Dating Violence Awareness Month: Examining the 2022 Word of the Year


By John Finefrock | Rise Above Violence

Merriam-Webster’s 2022 Word of the Year was “gaslighting,” a term that’s defined as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage” or “to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” 

At Rise Above Violence, gaslighting in intimate relationships is a form of coercive control we feel the community should know more about. references gaslighting as, “Psychological abuse so subtle, you may not even realize it’s happening.” Gaslighting can include a range of tactics including lying, distracting, minimizing, denying and blaming.

The term comes from a 1938 play and 1940 motion picture where an emotionally abusive husband attempts to trick his new wife into thinking that she’s losing her mind. One tactic he uses is telling her that the gaslights in their home, which dim when he’s in the attic, don’t die down at all. Not only does he disrupt her environment and make her believe she is insane, but he also isolates, abuses and controls her, cutting her off from family and friends.

Additionally, before the couple attends a piano recital, the husband intentionally puts his pocket watch into his wife’s purse, unbeknownst to her. During the performance, he whispers to his wife that he’s lost his watch and looks into her purse, where he finds it, inferring that she purposely stole it. She storms out of the recital in a panic, thinking she must be out of her mind.

Note: Domestic violence happens to both men and women. One in four women and one in seven men will be victims of severe intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to

One survivor of domestic violence characterized their experience with gaslighting like this: “It wasn’t the loudest and scariest explosions that caused the most damage. It wasn’t the physical violence or the verbal abuse or the lack of boundaries and inappropriate behavior. What did the real damage was the denial that these incidents ever occurred. The erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse.”

If you are experiencing gaslighting, here are some tips you can take to protect yourself. Things you might do include:

• Save the evidence. Because gaslighting can make you question yourself, do your best to preserve evidence and documentation of your experiences. Keep a journal, screenshot text conversations or keep emails so you can look back on them and remind yourself that you shouldn’t doubt or question your own experience.

• Set boundaries. Make it clear to the other person that you won’t allow the other person to engage in actions that trivialize or outright deny your experience.

• Get an outside perspective. Talk to a friend, family member, counselor or advocate about what you’re going through. Having another person’s perspective may help lift the fog about the reality of being gaslit.

People experiencing gaslighting may feel anxious, doubtful of themselves and literally crazy. Rise advocates understand this experience and can help you evaluate and overcome your circumstances. Gaslighting and other coercive controlling behaviors can severely undermine your self-esteem and question your mental health. Anyone experiencing this may find it helpful to reach out for help.

Rise is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving around 400 victims each year. Rise also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential, including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs.

Visit for more information or call (970) 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today.