Health and Wellness Associates
Intimate Partner Violence
Battered Woman’s Syndrome
Women who are victims of intimate-partner violence have been identified by the mental health field for more than 30 years now. It is understood that domestic violence is part of gender violence, and that many more women than men are the victims of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
Even when women strike back or engage in mutual violence, it is usually the woman who is most likely to be hurt—both physically and emotionally. Women who strike back in self-defense are often arrested along with the batterer.
It is further understood that gender violence is fostered by the socialization of men to be more powerful than women. In some men, this process creates the need to abuse power and to control women. While the term “victim” is not always considered politically correct, in fact, until battered women take back some control over their lives, they may not truly be considered survivors.
Psychological symptoms, called battered woman syndrome (BWS), develop in some women and make it difficult for them to regain control. Mental health professionals have been able to assist these battered women with empowerment techniques and with accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, as described here.
If you are a woman who has suffered from gender abuse by your partner and you’ve lived through at least two cycles of being battered, physically or emotionally, you might have what’s known as battered woman syndrome. It may not seem like it now, but you can get help and break the cycle.
Phases of Gender Abuse
In the first phase, tension builds between the two people.
The second phase is an explosion or encounter when the woman is the victim of emotional or physical battering and could be seriously injured physically and psychologically.
The third is when her abuser strikes back! Does something to take control of the other person. This can be in a physical method, even taking something away, or destroying a cell phone, or keeping the other person isolated. The abuser will not usually leave the other person alone.
Some experts see the battering cycle as a circle.
“I draw it as a graph because it repeats itself and keeps getting worse and worse.”
( BWS) battered woman syndrome is a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological disorder that is the result of facing or witnessing a terrifying event. The battered woman is so traumatized by her partner’s abuse that she may believe she is in danger even when she’s safe. It also shows itself as the one being abused can not tell that anything is wrong, and they keep it to themselves.
Why Women Take It
Many battered women stay in abusive relationships. There are a number of reasons why they don’t leave, says Deb Hirschhorn, PhD, a marriage and family therapist in Woodmere, New York, and author of The Healing Is Mutual. They include:
She worries she would have no way to support herself or her children if she left.
She may come from a background of abuse and “is conditioned to look for the good in her partner just as she had to see the good in her parents,” Hirschhorn says.
She truly believes her spouse or partner wants to help and protect her. “It’s a ‘rescue syndrome,’” Hirschhorn says. The battered woman remembers why she fell in love with her partner and believes they can get back to where they began, Walker says.
She’s likely to have low self-esteem. She believes she’s only getting what she deserves.
She also might fear that if her partner learns she wants to leave, it will only heighten the abuse, says Rena Pollak, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Encino, California.
Getting Out of the Abuse Cycle
Talk with your doctor. Discussing your battered woman syndrome symptoms with your doctor is a good idea because your doctor or nurse can give you resources if you don’t know where else to turn, Pollak says.
Seek shelter. Realize that you are not alone and that there are people who can help you, Pollak says. She recommends starting with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has advocates who can speak on the phone or online.
Have a safety plan. Most women can sense danger and when their partner is likely to hurt them. The National Domestic Violence Hotline says that whether you are living in an abusive relationship or planning to leave one, you should have a plan that identifies safe areas of your home where you can go if you need to. If you can’t avoid violence, make yourself small – curl up in a ball and protect your face with your arms.
Work with a counselor. When you are being emotionally abused, a marriage counselor or therapist can help you see your strengths and help you realize it’s not your fault – despite what you’ve heard over and over again from your abuser.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr M Williams
312-972-9311 ( Well)