Battered Woman Syndrome describes a set of symptoms found in women living in battering relationships. According to a prominent expert on battered women, Dr. Lenore E. Walker, a woman must experience at least two complete battering cycles before she can be labeled a “battered woman”.
According to a prominent expert on battered women,
Dr. Lenore E. Walker, a woman must experience at least two complete
battering cycles before she can be labeled a “battered woman”.
First the tension-building phase, followed by the explosion or acute battering incident,
then the calm, loving respite- often referred to as the honeymoon phase.
Women need to know that according to research spousal abuse does not typically stem from a problem with the relationship, but instead begins with the man’s emotional insecurities, low self-esteem and abusive behaviors witnessed in his childhood.
There are many reasons a woman would stay in an abusive relationship. Among them:
reinforcement during the honeymoon stage after being beaten,
loss of self-esteem,
women feel they are the peacekeepers in a relationship,
adverse financial consequences,
threats from the batterer to kill self or children,
Many of these women still love the abuser even after they
leave, by whatever methods. But they must understand that in order for
the battering spouse to change he must go through a two step process to get help for his abusiveness.
First he must suffer negative consequences for the violent behavior and then he must go through specialized spouse abuse counseling. If drugs or alcohol were involved he must also be treated for the addiction.
The batterer must believe and accept these five concepts:
Let’s examine the legal implications of BWS. It
was first proposed in the 1970’s. According to Joe Wheeler Dixon, PhD,
JD Battered Woman's Syndrome appears to be the product of legal advocacy and not science. BWS
seems to owe its existence to the needs of legal advocates to support
and justify claims by battered women who have killed (their batterers).
The defense revolves around the woman’s mental deficiency and helplessness. Learned helplessness can be induced in lab animals, but no sudden rage or aggression.
So, a battered woman kills her abusing husband. She doesn’t do it during a beating, thereby being able to claim self defense; she probably can’t, he’s too strong.
While he is awake and watching
her, she suffers from learned helplessness; he has brainwashed her into
thinking she is helpless and worthless. She perhaps she kills him in his
sleep because that’s the only time she can overpower him.
This is where the Battered Woman Syndrome came into play.
Her defense claims it was a form of self defense. Where one might agree
with that, the fact is she took a life. He received no trial for his
crime. Perhaps she did what she felt she needed to do, but she must also
take responsibility for her actions.
In court, expert testimonial regarding domestic violence can by used for various purposes: to demonstrate the defendant is a battered woman, to explain an abused woman’s state of mind and/or conduct or to support a claim or the validity of a particular defense.
Experts have acknowledged that Battered Woman Syndrome is considered a subcategory of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but not a mental disease in the context of insanity.
According to Mary Ann Dutton, Ph.D.’s “Critique of the Battered Woman Syndrome” Expert testimonial concerning battering and its effects cannot adequately rely on a single construct such as Battered Woman Syndrome: the comprehensive body of existing knowledge cannot be so condensed. Instead focus should be on identifying the specific questions relevant to the issues at hand for which there is a body of knowledge to support a valid conclusion.
authoritative study states that children who witness domestic violence
but at not battered themselves show behavioral and emotional problems
similar to those experienced by physically abused children and may also
suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome later.
One study states that witnessing violence between parents is a more predictor of future violence than being of victim of child abuse.
The children see that this behavior is acceptable by their
most important role models. Boys learn that battering is a way to
influence loved ones, without being exposed to more constructive
alternatives. As they grow up boys tend to identify with their fathers
and lose respect for their mother or feel guilty for not being able to
Domestic violence becomes a factor in custody cases. Psychological studies have demonstrated three reasons why the battered woman is more likely to be a better custodial parent than her abusive spouse:
We’ve all heard about cases where the battered mother did not protect her children from abuse by the batterer. In one case the expert described Battered Woman Syndrome as "a breaking down of a woman’s self confidence and self respect to a point where she no longer knows of she is crazy or not." BWS was used in one case to demonstrate that the mother did not have the ability protect her child from the father’s sexual abuse.
Once outside of the abusive relationship a woman can overcome the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness that were brainwashed into her while being in an abusive relationship. Courts have granted modification of a consent decree to change custody from father to mother when the mother later was able to demonstrate that the consent decree was signed under duress, that the father battered her during the marriage and he used inappropriate discipline with the children.
If you or someone you know needs help getting out of an abusive relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hour tool-free number:(800) 799-7233. You must get out of the relationship and these people are experts ready to help.
Even when children are not physically harmed in domestic abuse, the negative effects are complicated and long lasting.