What is Gaslighting?

elderly woman in eyeglasses telling off blond woman

GASLIGHTING IS A FORM of psychological manipulation that falls under the category of covert psycho-emotional abuse. Its aim is to cause a person to question their sanity. 

What Is The Definition of Gaslighting?

The term comes from the 1938 play Gaslight, about a wife who discovers that her husband is secretly turning down the gaslights in their home in order to make her doubt her reality. Today, gaslighting is a colloquialism that describes a situation where one person manipulates another to think or behave a certain way that causes them to second-guess their own perceptions and beliefs. 

Who is most likely to use the gaslighting tactic?

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic commonly used by people with malignant personalities, such as the narcissistic- and anti-social personality types. Emotionally sound people are unlikely to gaslight others because they are able to empathize with others and want to avoid causing them distress. People with darker personalities have low empathy and are less likely to care about causing others distress, which makes them more likely to gaslight others. However, not all people with malignant personalities gaslight others.

In what context is gaslighting most likely to occur?

Gaslighting can happen in any type of relationship, including friendships, romantic relationships, and even within the family. It can also occur in the workplace when one person tries to manipulate another into doing something they don’t want to do.

How does one person gaslight another? 

Gaslighting is usually accomplished by creating a false narrative and casting doubt on any facts or evidence that contradicts the false narrative. The perpetrator of the abuse misleads the recipient of the abuse by creating a false reality.

Why do people use the gaslighting tactic?

People who gaslight do so in order to manipulate and control others. The effects of gaslighting often leave the recipient of the abuse feeling powerless, invisible, and unable to influence the relationship.

What are some examples of gaslighting?

Some examples of gaslighting are:

  • When a partner denies having an affair, even when text messages are sent proving otherwise. 
  • When a spouse is criticized for expressing an opinion or feeling, but when their partner expresses the same opinion or feeling, they are commended for being open and honest. 
  • When a parent tells a child they are imagining things even though the child is not.
  • Denying that acts of aggression have taken place even though they have.

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Juliette Bryant on Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘Factory’ of Sex Crimes

Juliette Bryant on Jeffrey Epstein's Factory of Sex Crimes

JULIETTE BRYANT DETAILS how Jeffrey Epstein entrapped and exploited her for two years beginning in 2002. In an interview for the BBC2 docu-series, House of Maxwell, Bryant describes how the predator pedophile love bombed her into his notorious sex trafficking scheme. Bryant later filed a lawsuit against the Epstein estate in 2019. 

The “King of America”

Bryant claims that her initial point of contact with the billionaire pedophile was model Naja Hill. In her lawsuit, she alleges that Hill told her she had a friend who was the “King of America” with connections to Victoria’s Secret, who could help Bryant launch her modeling career.

Bryant Describes Epstein’s Love-Bombing Strategy

Bryant claims her first encounter with Epstein took place at a restaurant in Cape Town in 2002. According to the lawsuit, she met Epstein, a “former high-ranking U.S. Government official, a famous actor, and a well-known comedian.” 

New York magazine reports that Epstein visited South Africa in 2002 with actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Chris Tucker, and former US President Bill Clinton. 

Bryant claims that Epstein invited her to attend the former high-ranking politician’s speech the day after their first meeting. She also says Epstein boasted that he was friends with Z-brands impresario Leslie Wesner. She alleges that he instructed her to bring her modeling portfolio to a casting at his hotel after the politician’s speech.

Flattery and Future Faking

At the casting, Bryant claims that the billionaire pedophile flattered her ego, telling her that she “had the most beautiful figure [I have] ever seen in my life.” 

Epstein allegedly announced that he would sponsor Bryant’s work visa and a flight to New York so that she could embark on an international modeling career. 

The promises Bryant is describing are typical of a manipulation tactic called ‘future faking’ commonly used by highly narcissistic people.

“Future faking is when someone uses a detailed vision of the future to facilitate […] bonding and connection.” explains Greg Kushnick, PsyD.

Bryant claims that Epstein went as far as to personally offer reassurances to her mother. According to her lawsuit, Epstein had his assistant organize her trip from South Africa to the United States. 

Bryant Alleges She Was Isolated on Little Saint James

Shortly after she arrived in New York, Bryant alleges that Epstein flew her to his private island Little Saint James. She was led to believe that she was traveling there on a modeling assignment. Instead, her sex trafficking nightmare began.

Bryant recalls that there was a collection of disturbing images decorating the walls of Epstein’s island home, mainly nudes of girls and Ghislaine Maxwell. She also shared a photograph with the BBC showing a disturbing depiction of a giant walrus raping a woman.

This was a foreshadowing of what allegedly awaited Bryant on Little Saint James. The former model describes an incident when she was in Epstein’s private cinema with the billionaire and another girl. Bryant claims she witnessed the other girl performing a sex act on Epstein. She says the experience made her “absolutely petrified” as she had not been exposed to that kind of lewd behavior before.

It was then she says she realized that she was trapped on Little Saint James with no means of escape – a strategy typical of coercive control.

