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Long-term domestic violence or abuse can result in battered woman syndrome (BWS), sometimes termed battered person syndrome. Spousal abuse syndrome and Battered wife syndrome are other names for the same syndrome in which the perpetrator is the spouse, in most reported cases the male. The Battered Woman Syndrome is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Those with battered woman syndrome can experience feelings of helplessness. This can lead individuals to wrongly assume that they deserve to be abused and cannot escape it. In many instances, this is why abuse is not reported to loved ones or the police.

Abuse can affect all ethnicities, genders, ages, socioeconomic classes, and educational levels. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is the term used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to describe abuse that happens inside a romantic relationship. According to the CDC, intimate partner relationships can take many different forms. 

It comprises, but is not restricted to, present or previous partners, dating partners, spouses, sexual partners, and those without a sexual relationship. Relationships can be both same-sex and heterosexual.

If you or anyone you know suffers from battered woman syndrome, understand that it is curable and it is possible to live a fulfilling life. Continue reading to discover additional information about the symptoms and signs of battered woman syndrome as well as its treatment and management.

Battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a combination of signs and symptoms exhibited by a woman who has experienced repeated physical, psychological, or sexual abuse at the hands of her male partner. Even though the diagnosis has primarily focused on women, the phrase battered person syndrome has sometimes been applied to men, particularly as a legal defense.

Nosebleed, a young woman with a bloody nose. Healthcare and medical concept. Copy space for design. Blood is artificial

Battered wife syndrome also comprises “coercive control,” in which the spouse must always know where she is, separates her from family and friends, and keeps financial control so she cannot afford to leave. Partners may warn not only to harm the person and her children, other family members, or pets if she left but also to commit suicide.

The cause of battered woman syndrome is domestic violence. Although it can occur between intimate partners, the phrase “domestic abuse” encompasses other forms of maltreatment, such as child and elder abuse.

In the late 1970s, psychotherapist Lenore Walker introduced the concept of battered woman syndrome.

She wanted to illustrate the particular pattern of conduct and feelings that a victim of abuse may acquire as he or she strives to survive the circumstance.

Walker observed that abusive behavior patterns frequently match those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She explained how battered woman syndrome is a post-traumatic stress disorder specific to their experience.

Abuse among intimate partners often follows a predictable pattern.

Typically, the abuser would woo a new partner by using “love bombing,” extravagant romantic gestures, and early commitment pressure.

The abuser will engage in either physical or emotional abuse. This typically begins with something small, such as a slap rather than a punch or pounding the wall next to their partner.

The abuser will feel horrible, pledge they would never do it again, and become excessively amorous to win back their partner’s affection.

There will be a brief “honeymoon” period, during which the abuser will be on their best behavior, tricking their partner into believing that they would be safe and that things will change.

Abuse occurs again, hence resuming the cycle.

Walker identifies eight characteristics of BWS:

Intrusive and overwhelming memories: People with BWS frequently re-experience horrific past events in their thoughts, as if they are occurring repeatedly. Consequently, you have the psychological influence of prior incidents as well as the current event, which makes the situation even more horrifying because elements of the earlier abuse are still in the person’s memory. Additionally, intrusive thoughts might manifest as flashbacks, nightmares, and daydreams.

Anxiety: Women with BWS experience elevated levels of fear, anxiety, and hyperarousal when something seems amiss. This triggers the fight-or-flight reaction. This could involve being easily frightened by sounds and other stimuli, weeping frequently, and having difficulty sleeping.

Avoidance: When an individual is unable to physically escape a situation, they may psychologically separate themselves from it by adopting denial, downplaying what is occurring, or numbing their feelings.

Cognitive shifts: When you constantly feel the need to defend yourself, you may experience disorientation and a lack of focus. A woman who has been mistreated by her spouse or partner may be unable to recall every aspect of the violence and suffer from depression.

Researchers have investigated the long-term impact of brain injury in women whose partners have frequently battered and strangled them. Not surprisingly, they discovered that recurrent brain damage caused by maltreatment could have lasting impacts on learning, memory, and cognition.

