“Gaslight’s” Hidden Legacy to all Aficionados of Domestic Abuse
Too good to be true?
No, there is a way, I promise, as long as you have the self discipline to restrict yourself to “crimes against the person”.
It is also a good idea to adhere to the first principle of personal abuse:
“Never place your personal safety at risk.”
Women, especially smaller women, and children are always the safest targets.
There is a very simple knack to getting away with almost anything.
Before embarking on any course of domestic abuse you take the precaution of establishing that your target is “nuts”.
“Nuts” is not a terribly technical term, but it’s the best one to use here as a collective noun for all the different aspects that could prove useful. Here are a few:
- a) Delusions (Always preferable to deceit. Accusing your target of lying brings in a confrontational, “he-said, she said” aspect that alienates your public as well as risking damage to your essential image as a genuinely concerned spouse/parent. Also see c) ).
- b) Instability (It is relatively easy to actually destabilise the target and may happen quite spontaneously. This aspect is SO useful in every sense and should never be ignored.)
- c) Volatility (The keyword here is “RAGE”. Not just any rage, but unprovoked, irrational rage. The most recent and effective model is called “Borderline Rage”. If you can manage to establish THAT then most of your work is already done for you in the form of a very active Public lobby fighting to establish, among other things, that smaller, weaker people rage against bigger, stronger people for absolutely no reason other than a Borderline Personality Disorder. An additional bonus is that if you can establish “Borderline Rage”, directly because of the tireless work of the same lobby point a) almost establishes itself. Borderline Personality Disorder is, without doubt, an unchangeable “best buy” for the budding Domestic Abuser. It is so flexible and easy to apply to the target too.)
Obviously it takes a little work to establish these things.
One of your most effective tools is called “Gaslighting” after a film from the 50s starring Ingrid Bergman (catch it if you get the chance).
The story revolves around a very practical Domestic Abuser putting in the necessary time and effort required to convince his target (and the rest of the world) that she is insane in order to avail of her inheritance.
It has a rather alarming ending where a besotted young man and, I believe, an elderly Doctor, rescue the target within a hairsbreadth from the asylum.
Don’t let this discourage you.
This is only a film after all.
In real life there is very little risk of anyone noticing or being prepared to intervene to ruin all your hard work.
In the film the “hero” employs a very simple strategy of convincing his wife she imagines things. Not significant things, small trivial things, things no one would usually have the time or reason to lie about. The best example is where he takes a small broach of no real value to his target and hides it. When she notices it’s loss (quite quickly) he then “finds” it in a place where she appears to have hidden it herself.
There are so many variations on this basic theme that can be employed on a day by day basis to devastating effect.
It works best if you display no hostility either to or about the target. Let people prise your distress at your target’s little “eccentricities” from you, don’t flaunt it, just a hint here and there. People will ask all by themselves.
I say “almost” everything, because I am afraid getting away with actual murder can be a little too tricky to attempt.
There are a few work arounds though, should an actual deceased situation ever prove desirable.
Let me offer you an example from life, and almost the same year as “Gaslighting” was released.
These days Divorce is not the same emotive issue that it was 50 years ago, when the effects of a divorce could be devastating to any respectable abusive family. Divorce caused “talk”, fingers would be pointed, awkward questions would be asked, the entire respectable abusive family would come under the most uncomfortable scrutiny. I don’t think there is a single modern equivalent of the potential impact of a divorce on a respectable abusive family, except perhaps for the target to slip so far out of control as to seek independent counselling outside of the family’s established dynamic, or begin to write memoirs.
So when a daughter and target formed a firm resolution to seek a divorce (grounds, infidelity) in the 50s what was an abuser to do?
The answer is simple and obvious, convince the target that the adultery of her spouse is another delusion among many. It is advisable to involve all available medical and psychiatric resources (even in the 50s there were plenty if you really looked) towards this end. It is also advisable to involve as many neighbours and relatives as you can, because this strategy is far from plain sailing, and the erring spouse could ruin everything by making an unconditional confession at any moment. This causes plenty of hostility between the spouses and destroys all trust, which you can use to your advantage if you have laid the right groundwork.
You have to spent a lot of quality time with the target, helping them to accept that they are deluded. You have to show a great deal of concern about the target to as many people as possible. If you are really clever you can prevent the target’s erring spouse from realising that you are presenting their confessed adultery as factitious. You can even use their guilt to persuade them to refrain from discussing their error further with the target for the sake of the target’s well being.
You can also, possibly, play the ace card of pointing out to the erring spouse the considerable financial disadvantages of a divorce (it is best to be very subtle and tactful about this, emphasise the target’s well-being rather more strongly than the financial aspects, guilty and erring spouses are very resistant to anything that makes them feel insensitive).
If you lay your ground-work well, one day it is quite possible that the target will get up, bring everyone a nice cup of tea in bed, make everyone a decent breakfast, and then, after they have all left for business, suspend herself by the neck from the bannisters just in time for your weekly visit.
(This piece is dedicated to my Grannie, who died before I could get born and know her, beyond a few ambiguous stories that never added up, and the files from her inquest. It is also dedicated to the, too many, women to name who have posted articles about their own “Gaslighting” and abuse, that finally accumulated, added to my own and made me cold-bloodedly enraged enough to write this piece. All persons suggested here are long dead.)