On October 8th, 2017, Aha! Moment partnered with several organizations to present the 1944 film Gaslight at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD. The screening, held in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was followed by a panel discussion. The term “gaslighting,” which derives from the film, is used to describe a type of emotional abuse where a person uses manipulation to make someone else feel like they are losing their sense of reality. Gaslighting is used to confuse, control, shame, and isolate people. The more we discuss this topic, the better we can support each other and break the silence and cycle of abuse.
- DC Volunteer Lawyers Project
- Family Services, Inc.
- Pathways to Safety International
- Film Noir Foundation
We are excited to continue this series of events where films and the arts meet social justice issues. If you are interested in co-hosting a similar event (screening Gaslight or another film), please contact Tali Elitzur at email@example.com.
Post-screening discussion panel audio is available below:
About the panelists:
- Nadia Hashimi (moderator), pediatrician and author of “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” and “The Moon Is Low”
- Kathleen Buhle Biden, Director of Strategic Partnerships, DC Volunteer Lawyers Project
- Paula Lucas, domestic violence survivor, author of Harvesting Stones - An American Woman's International Journey of Survival and Founder/Executive Director, Pathways to Safety International
- Gabriela Romo, Psychotherapist specializing in domestic violence and immigration issues
- Imogen Sara Smith, writer and film historian
- Dominic Goodall, Project Coordinator, House of Ruth Maryland Training Institute
We asked guests to submit questions about gaslighting, and some of the answers are below:
Gaslight Discussion Q & A
1. Can gaslighting be an ingrained/knee jerk behavior for those who use it against others, especially those close to them, to get what they want, including the sense of control? That is, the person isn't necessarily aware that he or she is being manipulative but considers it reasonable behavior to get what they want/have control?
Paula Lucas: Most abusers probably believe that their behaviors are reasonable if it enables them to get what they want in order to get the victim back under control. A kneejerk response can come in the form of gaslighting, emotional abuse, physical abuse, etc.
Gabriela Romo: Gaslighting is used to manipulate and exercise control over others. Some people seem not to notice or be conscious about their behavior because many times it is also learned (especially while growing up). However, with a little bit of empathy they should have the "aha moment" and change behavior. Having said so, as you can imagine not everybody is willing to change their behavior and give up control.
Tali Elitzur: Gaslighting, like other forms of abuse, is about taking advantage of a differential of power. When an individual is used to relationships being based on one person having more control than another, then it very likely could be a habitual way of getting what they want. They may find it to be reasonable since it has become the norm, but that does not make it okay or any less abusive.
2. Are there resources/suggestions for those in gaslighting situations in the workplace? From a supervisor? A supervisor with no oversight?
Paula Lucas: I don’t know of any resources for gaslighting at work but I would say make sure you document every interaction in writing. If there is a verbal conversation with the person in question, email them confirming the points of the conversation as you understood them and ask them to please clarify.
Gabriela Romo: Unfortunately, it is very hard to get out of the situation if your supervisor is the person gaslighting you, because the natural reaction of this person will be to attack you and criticize you if you confront them. They never like to take responsibility and they could even accuse you of gaslighting them. Try to minimize the interaction and discuss it with HR. For that, be prepared and journal how the interactions have been so you have evidence and a better way to explain yourself with facts and not only your verbal description of events. Finally, be prepared to break away from gaslighting and start looking for another job or work at another department. Your mental health is important.
Tali Elitzur: Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. Whether it is in the workplace, home, or other setting, please do not hesitate to contact one of many service providers or hotlines in your area. Here are a few:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 (TTY)
- Montgomery County Crisis Hotline: (240) 777-4000
- DC Victim Hotline: (844) 443-5732
- Pathways to Safety International, for Americans overseas: (866) USWOMEN (879-6636)
- Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline: (800) 422-0009
- Maryland Statewide Hotline: (800) MD-HELPS (634-3577)
- Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse: (301) 315-8040
3. Can you talk about the importance of giving something a name, and how being able to define gaslighting thanks to this film is helping to combat it?
Dominic Goodall: Whether discussing a social or literal battlefield the most important rule is “know your enemy”. As we combat gas lighting, and assist those who have experienced it, it is invaluable to understand exactly what gas lighting is. Describing the actions that an abusive partner is taking in a clear and concise way demonstrates that we have seen these actions before, that these actions are undeniably abusive, and that we have helped others who have experienced the same thing