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Battered Women’s Syndrome

Battered Women’s Syndrome is considered to be a form of Post-Traumatic Stress. Battered Women’s Syndrome is a recognized psychological condition that is used to describe someone who has been the victim of consistent and/or severe domestic violence. To be classified as a battered woman, a woman has to have been through two cycles of abuse.

What is a Cycle of Abuse?

A Cycle of abuse is abuse that occurs in a repeating pattern. Abuse is identifiable as being cyclical in two ways: it is both generational and episodic. Generational cycles of abuse are passed down, by example and exposure, from parents to children. Episodic abuse occurs in a repeating pattern within the context of at least two individuals within a family system. It may involve spousal abuse, child abuse, or even elder abuse.

A son, who is repeatedly either verbally or physically abused by his father, will predictably treat his own children in the same way. When a daughter hears her mother frequently tear down, belittle, and criticize her father, she will adapt a learned behavior which involves control through verbal abuse. Similarly, a child who witnesses his parents engaging in abusive behaviors toward one another, will very likely subject his or her spouse to the same abusive patterns. These are examples of generational abuse.

The episodic cycle of abuse is characterized by distinct periods of behavior that eventually result in an extreme episode of verbal and/or physical abuse. Typically, victims of episodic abuse live in denial of this reoccurring pattern.

Stages of Battered Women's Syndrome

There are generally four stages in the battered women’s syndrome.

Stage One–Denial

Stage one of battered women's syndrome occurs when the battered woman denies to others, and to herself, that there is a problem. Most battered women will make up excuses for why their partners have an abusive incident. Battered women will generally believe that the abuse will never happen again.

Stage Two–Guilt

Stage two of battered women's syndrome occurs when a battered woman truly recognizes or acknowledges that there is a problem in her relationship. She recognizes she has been the victim of abuse and that she may be beaten again. During this stage, most battered women will take on the blame or responsibility of any beatings they may receive. Battered women will begin to question their own characters and try harder to live up their partners “expectations.”

Stage Three-Enlightenment

Stage three of battered women's syndrome occurs when a battered woman starts to understand that no one deserves to be beaten. A battered woman comes to see that the beatings she receives from her partner are not justified. She also recognizes that her partner has a serious problem. However, she stays with her abuser in an attempt to keep the relationship in tact with hopes of future change.

Stage Four–Responsibility

Stage four of battered women's syndrome occurs when a battered woman recognizes that her abuser has a problem that only he can fix. Battered women in this stage come to understand that nothing they can do or say can help their abusers. Battered women in this stage choose to take the necessary steps to leave their abusers and begin to start new lives.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. They will direct you to safe places in your area where you can seek help.

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