According to Bryant, “I was completely trapped, and there was nothing I could do.”

“He Fed Off The Terror”

Bryant alleges that she was raped by Jeffrey Epstein up to three times a day in his “ice-cold, pitch black” bedroom on Little Saint James.

“He fed off of the terror,” she recalls of the repeated sexual assault she allegedly suffered at the hands of the predator, “There was something about the energy of a girl being scared that he liked.”

She alleges that when Epstein raped her she would dissociate.

‘I just checked out of my body and let him do what he wanted because I didn’t know what else to do,’ Bryant explains, “I tried to escape in my mind, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening.” 

She is describing a trauma response common to victim-survivors of sexual assault. When faced with an existential threat, the defense mechanisms that emerge are fight, flight, freeze or fawn behaviors.

Threats and Intimidation

To silence her, Bryant says that Epstein threatened her and her family. She claims the combination of being repeatedly raped and terrorized by Epstein destroyed her self-esteem, “I was so broken at that point, I just sort of went along with it. I never felt okay again after that, everything just fell to pieces.”

Bryant says that Epstein used intimidation to influence her decisions. He let Bryant know he was accused of rape by another woman and that he’d managed to have his accuser jailed by planting drugs in her apartment.

She recalls the absolute power Epstein wielded in his social circle which convinced her that he would make good on his threats to harm her and her loved ones.

“I just did as I was told,” Bryant explains, “I was petrified of him, who he was. I knew crossing him would be a very bad idea.”

In this way, she says, Epstein was able to coerce her into remaining in his environs. She recalls, “Nobody disobeyed Epstein.”

Describing the climate of fear he cultivated, Bryant says, “It was just like a factory. [Epstein] was running a machine, and Ghislaine Maxwell was the one operating it. Ghislaine was running the girls and would tell us when we needed to go to his bedroom, you couldn’t say no, there was just no option.”

Surviving Jeffrey Epstein

Bryant says the final straw came when Epstein compelled her to fly out to his ranch in New Mexico. There, she alleges, he attempted to traffick her to another “important government official,” and Bryant resisted.

After the incident, Epstein berated her for not being compliant. Finally, an opportunity came for Bryant to return to her South Africa and she seized it. She says she never saw Epstein or anyone in his cabal again but he continued to harass her. In an e-mail as recently as two months before his alleged suicide, Bryant claims the pedophile sent her a leering message ask her to send him nude photos of herself.

“I’m tired of feeling ashamed,” says Bryant of her torment by Epstein, “I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I know other people have had far worse, and that is who I want to speak for, for the people who can’t talk anymore.”

House of Maxwell airs on BBC 2 on April 1 at 9 pm GMT.

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6 Signs of Love Bombing with Dr. Steve Sultanoff

Signs of Love Bombing with Steve Sultanoff, PhD

LOVE BOMBING is a manipulation technique used by one person to gaslight another in order to control and dominate them. It is commonly used by highly narcissistic people and people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but it can be used by other types of manipulators as well. The aim is to give the perpetrator an advantage over the recipient of the abuse. This is accomplished using a schedule of intermittent reinforcement that alternates between love bombing and devaluation to deliberately induce, escalate, and then soothe anxiety in the victim-survivor. One of the dangers of love bombing is that it feels so good it can be difficult to recognize it for the psycho-emotional abuse that it is. Today, we’re going to highlight 6 Signs of Love Bombing with clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD

For more than thirty years, Dr. Sultanoff has been a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He’s also served as a clinical supervisor and spent twelve years as clinical director of a psychology training network. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in therapeutic humor from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is something most people don’t understand about love bombing?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: The extreme narcissist is a “big game hunter.” He is stalking his prey, and the thrill is in the hunt and capture of the prey. In order to capture the prey, the narcissist will go to almost any length to achieve that goal. The result is self-congratulatory: “Look what major feat I accomplished!” In other words, “I made you fall for me.”

