Women’s Aid responds to UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledge to tighten the law on ‘gaslighting’ after the death of Natalie Lewis-Hoyle was raised during Prime Minister’s Question on May 23, 2018.
“Gaslighting” is a form of manipulation that makes the targeted individual question his/her sanity. Since 2015, gaslighting has been a criminal offense that falls under psychological abuse. Gaslighters carry a jail term of five years.
“Gaslighting, which is a form of psychological abuse where the perpetrator manipulates their partner, can make victims doubt themselves, their memories and judgment, and it has a devastating impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse and is, by its very nature, sometimes difficult for victims to recognize. Since coercive control was criminalized in December 2015, there has been a real shift in our understanding about what domestic abuse is,” Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said in a statement.
Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, 28, was the daughter of Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who committed suicide on December 15, 2017, after enduring mental abuse in a coercive relationship. Miriam Lewis, the mother of Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, reported that Natalie was in a “very toxic relationship.”
During the hearing in Chelmsford, Lewis-Hoyle’s parents described her as “…a person that loved life. She was life. She brought life to everybody. She was a tiny person, a teeny, tiny person. She was a pocket rocket. She was just a whole bundle of energy.”
“We are always looking for what more can be done, and we are currently looking in our consultation on transforming the law on domestic abuse and violence. We are looking for ideas on how the offense can be further strengthened to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice,” Mrs. May told the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s vow, Katie Ghose said that even if gaslighting has already been a form of crime, Women’s Aid is aware that there is still lack of knowledge about what form of abuse gaslighting is and the impact it has on its victims.
“Coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse. Yet in 2016, only 57 men and two women were convicted for coercive control offenses. As a result, the full force of the law is yet to be felt for those who continue to perpetuate this appalling crime,” Ghose reported.
Ghose said that Women’s Aid welcomes the Prime Minister’s pledge to toughen the law on gaslighting, as the act will help bring awareness in identifying the form of abuse and how to respond to it. Ghose suggested that more specific examples of gaslighting must be included in the statutory definition that will be included in the Domestic Abuse Bill. Afterward, she suggested that it must be strengthened by “robust and ongoing domestic abuse training.” Moreover, the chief executive also suggested that all police staff should ensure that they could identify and respond to domestic abuse, especially coercive control.
“Without sustainable funding for all domestic abuse support services to underpin the Domestic Abuse Bill, more women and children will be put at risk. If the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill is effective, this will only drive demand for support from domestic abuse services. That’s why we’re calling on the government to give survivors a cast-iron guarantee that they will not go ahead with planned changes to how refugees will be funded, which threaten these life-saving services with closure,” Ghose added.
Ghose says that Women’s Aid would like to work with the government in establishing a sustainable funding model for all specialist domestic abuse services, including refugees. “So that every survivor and child can live a life free from abuse.”