Written evidence originally submitted in an e-mail on 5th July 2018 to the House of Commons Home Affairs Enquiry on Domestic Abuse
I experienced psychological abuse, not physical, in the last four years of a long marriage (14 years) that was marred by my ex-husband’s descent into a rare form of mental illness. He didn’t tell me during the marriage, but he told me after he left, that he suffered from time to time from gender dysphoria and had done so all his life. He had been apparently normal: an independent professional man, able to earn his living and sustain friendships and work relationships. But this disorder, which can apparently be triggered at will, alters the perception of the sufferer and causes him to sever or completely alter all previous emotional relationships over a number of years. He told me absolutely nothing about his condition.
During our marriage I observed that over a period of 10 years he fought and drove away all his business and personal friends, leaving him dependent on savings to live on. I was, of course, increasingly worried by his bizarre and destructive behaviour. But when I asked what was happening he waved away my questions and refused to say anything.
He finally left us – two children aged 10 and 12 and myself – in 2006, which is 12 years ago, saying: “It’s true. I’m a transsexual”. I had absolutely no preparation for this announcement, nor any understanding of what it would mean for us. Like a time-bomb, it was only 18 months later that I suffered the worst panic attacks I have ever had and needed psychotherapy to relieve and control them. In this period my husband gradually refused to talk on the phone, to e-mail, to have any contact at all with me. I slowly realised that I was alone, responsible for 2 young children, and my financial position was uncertain because he might stop paying essential funding for the children.
Gaslighting: For more than 4 years before he left I had been subjected to “gaslighting”. This is an American term which describes a form of sustained, gradually increasing taunting. He repeatedly attempted to destabilise me by unremitting taunting in order to make me hit him, but I did not. He never stopped. It was as if he was deaf: I could not get through to him. He had, I now understand, no “insight” and I simply could not get him to stop or understand that taunting is an attack, that he was acting in an irrational and utterly destructive way, and was destroying our relationship. His psychological abuse caused me to loose confidence in everything except my ability to look after my children. I became fearful and anxious and utterly bewildered. But deep down I was also angry at his manipulation.
After he left I had to conduct some kind of dialogue by e-mail with someone who was by then trying to rewrite history to suit his “new truth”. Apart from mourning the loss of my marriage, I have been on a steep learning curve about gender dysphoria for the last 12 years.
The offences in the 2015 Serious Crime Act S76 describe “Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship or marriage”. They perhaps do not include the forms of taunting which I have described. I would like to ensure that S76 does cover severe taunting to provoke the victim to violence. As it happened my ex-husband’s behaviour occurred before the Act came into force and the Metropolitan Police were unable to prosecute him. But the police did hold out hope for a prosecution if he repeated his behaviour.
Transsexual men attack their wives and partners by severe taunting, by gaslighting in order to break the relationship. It is a serious psychological attack which destroys women’s lives. I am lucky that I analysed my situation more rationally than others and that I used my anger to read and learn.
Gaslighting should be explicitly covered by S76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.