Not only does an abuser gaslight his or her victim, but they are often busy gaslighting many others at the same time: family, co-workers, church family, friends, and even acquaintances. (See my previous post on Gaslighting)
It isn’t enough to convince the victim things are different from the reality. If they can convince others of their “level-headed”, false perspective, they are better able to isolate and continue abusing their victim. Far too often a victim is disbelieved after revealing abuse because the abuser has laid the groundwork among their friends and acquaintances so they believe in his or her apparent goodness and gentleness; they believe his or her stories that the victim is emotionally unstable, unfaithful, abusive, deceptive, or confused. Frequently the abuser starts this campaign long before the victim has even thought of leaving, or recognized abuse was occurring.
When I was pregnant with our second child, my ex and I attended a self help seminar. We were kept separate most of the time at the seminar. During one of the larger group activities, one of his group facilitators came to me and said she perceived me to be abusive towards him. He heard this. After the seminar, his abuse of me started in earnest. He yelled, swore at me, threatened to leave me, told me to get out, accused me of having an affair and more. After our child was born, he started to get violent.
Being told that someone saw me as an abuser put me in a place of more harm. The last thing I wanted was to be abusive, so I stopped standing up for myself. I became a doormat to his needs, wants and desires. It wasn’t enough and it fed his abuse of me. I went through a very long period of self reflection based on that one sentence, while he gained power in his gaslighting because he saw how it swayed others to see his false reality as truth. Fortunately, the same seminar that worsened his abusive nature also gave me tools to see reality for what it was.
An abuser loves it when they can manipulate others to gaslight their victim with them. Those other people won’t even know they are contributing to the abuse, but it keeps the victim trapped because they believe if others see them that way, everyone will and it must be true. It’s not true.
Recognizing abuse in others can be challenging because it is a closed door issue. It is a hidden crime. It hides behind deception. It takes observation, listening and discernment. Usually it takes a long time for a victim to speak out about the abuse they are experiencing and when they do, they try to protect the abuser, to downplay the abuse, to show belief that they are at fault. A victim of abuse has been gaslighted or brainwashed into believing that they deserve how they are being treated. It’s a balance to believe and support a victim, while at the same time realizing an abuser will counter accuse their victim of abusing them. Recognizing a victim of abuse is often most evident in the victims behavior, attitudes and beliefs.