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What you are describing it sounds more like entrapment than love.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: He is on a quest to “do” whatever it takes to achieve the goal: capturing a “love” connection or perhaps more accurately capturing the object of his desire. Nothing will stand in the way. Whatever it takes (behaviorally) he will do. He will shower the “love object” with whatever might be pleasing including gifts, flowers, romantic getaways, etcetera.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: This is an excellent analogy because it illustrates how little a narcissist’s behavior has to do with the person they are pursuing and everything to do with their self-image. What’s the pay off for the narcissist?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Once the goal is achieved, he will feel “full,” valued, worthy, etcetera until the moment of the accomplishment wears off.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: So, they obtain narcissistic supply through success in pursuit and conquest of someone they regard as “prey”. It gratifies their ego and fills them with a sense of pride in their ability to manipulate the person they targeted. What is the first major red flag that people should look out for?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One tell-tale sign is over the top extreme behavior that, of course, feels like being nurtured and loved.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: But in reality it’s neither of those things because the narcissist is using the capture and conquest of their “prey” to feed their ego. Dr. Sultanoff, you have been practicing for over thirty years. Please share something you’ve observed about narcissists in your clinical experience.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Most narcissists are men, although women are not immune to the disorder.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Indeed, that’s consistent with the research. Can you please share some other signs you think might help people recognize when they are being love bombed?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Narcissists are frequently absolutely charming and they make a great appearance. For example, they are often coiffed meticulously. They are usually generous with money and material things, showering the object of their affection with an assortment of gifts mostly of monetary value but not necessarily. Depending on their style and expertise, they may offer more personal gifts such as poetry, writing songs, sunsets on the beach, looking at the stars, etcetera for their partner. They make a major effort to be in contact with their partner and may frequently text or email with lots of emojis or other endearing extras.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s often said that narcissists target people who have one or several blind spots. Can you talk a bit about this?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One sign that is often overlooked is the partner’s reaction to the love bomb. If you feel enamored, giddy, or enthralled especially to the point of discussing all the gifts with others then you may want to examine the relationship. It is easy for the partner to be “sucked into” the love bomb since it “feels” so good to be loved at such an extreme level.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That’s a very astute and helpful tip! Dr. Sultanoff, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on this topic?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Bottom line, if he is too good to be true, he likely is too good to be true. Look for the signs of excessively loving behaviors, look for feeling immersed in his love, look for constant actions of his love and desire to be with you, and finally look beyond his loving actions and ask yourself, “What is the substance behind the actions. Is he who I can love if all these loving actions were not present?”

Dr. Sultanoff’s 6 Signs of Love Bombing

To summarize, Dr. Sultanoff highlighted six signs of love bombing and they are:

  1. Too good to be true
  2. Charm
  3. Flamboyance
  4. Generosity
  5. Excessive Attention
  6. Euphoria

Visit Dr. Sultanoff’s website humormatters.com to learn about therapeutic humor.


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What Is Coercive Control?

What is Coercive Control?

COERCIVE CONTROL IS AN ACT or a pattern of acts used by one person to harm, punish or frighten another person to secure psycho-emotional dominance. It begins with occasional incidents of strategic aggression that escalate over time to full-scale campaigns of intimate terrorism.

Coercive control was conceptualized by Evan Stark, Ph.D. in his book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Perpetrators of coercive control also harm their children as part of their wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.

Signs of Coercive Control

1. GaslightingThe perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.
2. IsolationThe perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends. 
3. Control of Daily LifeThe perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.
4. Monitoring timeThe perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times
5. Put-DownsThe perpetrator may repeatedly tell the victim-survivor that they are worthless or useless, they may publically humiliate the victim-survivor by calling them degrading names or by criticizing their appearance, intelligence, etc.
6. Monitoring CommunicationThe perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.
7. Rules and Regulations The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.
8. ThreatsThe perpetrator may threaten to hurt or kill the victim-survivor, their child, family members, friends, or pets; they may threaten to take away their child; they may threaten to reveal private information such as intimate photos or revelations about your sexuality.
9. Deprivation of Basic NeedsThe perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.
10. Obstruction of EmploymentThe perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.
11. Financial AbuseThe perpetrator takes control of the victim-survivors’ finances, making sure they have little access to money so that the victim-survivor is dependent on them.
12. Criminal DamageThe perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.
13. Assault or RapeThe perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


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Marlee Matlin on William Hurt’s Violence: ‘I Was Afraid I Might Not Survive.’

Marlee Matlin on surviving William Hurt's Violence

ACTOR WILLIAM HURT died of natural causes on Sunday, March 13, 2022. That evening as Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin walked the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards, a reporter asked her to comment on the news of Hurt’s passing. 

Matlin squared her shoulders, gave her head a quick shake as if ingesting a bitter tonic, and summoned the grace to say:

“We’ve lost a great actor. Working with him on the set of Children of a Lesser God will always be something I remember very fondly. He taught me a great deal as an actor. He was one-of-a-kind.”

Matlin’s response was so charitable and respectful, that for a brief moment it transcended the reality of the intimate terrorism Hurt allegedly subjected her during a two-year relationship that left her fearing for her life. 

A History of Battery and Rape

Marlee Matlin was involved in a romantic relationship with the late William Hurt when she was a teenager. They met in the 1980s during her screen test for the film Children of a Lesser God. Hurt, then 35, was at the height of his acting career while nineteen-year-old Matlin was a Hollywood newcomer.

In her 2009 autobiography I’ll Scream Later, Marlee Matlin disclosed that William Hurt subjected her to repeated emotional, physical, and sexual abuse throughout their two-year relationship. Hurt was a brilliant but complex person who struggled with substance abuse for most of his life.

Accomplished and experienced, Hurt was able to take advantage of the glaring power imbalance in their relationship due to his status as a revered performing artist, their age gap and the privileges of his positionality in the world. He was free to manipulate and abuse Matlin with impunity and without any consequences.

