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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Sexual assault often results in gaslighting. In this paper, gaslighting refers to the process whereby a perpetrator (gaslighter) uses illusory evidence so that the victim (gaslightee) is led to misconstrue reality. It is well known in empirical studies that this form of psychological maniplulation often occurs in sexual assault. From this established cultural pattern of gaslighting in relation to sexual assault, I derive a secondary and related notion: self-gaslighting. In my argument, self-gaslighting refers to a circumstance where the survivor of sexual assault self-induces themselves as the gaslighter and the gaslightee. The conditions that provoke this self-destructive behavior are rooted in a skewed cultural ecology that transcends mere self-blame. This ecology eliminates the need for the actual perpetrator of sexual assault to be present for self-gaslighting to occur. Self-gaslighting is dependent upon this culturally induced and sustained ecology whereby the victim of sexual assault convinces themselves that they are to blame and at fault. Internalizing this process supersedes surface level consequences and severely damages a person’s agency. Using a feminist lens derived from the Latin American philosophers Mariana Ortega and Maria Lugones, I will attempt to offer a way out of these self-perpetuating and culturally supported patterns. Ortega and Lugones have developed an ontology and epistemology of person-hood that challenges these dominant culturally induced thoughts which infiltrate the minds of those impacted by sexual assault. I argue that this alternative feminist ontology and epistemology allows for the possibility of liberation from this skewed cultural ecology.

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