An introduction to the issue of battered womens syndrome and the theories of domestic violence

However, inas part of the Violence Against Women Actthe United States Congress ordered an investigation into the role of battered woman syndrome expert testimony in the courts to determine its validity and usefulness. The decision to change this terminology was based on a changing body of research indicating there is more than one pattern to battering and a more inclusive definition was necessary to more accurately represent the realities of domestic violence.

An introduction to the issue of battered womens syndrome and the theories of domestic violence

Critique of the "Battered Woman Syndrome" Model

According to this theory, men who abused their wives were mentally ill and could be cured through medication or psychiatric treatment. Researchers found, however, that the behavior of perpetrators of domestic violence did not correspond to profiles of individuals who were mentally ill.

Batterers attack only their intimate partners. People who suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia do not limit their violence to their intimate partners. Initial studies also characterized battered women as mentally ill.

In reality, however, battered women are not mentally ill, and many of those who were institutionalized were misdiagnosed because of a failure to recognize or understand the physical and psychological effects of domestic violence.

Researchers next theorized that violence was learned. They argued that men battered because they had learned violence in their families as children, and women sought out abusive men because they saw their mothers being abused.

Yet women who witness domestic violence are not any more likely to be battered as adults. A recent study reported by the Family Violence Prevention Fund does indicate, however, that women who were physically or sexually abused as children may be more likely to be abused as adults.

Although research does show that boys who witness abuse in the home are seven times more likely to batter, many men who witnessed violence as children vow not to use violence and do not grow up to be batterers.

A more consistent explanation for the relationship between witnessing and battering is that witnessing is one of many sources of information; men also receive information from the larger society that it is appropriate to control your wife and to enforce this control through violence. Further, as emphasized in batterers treatment programsboys who witnessed domestic violence and grew up to be batterers learned more than just violence; rather, they learned—and thus can unlearn—lessons about the respective roles of men and women that contribute to their abusive behavior as adults.

For example, many believed that men are abusive when they drink because the alcohol causes them to lose control. These theorists argued that gendered societal expectations prevented men from expressing anger and frustration; these feelings would build up until the man lost control and released his feelings through the use of violence.

Batterers also chose their tactics carefully—some destroy property, some rely on threats of abuse, and some threaten children. In fact, a recent study reported by the Family Violence Prevention Fund indicates that many batterers become more controlled and calm as their aggressiveness increases.

Lenore Walker, a psychologist in the United States, studied the behavior of women who stay in violent relationships. Walker hypothesized that women stay in abusive relationships because constant abuse strips them of the will to leave.

The learned helplessness theory, however, did not account for the fact that there are many social, economic and cultural reasons a woman might chose to stay in an abusive relationship.

Women often have very rational reasons for staying—they may fear retaliation against themselves or their children, or they may not be able to financially support themselves or their children.

They may be ostracized by their family and community if they leave. Further, the learned helplessness theory is inconsistent with the fact that women surviving in abusive relationships attempt to leave many times and routinely act in very conscious ways to try to minimize the abuse directed at them and to protect their children.

In the beginning, they are generally not attempting to end the relationship, but are negotiating to reestablish the relationship on a non-violent basis. In addition, the learned helplessness theory was based on perceived characteristics ostensibly shared by battered women, such as low self esteem, a tendency to withdraw, or perceptions of loss of control.

The first episode of violence is generally minor; victims may be surprised and shocked, and may not anticipate that it will occur again.

For some this realization comes fairly quickly while others take longer to overcome such culturally constructed notions. These theories were inconsistent with the fact that women had very rational reasons for staying in relationships.

In addition, while battered women may be subject to an increased risk of substance abuse, this is a consequence, not a cause, of the abuse. This theory was based on the belief that men did not express their frustration and anger because they had been taught not to show their feelings.

Many women never experienced a honeymoon period. Others stated that there was no gradual build-up of tension, but rather unpredictable, almost random, episodes of battering.

This theory also did not explain why men directed their explosions of rage only against their intimate partners. Dobash, Women, Violence and Social Change, Nor does this model account for instances in which a husband explodes over trivial issues or starts beating his wife while she is asleep.

An Overview of the Problem The Power and Control Wheel describes the different tactics an abuser uses to maintain power and control over his partner. In an abusive relationships, the batterer uses the pattern of tactics described in the Power and Control Wheel to reinforce his use of physical violence.

Violent incidents are not isolated instances of a loss of control, or even cyclical expressions of anger and frustration.Battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a mental disorder that develops in victims of domestic violence as a result of serious, long-term abuse.

BWS is dangerous primarily because it can lead to what some scholars say is "learned helplessness" – or psychological paralysis – where the victim becomes so depressed, defeated, and . FOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL STAGES OF THE BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME DENIAL The woman refuses to admit--even to herself--that she has been beaten or that there is a "problem" in her marriage.

The battered women cycle reveals one of the most signifying characteristics of the syndrome; no matter how bad the explosive act is in regards to violence or emotional damage, the woman tends to stay in the abusive relationship for .

However, in domestic violence cases the "courts have focused on a syndrome model to the exclusion of other research that, though less legally convenient, more accurately depicts the social and psychological consequences of domestic violence" (Schuller & Hastings, in press).

This article investigates how the social work literature has been affected by new theories of domestic violence and analyzes the impact that these theories have had on practice with battered women.

An introduction to the issue of battered womens syndrome and the theories of domestic violence

In the s, wife abuse became a concern of sociologists, feminists, and family theorists. These decisive acts brought the issue of domestic abuse to the public's attention and left many Massachusetts residents, lawyers and judges struggling to define battered women's syndrome.

In order to help these individuals define battered women's syndrome, the origins and development of the three primary theories of the syndrome and .

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