According to The Daily Beast, Matlin recalls a horrific incident when inebriated Hurt, “…finally came home around 4:30 A.M. drunk and woke me up. The next thing I knew he’d pulled me out of the bed, screaming at me, shaking me. I was scared, I was sobbing. Then he threw me on the bed, started ripping off his clothes and mine. I was crying. ‘No, no, no. Please Bill, no.’ The next thing I remember is Bill ramming himself inside me as I sobbed.”

Several independent witnesses confirmed Matlin’s account. Among them are members of the crew on the set of Children of a Lesser God, her translator, a medical doctor, and Hurt’s children who treated her injuries after Hurt’s brutal attacks.

A Shift in the Balance of Power

Children of a Lesser God received multiple Academy Award nominations, including nods to Hurt and Matlin. Matlin made history that year when she became the youngest person ever to win the Oscar for best actress. Hurt walked away empty handed. This only increased his envy Matlin and was the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Matlin recalls that Hurt told her that she didn’t deserve her Oscar, and told her, “What makes you think you deserve it? There are hundreds of actors who have worked for years for the recognition you just got handed to you. Think about that.”

Matlin recalls feeling anxious and confused by Hurt’s mood swings and explosive violence. She described the extent of Hurt’s abuse to Nancy O’Dell of Access Hollywood:

“I always had fresh bruises every day. There were a lot of things that happened that were not pleasant. I loved him. I did. Or maybe I thought I did.”

She recalls how his attacks on her confidence intensified after she won the award. Hurt suggested that she take acting lessons and his aggression toward Matlin escalated. Eventually, she says she started losing her will to live, “I felt lost, helpless. I realized I didn’t care whether I lived or died.”

DARVO in Intimate Partner Abuse

Many of Hurt’s described tactics are typical of intimate partner violence. Matlin describes receiving a letter from Hurt in which he DARVOs her, blaming her for his aggression and domestic violence, “He said in that letter that he was guilt-ridden about what he called his ‘physical anger.’ But he blamed me for doing things that made him crazy angry.”

The relationship finally reached its breaking point after a horrifying episode of Hurt’s explosive rage.

Matlin remembers, “I have never been so scared in my life before or after that day. The struggle turned violent. I was afraid I might not survive.”

She alleges that she reached for the telephone to call for help but Hurt jerked it from her grasp and beat her severely, striking her arms and face. She says she realized that Hurt wasn’t going to change his ways and, if she returned to him, she might never find the courage to leave.

Matlin explains, “I understand how women are afraid to leave an abusive relationship. They should, but at the same time, I understand how they don’t know how.”

Guilt as a Tool of Control in Intimate Partner Violence

When Matlin escaped from the relationship, she did not file charges against Hurt because she was afraid her substance abuse would be used against her.

“I was so wrapped up in his world and my drugs,” She says candidly, “The drugs took over my life, took over my brain.” 

Hurt also struggled with substance abuse. However, he eventually became sober, which he considered to be one the greatest triumphs of his life.

Marlee Matlin was asked by a journalist if Hurt had been informed about the book before its publication, and allowed to refute her claims, and she responded, “I had no contact with him. Really, I had nothing to say to him. He knows what happened, I know what happened. We both were there.”

In a statement issued by Hurt in 2009, the actor did not deny Matlin’s allegations.

He said: “My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good.”

Perhaps Hurt was merely being cautious with his words to avoid litigation but his statement effectively minimize the severity of his violence toward Matlin while underscoring her purported transgressions against him. This response is typical of a highly narcissistic person side stepping accountability. His acknowledgement and apology is so vague one might think he wasn’t speaking about battery and rape, which are criminal acts.

Narcissistic Cheating Patterns: 4 Signs of Infidelity

Narcissistic cheating patterns: 4 signs of infidelity

NARCISSISTIC PARTNERS DELIBERATELY make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. They are slick and persuasive liars, prone to gaslighting others in order to escape being held to account for their misdeeds. Put simply, a narcissistic partner is not a reliable source of the truth. They are unlikely to willingly admit to adultery. If your suspicions are confirmed they usually react by devaluing and blaming you for their infidelity. This is why it’s helpful to be able to recognize narcissistic cheating patterns on your own. Once you know what to look for, you can make an informed and independent decision about how you wish to go forward.

Nikolina Jeric, co-founder of the dating site 2Date4Love, shares her expertise about how to spot narcissistic cheating patterns.

Key Points

  • Don’t ignore your instinct if you sense your partner is being unfaithful to you.
  • Pay close attention to their actions, not their words.
  • Some signs of cheating include secrecy, changes in sexual activity, provoking conflicts, and unexplained costs.
  • Sometimes these signal may signal that your relationship is breaking down for reasons other than infidelity.

1. Unfaithful partners are secretive

An unfaithful partner will seek to keep you in the dark about their infidelity.

Nikolina explains:

“They may suddenly become secretive about their phones and computers. If your partner never had a problem with you checking their phones but now has passwords and hides the screen every time they get a message or start deleting texts and clearing browsing history, you’re likely in a relationship with a cheater.”

2. Changes in frequency of sex

Another red flag to look for if you suspect a narcissistic partner is cheating on you is a change in your sex life.

