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Shelter: (605) 996-2765 Hotline: (605) 996-4440 Visitation Center: 605-996-8880

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Inside this issue:

  • Pam Boline Memorial
  • Salad Luncheon
  • Marilyn's Message


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What is Gaslighting?

This type of psychological abuse leaves survivors questioning every memory they have.

You’re overreacting. It wasn’t that bad.

You’re just being emotional

That never happened—you’re imagining it

When these accusations are a part of a regular barrage of criticism aimed at controlling an individual they’re more than rude—they’re abusive.

Called ‘gaslighting,” this type of abuse uses statements like the above to create doubt in a person’s mind by making them think, basically, that they’re going insane says, Janie McMahan, licensed marriage and family therapist.

The name comes from a ‘30s play called Gas Light in which the main character attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights in their home, which were powered by gas, and then denies the lights are changing.

“This type of psychological abuse is part of the power and control found in domestic abuse,” says McMahan. “Gaslighting makes (survivors) doubt themselves and not see the real issue, which is that they’re being abused. It’s not uncommon that, after a while a survivor will start to think, ‘Well, is this right? Am I really not justified in feeling this way?’” says McMahan.

Gaslighting is often found in conjunction with other types of abuse, such as physical or verbal. Abusers may try to convince the survivor that what they remember happening, in fact, never did. Or, abusers will ask their partners. “Why can’t you just get over it?”

McMahan says gaslighting may also come at the start of a relationship. Abusers want their partners to begin doubting themselves from the get-go. “They (survivors) begin thinking they’re a little bit ‘off.’ Emotionally and mentally,” says McMahan. Essentially, they begin thinking they can’t trust their instincts. Their self-esteem can plummet. They feel less than the other person—less intelligent, less capable. McMahan says it can lead to the survivor not having a sense of self, believing they no longer have an identity or a voice. “It keeps them in these relationships,” McMahan says.

What to Do

First, seek support and guidance or simply talk to an advocate about what is happening by calling the Safehouse Crisis Line 605-996-4440.

Next, try to document what is happening. Write abusive incidents down in a journal that you can hide in a safe place (such as your office or a friend’s house so that your abuser can’t find it). This can help you recognize a pattern of gaslighting.

If gaslighting comes early on in a relationship, know that the relationship is not good and get out before other types of abuse follow.

Lastly, know that gaslighting is a type of manipulation and anyone can fall victim.


Victim Advocacy: volunteers needed to serve as on-call advocates. Primary responsibility is to provide emotional support and referral information to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Advocates carry the hotline cell phone according to the scheduled time (weekends or evenings) and respond to calls during that period.

Advocates must be 21 years of age.

12 hours of training required.


Fundraising and Awareness: volunteers needed to help with community awareness and fundraising projects.

Donations and Shelter Duties: volunteers needed to sort and manage donations of clothing and household items.
For more information please contact:
Marilyn Haley
Coleen Smith

Shelter: (605) 996-2765  •  Hotline: (605) 996-4440  •  Visitation Center: 605-996-8880

Mitchell Area Safehouse and Family Visitation Center
1809 North Wisconsin, Mitchell, South Dakota 57301