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What If Someone Accuses You of Gaslighting Them?

By San Diego Attorney on February 10, 2023

Gaslighting is the act of psychologically manipulating another person to the point that they begin to doubt their sanity. The essence of gaslighting is to exercise control over another person, and may include denying an incident even occurred. When gaslighting is associated with acts of domestic violence, it poses problems both for the accused and the alleged victim.

Is Gaslighting a Crime?

While gaslighting is not a crime in and of itself it may be considered a red flag when it comes to a case of domestic abuse. Under California law, any type of willful conduct that causes another person emotional distress, through words or acts intended to control, intimidate, or subjugate another person through fear could lead to domestic violence charges for emotional abuse. Under Senate Bill no. 1141, Chapter 248, “coercive control” is a crime. These crimes include the following elements:

  • Isolation a person from friends, relatives, or other types of support.
  • Depriving the victim of basic necessities.
  • Ongoing control, regulation, or monitoring of another person’s movements, behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services.
  • Compelling another person through threats, intimidation, or force (including threats regarding immigration status) to alter their behavior in ways they have a right to act.

When are Charges for Domestic Violence Charged When no Injury Occurred?

Most couples will admit to having arguments, at least occasionally. An argument, or words spoken in the heat of the moment will not lead to a charge of domestic violence, certain types of actions will come under the scrutiny of a prosecutor. These include:

  • Criminal threats: If one person in a domestic relationship makes threats to harm, or even kill another, even if spoken in anger, if the victim claims they were in fear for their life, charges may be filed.
  • Stalking: Stalking, under state law, involves following, harassing, or threatening another person, causing them to be in reasonable fear of harm or death.
  • Felony trespass: When a person goes to the workplace of another, or into their homes within thirty days of making a threat, leaving the person in fear of imminent harm, charges of aggravated trespassing may be filed, even when no violent act was committed.
  • Cyber stalking: Harassing another person online, such as posting intimate photos, or what is commonly called “revenge porn,” or other harmful online content can lead to charges of cyber harassment if these actions cause the person to fear for their own safety, or the safety of a family member.

Gaslighting and Domestic Violence Charges: The Consequences

If you are accused of domestic violence, the evidence regarding gaslighting may be part of the narrative of a prosecutor’s case against you. Even if untrue, exaggerated, or presented in an effort to damage your reputation, you will be forced to defend yourself.

James N. Dicks, the founder of jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, formerly served in the Los Angeles Police Department as an investigator. The California Board of Legal Specialization has certified him as a Criminal Law Specialist  In defending his clients, Mr. Dicks calls upon his many years of experience as a police officer and narcotics investigator. If you are accused of committing an act of domestic violence, contact the firm at once at (760) 630-2000.

Civil Consequences of Gaslighting

If an alleged victim of gaslighting attempts to prove you engaged in abusive behavior, you may be facing a restraining order, which restricts where you can go, including to your own home. A restraining order may make it illegal for you to contact the person, or own a firearm or ammunition, even when the allegations are exaggerated or untrue.

A civil case could be filed against you if it is claimed that you inflicted intentional emotional distress through extreme or outrageous acts of harassment, and the alleged victim claims to have suffered damages – such as emotional distress, nightmares, sleeplessness, or other emotional consequences. Cases involving “revenge porn” now allow a victim to file a claim in civil court related to “non-consensual image sharing.” These claims can lead to financial damages being awarded to the victim if the accused is not aggressively and intelligently defended.

Accused of gaslighting in San Diego? Contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys today to speak with our domestic violence defense attorney before your case progresses any further through the justice system. Call today at (760) 630-2000.

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