Nikolina says this can show up in two different ways:

“There may be more and less sex. Both increase and decrease in sexual activity may indicate you’re in a relationship with a cheater. Less sex often indicates your partner is focused on somebody else, or they’re guilt-tripped because they cheat. More sex – with plenty of new moves – might indicate they’ve learned something new with somebody else, and they want to share that knowledge with you.”

3. They pick fights with you

Narcissistic people try to avoid accountability at all costs, especially when they are knowingly betraying someone. They usually accomplish this with a tactic called DARVO, which stands for deny, attack, reverse, victim, and offender.

Nikolina shares what this might looking like in an intimate relationships:

“They pick fights. Cheaters often want to rationalize their behavior by pushing the blame onto another person. If you notice that your partner is constantly picking flights about insignificant things, that may be a sign of cheating since they want to justify their adultery.”

4. You notice unexplained costs

Often unfaithful partners tend to get physically, emotionally, and financially invested in their new romantic interest.

Nikolina talks about an economic change you might notice:

“You notice unexpected costs. If you have joint accounts and you see there’s suddenly less money, you might be dating a cheater. If you ask them about it, and their answer seems insincere, it’s another way of confirming the suspicion.”

Final thoughts

If you believe that your partner is unfaithful, consider reaching out for support from a mental health professional. Remember that you are not to blame for their actions. Your sole responsibility is to take care of your health, recover from their betrayal and move forward with your life.


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


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FKA Twigs Opens Up To Gayle King on CBS This Morning

FKA twigs interview with Gayle King | CBS This Morning

FKA twigs opened up to journalist Gayle King on CBS This Morning about the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of actor Shia LaBoeuf. In her first television interview since taking legal action against him in December 2020, the Grammy nominee also took the opportunity to name and define some of the common behaviors of perpetrators of domestic abuse.

With California’s new coercive control legislation in force as of January 1, 2021, twigs’ lawsuit against LaBoeuf may set an important new precedent as California is the second state in the USA to criminalize coercive control.

In the claim she filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, twigs (born Tahliah Debrett Barnett) describes LaBeouf as “a danger to women,” who kept her “in a constant state of fear.”

She describes experiencing an ongoing pattern of abuse in her relationship with LaBoeuf that included verbal, emotional, physical abuse, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically:

  • Non-fatal strangulation
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual battery, and
  • Infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease.

On February 12, 2021 LaBoeuf’s legal team issued a statement that the actor denies “generally and specifically each and every allegation.”

His behavior became gradually more and more abusive.”

FKA twigs

FKA twigs is now speaking out in the hope of helping others spot the signs of domestic abuse in intimate relationships and, most importantly, for survivors to know that they are not alone.

Knowledge is Power

Once twigs understood that the harms that were allegedly inflicted on her by LaBoeuf were intentional, she reached out to Sistah Space, a London based service specialized in supporting abuse survivors of African heritage.

She started to learn about the manipulation tactics used by perpetrators of coercive control and developed an awareness about the attitudes that drive these destructive behaviors.

Empowered with new knowledge, twigs was able to escape and begin the healing process.

She shared that, in retrospect, the relationship had red flags from the very start. She described some of them to Gayle King in the interview.

Boundary violation disguised as romantic gestures

“In the beginning he would jump over the fence where I was staying and leave flowers outside my door and poems and books.” twigs told King, “And I thought it was very romantic, but that quickly changed. I understand now that that’s testing your boundaries. But it didn’t stop there, you know. His behavior became gradually more and more abusive.”

Love bombing and devaluation

She also described her experience of the idealization or love bombing phase of the cycle of abuse to King, as LaBoeuf “putting me on a pedestal, telling me that I was amazing, over the top displays of affection just to knock me off the pedestal, to tell me that I was worthless, to criticize me, to berate me, you know. Pick me apart.”

Learn more about love bombing in our interview with Harvard trained psychotherapist Madelaine Claire Weiss.

Gaslighting

“Abusers use gaslighting,” said twigs, wringing her small hands and taking a deep breath before she continued, “Which is where somebody minimizes your experience. It’s, like, altering your narrative and not listening to you, and denying your experience.”

Battery

“Eventually, it did become physical,” she said softly, dropping her gaze for a instant before lifting her eyes to meet King’s stare, before bravely giving a detailed account of how her relationship with LaBoeuf spiraled into violence.

Summary

There are many important lessons to be learned from FKA twigs about domestic abuse that may dispel the manifold myths that form the loopholes that help perpetrators evade justice. The reality is that because of its systemic nature, domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of financial status, fame, education, or social standing.

Watch Gayle King’s full interview with FKA twigs below.

Watch Gayle King’s interview with FKA twigs


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
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Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Men’s Edition)

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship (Special Edition for Men) | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men) is an updated and expanded version of the recovery tool I created last year to help people assess their relationship health. This version is specially crafted for men seeking to determine whether or not they are experiencing psycho-emotional abuse in interpersonal relationships with family members, intimate partners, peers, and colleagues.

