaint (crossing the thin blue line).  She replied, no, that is your job as a supervisor to correct these things.  Her supervisor told her just to release the man, and she did.  The Supervisor did nothing.  This is why she was called a bitch.  She followed the rules and the law.  Arresting, then un-arresting seemed to be a habit of some officers.  They never got in trouble for it.  One wonders what their police report looked like and how they justified probable cause after an illegal search.

THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME

When I worked the road on the West Side of Grand Rapids, I noticed one of the SGTs kept showing up or driving by my calls.  I didn’t think much of it because it was nothing new really. One night, I went to get dinner on Alpine, slightly out of our area (in the area where Fazoli’s is now).  It was a place we were allowed to go because at the time there were not many choices available to us. The SGT sent me a message.  It read, “Are you lost?”  I responded, “No, why do you ask??  He asked, “Where are you?”  I told him where I was.  He told me “You can’t eat there, it’s outside the city.  I asked him “Is this a new rule?”  He said, “You can’t go there.”  I responded “ok”, and left without eating.  Everyone else was still allowed to eat there, but I wasn’t.  I later found out he had been told to follow me around.

FIREARMS

During my initial firearms training at the department, I qualified as expert.  I was and continue to be very proficient with my handgun, shotgun and rifle.

We had to train and qualify with our firearms twice a year.  During one qualification course I was ordered back the next day.  This was not unusual for the women and minorities to be ordered back for remedial, it happened often, for the stupidest things.  But this time they told me I had to be there at 430 instead of my usual start time of 5pm.  

Not only was this unreasonable it was a contract violation.

I objected and notified SGT J that I couldn’t get there at 430 but I could make it by 5 (my normal shift start time) due to childcare. He didn’t think it would be an issue and called Woody on the phone in the range house. I was also in the range house and heard the conversation. Sgt J explained the situation, but Lt. Woody said, too bad she better be there at 430!  I scrambled trying to make alternate arrangements, which caused a number of major problems.

I barely got to the range at the time as I was ordered.  The day group wasn’t done yet and I had to wait 45 minutes for them to finish.  If I had been late after being ordered to be there at a certain time, I would have faced discipline.   Several days later I went directly to Chief H.D. and told him that I had believed him when he said he wanted to make GRPD a family friendly organization. I told him what happened and how it was unacceptable and a violation of our union contract to change my work hours without advance notice, not to mention just plain wrong.  He told me he would look into it. I knew Woody would be mad that I complained, but I was sick of it.

Two weeks later, I was in an on duty shooting.  It wasn’t my day to work.  I was working for another female officer who couldn’t get the day off for a wedding, so we traded shifts. It was Saturday, and it was Sweetest Day.

To be continued…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 2

THE BEGINNING

In 1992 I became a single parent through divorce, of my two girls, Sarah, 5 and Rachael, 4.  I decided I needed more education and a better job to support us. I went back to school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College while working 3 part-time jobs and caring for my girls.  It was not easy.  Rachael has severe cognitive impairment, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.  But I did it with the help of family and friends. While attending KVCC, I saw an ad for police recruits and applied to GRPD.

IT STARTED AT HELLO/HIRE/MY EXPERIENCE

In one of my interviews I was asked the normal types of interview questions.  They also asked me if I was planning on having more children.  This was an embarrassing conversation and completely illegal.  I answered it not knowing at the time you can’t ask things like that.  They were aware that I had two daughters and that Rachael had medical conditions.  They were also well aware that I had been doing a good job of handling all my responsibilities.

I went through application/interview process, and was hired at age 27, which was older than most of the new hires.

The Psychological exam was uneventful, the questions were weird and unusual (in my opinion).  I’ve never taken another test like that one, although I have taken many many police exams. I passed without any problem.

At the medical exam they found out I had diabetes and they were not happy about it.  I provided a note from my Doctor who stated I managed it well and had no complications.  Due to ADA they could not rescind the job offer and I had already accepted it.  They probably figured I wouldn’t make it through but I did.

ADMINISTRATION

Under Chief W.H., things were mostly good.  He was a no-nonsense Chief and kept a tight rein on his command staff.

There were a number of controversies during his tenure.  A group of women and minority officers sued for discrimination. They sued over the subjectivity of evaluations which negatively affected assignments and promotions.  Chief W.H. called a meeting of his command staff.  He told them that under no circumstances were they to go after these individuals.  They were also told to prevent any such behavior by any other officers. Subsequent Chiefs did not do this.

They settled, and got their promotions.

After Chief W.H. retired, things changed. 

I loved my job.  But the small cracks that had existed started to become big problems after Chief W.H. retired.  The commanders he had kept in check were given more latitude and power under the new administration, Chief H.D.

The Training unit commander got rid of the veteran trainers in favor of younger less experienced officer that would follow orders without question. This was a problem.

New female officers were subjected to higher standards than their male counterparts. When they did meet expectations the bar was moved higher until they failed.

Female officers were routinely passed over for promotions in favor of males who did not test as well, or were under investigation for domestic assaults or other crimes.

Female officers did not get additional specialized training, assignments to other departments, or “Attaboys”.  What are Attaboys?   Attaboy’s were commendations. Female Officers  who recovered multiple stolen cars, or solved cases often did not get commended the same as or as often as the guys did.  I remember getting them once in a while.  One particular commendation was given to me by my Captain, but he gave it to me in private instead of in front of my peers at lineup, which was the usual custom.

At the range, all the trainers would stand behind the female officers.  Often, mistakes by the men were not noticed nor were they failed.  Women and minority officers were subjected to increased scrutiny and were routinely ordered back for remedial training even if they had passed!!

Lt. Woody would tell address new recruit classes.  He would say,  look around because some of you won’t be here at the end.  In one recruit training class he ordered everyone to stand in a circle and slap each other upside the head.  It was as if he believed that if you don’t bounce people or if someone doesn’t get hurt then you’re not doing your job if everybody passes.  It didn’t matter that they had made it through college and police academy and the rigorous hiring process. The goal was not to mentor and empower but to break people.  His new Field Training Officers earned nicknames like “The Ax”, “The Hatchet” and “The Terminator.”  All the guys that would do what he told them to, were called “Woody’s boys”.

To be continued…