Home Gesundheit Was ist das Battered-Woman-Syndrom?

Was ist das Battered-Woman-Syndrom?

von NFI Redaktion

Often, someone may ask when hearing about a woman who has been repeatedly abused by her partner: „Why does she stay with them?“

**Get Help**
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 800-787-3224 (TTY) at any time.

The answer is extremely complex, but some answers can be found by understanding a condition known as Battered Woman Syndrome, which is considered a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychologist Lenore Walker, EdD, coined the term in her groundbreaking 1979 book: The Battered Woman.

„Battered Woman Syndrome refers to the psychological effects of living with violence in the partnership,“ says Walker. She notes that Battered Woman Syndrome is not a mental illness, but a result of living with trauma day in and day out. However, PTSD, which is often experienced by people with Battered Woman Syndrome, is considered a mental illness.

The physical, sexual, and psychological abuse occurs in cycles, says Walker. Tension builds, leading to an outburst of violence, followed by an apology from the abuser and a promise to do better. And then the cycle starts over.

Battered Woman Syndrome also includes „coercive control,“ where the partner must know where she is at all times, cuts her off from friends and family, and maintains financial control so she does not have the means to leave. Partners may not only threaten to kill the woman, her children, other relatives, or pets if she leaves, but also threaten to kill themselves.

The Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) affects all populations, with the most common risk factor simply being a woman, says Walker.

Consider these statistics:
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner (a heterosexual or same-sex spouse, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend) each year.
According to the CDC, about one in five women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point.

Men can also be abused by their partners, and sometimes the term „Battered Person Syndrome“ is used. However, according to Walker, there is not enough research to determine if men experience the same psychological effects as women from abuse in partnerships. „We cannot assume it’s the same syndrome because men and women have different levels of power in society,“ she says.

Research shows that women who were sexually or physically abused as children and/or witnessed their own mother being abused by a partner are more likely to enter an abusive relationship as adults.

Walker describes eight criteria that define BWS:
1. Intrusive memories
2. Fear
3. Avoidance
4. Cognitive changes
5. Disorders in other relationships
6. Health and body image problems
7. Sex issues
8. Dissociation

„So many people say, ‚Why doesn’t she just leave?'“ says Walker. „But the most dangerous time in a tumultuous relationship is the time of separation.“ If you feel you are experiencing domestic violence from someone claiming to care for you, you must assess your safety and circumstances and then decide how to best address it.

Steps you can take:
1. Create a safety plan.
2. Seek help from a community resource, such as a domestic violence shelter, place of worship, hospital, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) for guidance.
3. Consider therapy to aid in healing.

As impossible as it may seem when in an abusive relationship, there is a way to build a new life, says Walker. „Part of the treatment is to help women decide what they want in a relationship,“ says Walker. „Most women were doing fine until they got involved with the batterer. We try to help them become more independent and confident.“

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