The creative inspiration came when Veronica Archer reached out to me and invited me to speak on the topic of Male Survivors at the ‘You Get To Be YOU This Time’ online conference, I wanted to contribute a recovery tool tailored to the unique needs of men and boys.

Why is emotional abuse difficult to spot?

Insidious is a word we often hear to describe psycho-emotional abuse because it is deceitful, underhanded and cunningly disguised loving-kindness. For this reason, most people who are targeted for this kind of aggression do not realize it’s happening to them until long after the fact. It is only when the damage has been done to the individual’s well-being and quality of life, that they discover that trail of exploitative tactics used to take advantage of them.

This book helps men reflect on their lived experiences and recognize how subtle patterns of abuse can manifest in relationships with manipulators.

Holding space for male survivors

Some of the unique challenges male survivors face are gender stereotypes, specifically that men cannot be abused and in domestic abuse discussions men can only be the perpetrator or the aggressor but never the recipient of abuse. In reality, some men experience domestic abuse in interpersonal relationships in the context of family abuse and intimate partner abuse, both in heterosexual and same sex relationships. Therefore, it is essential to hold space for male survivors of domestic abuse.

What you will learn in ‘Are I In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men)’

While the focus of the first half of the book is on recognizing patterns of emotional abuse in men’s interpersonal relationships, the workbook section helps men tap into their agency and opens up vistas for healing and growth.

After the relationship health self-assessment exercise, the workbook uses your discoveries to help you gain fresh insight about where you are today and what actions are necessary to help you reach your goals.

In conclusion

I would like to end this post by reiterating the message I shared with Veronica in the interview: I developed this tool for male survivors in the hope that men and boys will know that they are seen, they are loved, and they can heal.

The Use of Isolation in Coercive Control

The Use of Isolation in Coercive Control | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab | Julie Levine

I guarantee there is an entire generation that will instantly relate the word isolation to the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

I do not.

I will not.

Every time I hear that word, my past haunts me. 

Images flash in my mind. 

But they are not of the present social distancing, wearing a mask, quarantine, and antibody testing. The images brought to my mind remind me of a different place, a different time when I was a different person.

Isolation is a reality of post-separation abuse for countless survivors around the world. It is one of the most powerful tools in the malignant narcissist’s game of power, control, and manipulation

The aims of isolation are two-fold:

  • The smaller a malignant narcissist can make your world, the more you will feel dependent on them. 
  • Isolating the victim makes it easier for the manipulator to distort the third partys’ perception of the victim and dominate the narrative.

An Invisible Prison

The last few months of social isolation have been extraordinarily difficult for me. I am reminded of my current strengths daily, as well as the person I used to be. In the blink of an eye, I remember things I wish I could forget.

When I was a married woman, living in a New York suburb, we had an electronic gate at the end of a very long driveway. Located in a well-to-do, bucolic neighborhood, the gate was attached to a concrete wall separating the house from the road – from the world.

There was a large metal box on one side of the front wall, which contained the gate’s motor and electronics. I did not know how to open nor operate the secured machinery. And there were video cameras everywhere. An ordinary person would think they were for security purposes — but I will get to that. 

You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.

Julie Levine

The man I was then married to was in total control of operating the gate. On good days, I had a code to get in and a motion detector operated to let me out. However, on bad days when he felt I was disobedient when I had not been silent or had not worshipped him accordingly – he disconnected that gate when he left for work, abandoning me in a home with what I believed was no way out.

My sons would have to walk around or climb over the gate to get to the cul de sac for their school bus. When the gate was rendered inoperable – my world shrank and became even more restricted. I was ordered to remain at home until further notice.

Isolation was a punishment. It was deliberate. It was a minute component in the cycle of abuse.

Survival Mode in Coercive and Controlling Relationships

Looking back, I wonder: who was that woman who received such punishment? 

I could not drive a car out of the driveway with that damn gate stuck closed – but why didn’t I walk around it like my sons?

I never even considered it. I obeyed him. I lived in constant fear.

I was married to a man for almost two decades who used isolation amongst other Coercive Control tactics to dominate me. In the years since my divorce, I learned that his behaviors are consistent with narcissistic abuse.

In my case, other kinds of harm were added to the mix, such as domestic violence, and financial abuse. 

During my lengthy, high conflict divorce, the man who would later be known as my “ex” was diagnosed by several forensic psychologists as:

  •  a narcissist
  • a psychopath
  • a sociopath
  • having anti-social personality disorder, and
  • being morally bankrupt.

Did I ever hear of those terms before court-ordered reports?

Certainly not. 

For almost 20 years, I was so deep in survival mode, that I did not even consider there to be personality disorders and distinctions. It was just my way of life, a way of life I needed to survive for my children. 

How Coercive Control Destroys Support Systems

Gradually, friends left my life, my family became estranged, people I had known for years stopped contacting me.

More isolation.

Eventually, the only human contact I had was with my children’s teachers and occasionally parents of my children’s classmates. But even those contacts diminished.

I tried socializing with other people in our community – as couples normally would – but that never lasted too long.

