What is Battered Woman Syndrome?

Often, when people hear of a woman being beaten by her partner, some ask, “Why is she living with them?”

The answer is very difficult, but some answers can be found by understanding a condition called Battered Woman Syndrome, which is thought to be a form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychologist Lenore Walker, EdD, coined the term in her 1979 groundbreaking book, The Growing Lady.

“A woman’s illness is a psychological consequence of living with partner abuse,” Walker said. She explains that battered woman’s syndrome is not a mental illness, but a result when you live each day with pain. However, PTSD, which is most commonly experienced by people with battered woman syndrome, is considered a mental illness.

Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse happens in circles, Walker said. The neck grows, then the abuse comes out, followed by the abuser who forgives and vows to do good. Then the circle begins again.

Battered woman’s illness is also associated with “coercive control,” where the partner must know her place at all times, cut her off from friends and family, and maintains financial power so he has no money to leave. Friends could not only threaten to kill the woman and her children, other families, and animals if she left, but also threatened to kill themselves.

Who is at risk for Battered Woman Syndrome?

Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) cuts across every demographic group, and the most common is women, Walker said.

Consider the following facts:

  • Each year, more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by a partner (heterosexual or same -sex partner, partner, or boyfriend / friend), according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  • About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have a partner who has experienced physical abuse, according to the CDC.

Men are abused by their partners, and the term “battered person syndrome” is sometimes used. But there isn’t enough research to know if men experience the same psychological consequences as women from partner abuse, according to Walker. “We can’t assume it’s the same disease, because men and women have different powers in the community,” she said.

Research shows that women who have been abused as a child and / or have seen their own mother be abused by a partner are more likely to engage in an abusive relationship as a child. parents.

What are the symptoms of Battered Woman Syndrome?

Walker describes eight benchmarks that define BWS:

Application notes: Women with BWS often experience traumatic events that have passed through their minds, feeling as if they are constantly doing it, Walker said. “So you get the psychological effect of past events and what is happening now, more terrifying and terrifying, because there are parts of the original atrocity in the human mind. at the same time.” Intrusive thoughts can come in the form of dreams, flashbacks, and nightmares.

Fear: Women with BWS have a higher level of anxiety and hypervigilance if something doesn’t work out, Walker said. This leads to a fight-and-flight response. That means it starts with noises and other things, frequent crying, and problems with sleep.

Avoid: If a person is unable to get out of a situation, they can separate the heart from what is happening by going into denial, or minimizing what is happening to them and end their feelings, Walker said.

Change of mind: “When you feel like you have to protect yourself all the time, you can feel confused and indifferent,” Walker said. A woman who has been abused by her husband is unable to remember all the details of her abuse and experiences grief.

Researchers have studied the long -term effects of brain injury on women who have been repeatedly beaten and teased by their partners. They found that, not surprisingly, brain injuries from abuse can have long -term effects on memory, learning, and cognition.

Problems with other relationships: A key feature of BWS is that the attacker tries to cut off and protect all the relationships his partner has, so he or she can’t turn to his or her friends or family for help, Walker said. In a survey of women who had experienced partner abuse, 62% said they had been forbidden or socialized with friends or family.

Health and physical problems: Not only is the physical damage from the beating and abuse, but extreme stress and anxiety can lead to physiological symptoms such as headaches and stomach problems. “A lot of the women who were arrested didn’t eat well, because their partner was more powerful to them and they had a very bad body image,” Walker said.

Problems with sex. A person caught up in partner abuse is more likely to have long -term problems with the relationship, even if they come out of the abusive relationship.

Dissociation: Women who are detained often develop a immune system that is able to separate their body during an injury, Walker said.

How to get help

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Yeah, why doesn’t he just leave?'” Walker said. “But the worst time in a stable relationship is in isolation.”

Ruth Glenn, president / CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), gives this advice: be safe, focus on your situation, and then decide on the best way to address it, that is abandonment, or the nature of seeking out. support so you can live in peace until you leave. “

Of course, many women have children or jobs that they cannot leave immediately. The decision to quit was even harder. “The decision to stay with outsiders may not be appropriate,” Glenn said. “But when you have to make decisions about your life, you have to make sure they can make their own assessment.”

You can:

Create a safety plan. Glenn says, “Ask yourself, what can I do to be safe in every situation? That’s how to let a neighbor know if you change the patio light, he’ll call to the police, or bring in a code word so when you call a friend or relative and use that word, they will know they will come and get you. ”

Get help: Find resources in your community that can protect you and provide protection when you leave, such as homeless shelters, places of worship, and hospitals. Call the NCADV hotline (800-799-7233) for more information and guidance.

You can tell a health care provider or doctor. Although they are required by law to report domestic violence, they can talk to you about what is going on and help you make a safety plan.

Calling 911 is an option, of course – but in many cases, people who are considered by their partner are afraid to file a report because they are worried about what their partner will do next. If you are afraid to do so, you may want to ask if your local police department has a Victim Services Unit or Special Crimes Unit and contact them directly.

Consider medication to help yourself heal. Medicine can help a survivor of domestic abuse rebuild their life and have healthy relationships. Walker developed a program called Survivor Therapy Empowerment Treatment (STEP), which he described as “a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, feminist therapy, and relationship therapy.” A business advisor is another source of income.

While it’s impossible to know if you’re in an abusive relationship, there is a way to create a new life, Walker said. “Part of caring is trying to help women decide what they want in a relationship,” Walker said. “Most of the women did well until they got involved with the killer. We’re trying to help them become more independent and more empowered.”

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