Battered Woman Syndrome – What Are the Characteristics?

By Su Ericksen

Sebastian B. Macaw

According to Dr. Lenore E. Walker, a prominent expert on battered women, a woman must experience at least two complete battering cycles before she can be labeled a “battered woman”. The cycle has three phases. 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.

Battered woman syndrome describes a set of symptoms found in woman living in battering relationships. The four general characteristics are:

  • The woman believe it’s her fault
  • The woman’s inability to place the responsibility of the violence elsewhere
  • The woman fears for her life and/or her childrens’ lives.
  • The woman has the belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

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, learned helplessness.

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:

  1. Accept responsibility for the abuse
  2. Understand the use of abuse to control partner
  3. Understand the level of emotional dependency on the part of the abuser
  4. Gain the ability to recognize low levels of anger and to use anger management techniques
  5. Have empathy for the victim

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.

Su Ericksen is a first degree TaeKwonDo black belt and has taught self defense workshops. She lives in the Midwest with her family and works at a large medical center in the cardiology clinic. To read more on this subject please visit: Battered Woman Syndrome.

You may contact her through her website. Self

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