My ex-husband would tell me that people didn’t like me or only bothered with me because they thought I had money, convincing me that all break downs in communication with the outside world were my fault.

For many years, I never questioned it.

I was a class mother for my sons in school, an assistant soccer coach, a softball mom, etc.

I lived my life day to day as a mother of two sons whom I cared for and practically raised alone as their father showed no interest in them until I began to stand up for myself, mentioning divorce.

Throughout their childhoods, my sons learned that the only time their father showed them attention was when they would mirror his interests. My sons eventually understood how the equation worked, dropped their interests and passions, and reflected their father.

No more soccer, softball, or basketball. Playdates were few and far between.

Looking back at all this I realize that he was isolating his sons almost as much as he was isolating me. I didn’t know back then that children too could be targets for Coercive Control.

Coercive Control is Captivity

Getting back to that gate at the entrance of my home address — everyone thought it was to keep people out when, in reality, its purpose was to keep me in.

There were days I just stayed at home, often recovering from bruises, with no means of escape.

I guess I was so traumatized, controlled, and terrified that I did not dare climb over that gate to get out. I remained at home, in fear, until I had a release date that my then-husband determined. The security cameras were strategically placed around that gate to allow him to keep an eye on my comings and goings, recording it on six small television screens within the home and backed up on the Smart House computer system.  

There were years of physical, psychological, emotional, and financial brutality. I would be locked in a bathroom, locked in a closet — a prisoner in my own home — all to disarm me, to break me.

But here I am, despite it all. My life turned out to be one of survival over adversity. It is not one of victimhood. 

Little by little, I mentioned what was going on to people, I started to read, and believe I deserved better.

You can be living in the dark hole of abuse – and not realize how bad it is until you start telling other people what is happening.

The Effects of Coercive Control on Children

Here is a shout out to anyone married to a narcissist. 

They will not want you to leave them, not even when they have a backup plan waiting in the wings in the form of their new supply.

As much as they use isolation to control their victim, narcissists fear abandonment.

If you have children with a narcissist, be prepared for the brainwashing of those children. The narcissist’s lies will be spewed and repeated, eventually destroying the relationship between you and the very children you love so dearly.  

When a narcissist knows you are on to them, they will use whatever will hurt you the most to get you back in line.

You can become isolated from the children who were once your entire world – alienated.

During the last few years living under the same roof, my ex did all in his power to separate and isolate me from the children I cherished. He wanted me to be as alone as possible.

Total isolation.

Isolation in a COVID-19 World

That word again – isolation. It is a gate that separates you from your children and the world. 

Lately, I’ve gotten so tired of hearing people complain about not seeing their families, not seeing their friends, not going out to restaurants, or on vacations. I’ve become inundated with people whining about how they can’t hug their grandchildren or go on their beloved shopping sprees.

Of course, these times are a challenge. But honestly, I think I’ve lived through worse. I often thank my Higher Power that at this very moment, at this very time – I am not in isolation with the man I was once married to.  

During this harrowing time of health crisis in our world, I am not isolated as I was in my past. This time, my isolation means I choose to stay safe.

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Psycho-Emotional Abuse: The Essential Guide

Psycho-Emotional Abuse | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

PSYCHO-EMOTIONAL ABUSE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE was made to provide you with greater knowledge of this fundamental component of narcissistic abuse.

This information will give you a clear understanding of:

Let’s get started.

What is psycho-emotional abuse?

Psycho-emotional abuse describes any non-physical pattern of behavior that intentionally harms an individual’s mental state and undermines their ability to reach their full potential. It is a portmanteau of psychological and emotional abuse.

This kind of abuse can occur within a variety of contexts. For example, it can take place in intimate partner relationships, in family relationships, in friendships, in the workplace, etcetera.

Above all it is used to manipulate and control another person or people.

Neglect, hostility, sabotage, indifference, false concern

Other definitions of psycho-emotional abuse

Dr. Marti Tamm Loring defines psycho-emotional abuse as, “An ongoing process in which one individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another.”

Professor Dorota Iwaniec describes it as hostile or indifferent behavior which:

  • Damages the individual’s self-esteem,
  • Debases their sense of achievement,
  • Diminishes their sense of belonging,
  • Prevents their healthy and vigorous development, and 
  • Takes away the individual’s well-being.
Dorota Iwaniec

Characteristics of psycho-emotional abuse

Psycho-emotional abuse is subtle and can be tricky to spot – even by the person experiencing it!

Abusers often disguise their malice as good intentions, which confuses the person they target and deceives most bystanders.

At times, the aggression is overt and takes place in front of witnesses. However, in these instances most people do not understand the nature of this kind of aggression and so they fail to recognize that abuse is taking place. 

Some of its characteristics are:

  1. It is a pattern of behavior.
  2. The harm it causes is deliberate and intentional.
  3. The target experiences the behavior as harmful.
  4. The abuse may be overt or covert.
  5. It may or may not occur in the context of conflict.
  6. It may not immediately seem aggressive.
  7. The aggressor may camouflage the abuse as caring, love, or humor.
  8. The targeted person’s vulnerabilities are exploited to cause them to feel confused, insecure, and unsure of themselves.
  9. It may manifest as neglect.
  10. The abuse causes harm to the targeted individual’s well-being.

Abusers are cunning enough to understand that psychological abuse is a bloodless crime which usually enables them to escape accountability for the harm and devastation they cause.

This is because the theatre of the abuser’s aggression is not visible to the naked eye.

While the recipient of the abuse has no physical symptoms, the emotional wounds may be catastrophic.

Pattern of behavior, malicious, deliberate, exploitative, camouflage

What causes psycho-emotional abuse?

There are many reasons why psycho-emotional abuse may occur. The abuser’s behavior is often rooted in envy, fragility, and aggression.

A common occurrence is when an aggressive and/or narcissistic person feels intimidated by the presence of someone who they believe has qualities or privileges they do not. They may seek to resolve these painful feelings by asserting dominance over the person they regard as a threat. 

In some instances, the abuser is externalizing their toxic shame and placing their burden on the victim. In this way, the abuse strips away the authentic identity of the target and assigns to them a new one that encompasses the parts of the abuser’s persona which they despise and reject.

What are the effects of psycho-emotional abuse?

The cumulative effect of psycho-emotional abuse is the erosion of the recipient’s self-worth and trust in their judgment.

Some of the specific consequences may include:

  • Confusion
  • Self-blame
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of failure
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Self-sabotage

Abusers often compound the damage they do by refusing to recognize the right of the targeted person to feel hurt, wronged, or angry.

They use a variety of tactics to convince the person they target that they brought the abuser’s aggression on themselves.

They defend their aggression and escape accountability through the process of scapegoating. This is done by using the targeted individual’s vulnerability to excuse the abuse. By blaming the person they victimize, they absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.

Abusers often silence targets by using threats and intimidation. They enlist agents to gang up on the target. The result is that the targeted individual may experience fearanxietydread, and panic

Prolonged psycho-emotional abuse can lead to adverse health outcomes. It may cause chronic anxiety which can impact the targeted person’s physical and psychological well-being. Over time, this may cause depressioncomplex post-traumatic stress, and auto-immune disorders.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Comparisons to Coercive Control

Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse are both power- and control tactics.

Psycho-emotional abuse may refer to harm inflicted on men, women, and children by abusive men, women, and children.

Coercive Control originated as a descriptor, Dr. Evan Stark, used to describe the entrapment and subjugation of women. It points to a specific kind of gender-based violence, namely how abusive men prevent women from “freely developing their personhood, utilizing their capacities, or practicing citizenship.”

Coercive Control may include isolation, monitoring, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and bodily harm.

Dr.Stark underscores that Coercive Control is more akin to hostage-taking and kidnapping.

“We must stop characterising Coercive Control as only psychological abuse,” Forensic criminologist Dr.Jane Monckton Smith of Gloucestershire University explains, “Psychological abuse is a method used by controlling people to exert and maintain control. Coercive Control is a campaign made up of any or all of these things which then trap people in a relationship, and make it impossible or dangerous to leave.”

Gaslighting is the distortion of another person’s reality. It’s purpose is to undermine their sense of self-mastery. It is a feature of Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse.

Psycho-emotional abuse has legal status in France and Canada as harcèlement moral and harcèlement psychologique ou sexuel. It was criminalized in 2010.

The United Kingdom recognizes Coercive Control as criminal behavior. Laws prohibiting coercive and controlling behavior came in to force in 2015. The legislation is gender-neutral and applies to anyone experiencing entrapment and domination.

The Kingdom of Sweden recognizes Coercive Control as the crime våld i nära relationer.

Relationship to narcissistic abuse

Psycho-emotional abuse is one of the two fundamental components of narcissistic abuse. The other is Coercive Control.

Now It’s Your Turn 

That wraps up Psycho-Emotional Abuse: The Definitive Guide.

Now, it’s your turn to have your to say:

What part of this guide resonated with your lived experience?

Do you think you have a better understanding of this kind of abuse after reading this guide?

Do you understand how it works in the context of narcissistic abuse?

Share your insight by leaving a comment below.

Bibliography

Loring, Marti Tamm. “Emotional Abuse: the Trauma and Treatment.” San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1998.

Iwaniec, Dorota. “The Emotionally Abused and Neglected Child Identification, Assessment and Intervention; a Practice Handbook. Chichester: Wiley, 2008.

Strecker, Peter John. “I Wish That He Hit Me: The Experiences of People Who Have Been Psychoemotionally Abused and Have Psychoemotionally Abused Others.” Victoria University, March 2012.

Stark, Evan. “Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Monkcton Smith, Jane. “Coercive Control is Not Just Psychological Abuse.” Forensic Criminology: Working in Homicide Prevention, 2020.

“C-PTSD Academic Research Material.” Out of the Storm. Accessed May 5, 2020.

* Editor’s Note: This is article is an except from the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship.’ To download your FREE copy, subscribe to our Mailing List.

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