Breakdowns in other relations: A crucial feature of BWS is when the perpetrator attempts to sever or control all of their partner’s relationships so that she cannot turn to her family or friends for assistance. In a survey of women who had suffered intimate partner violence, 62 percent reported that they were either disallowed or rarely allowed to have contact with their friends and family.

Problems with health and body image: Not only do the violence and abuse cause physical harm, but severe stress and worry can also cause physiological symptoms like gastrointestinal issues and headaches. In addition to not eating adequately, many battered women have a severely skewed body image as a result of their partner’s intense control.

Sexual problems: Even after leaving an abusive relationship, a person who has been a victim of intimate partner abuse may continue to have difficulties with intimacy.

Dissociation: Battered women frequently acquire the defense mechanism of being able to emotionally dissociate from their bodies during a painful event.

Abuse may be a one-time occurrence or a chronic issue. It may occur frequently or only on rare occasions.

It may also recur cyclically. Listed below are several probable phases of an abuse cycle:

Tension Build-up: slowly escalating tension leads to low-level conflict. The perpetrator of abuse may feel ignored or resentful. They may believe that these emotions justify their hostility toward the other individual.

Battering phase: Gradually, the tension escalates into a dispute that culminates in physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual violence. These episodes may grow in duration and severity over time.

Honeymoon period: After committing the abuse, the perpetrator may experience regret. They may seek to regain the confidence and affection of their partner. During this time, the victim may idealize their lover, viewing only their positive qualities and trying to make excuses for their actions.

As stated by the NCADV, perpetrators of abuse are frequently “pleasant” and “charming” outside of abusive episodes. It can make it challenging to leave a violent relationship.

Battered Woman Syndrome affects all demographic groups, and the most prevalent risk factor is being female.

As per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million men and women are physically abused annually by a current or former intimate partner (a same-sex or heterosexual spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or live-in partner).

About one in every five women and one in every seven men have experienced severe physical abuse from an intimate relationship, based on the CDC data.

Men are also assaulted by their partners, and the phrase “battered person syndrome” is occasionally applied to them as well. According to Walker, however, not enough research has been done to determine if men have the same psychological repercussions as women as a result of intimate relationship abuse. We cannot presume it is the same syndrome, as men and women occupy distinct positions of authority in society.

Women who were physically or sexually abused as kids or who witnessed their mother being mistreated by a partner are more prone to be in an abusive situation than adults, according to research.

The initial step in managing battered woman syndrome is to remove the victim from the abuser.

If you or a loved one suffers from battered woman syndrome, you can devise a safety plan and an escape route without the abuser. In addition, it is advisable to have a doctor assess any damages that may have resulted from the abuse.

A therapist familiar with PTSD or domestic violence should be consulted. When the victim describes their abuse, the therapist must validate them.

The therapist should assist them in realizing that this was not their fault and empower them.

Treatment strategies

The abused woman syndrome may cause anxiety and despair. A mix of anti-antidepressant and anxiety medications and talk therapy may be used to assist the individual in regaining control of their life.

In certain cases, the clinician may propose interpersonal therapy, in which they assist the individual in establishing healthier ties with their support network. These supporting interactions may have been harmed as a result of the abuse-caused isolation.

A therapist and clinician can discuss the various therapy and treatment options. These may comprise of:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Individuals focus on previous trauma and strive toward comprehending, identifying, and altering how they perceive and respond to certain events. In many cases, this is the most effective therapy for PTSD.

Medications: Antianxiety medications or Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to alleviate symptoms and enhance mood.

Patient-Centered Therapy: It is a form of treatment that focuses on the present instead of the past in order to assist patients in overcoming current life challenges.

When sufferers and survivors of battered woman syndrome do not seek assistance for themselves, others may wish to learn how to assist an abused woman. Helping a woman who has been abused is not as simple as speaking with the victim; it requires a number of processes that are often difficult.

Typically, individuals question, “Why can’t she walk away?” However, the point of parting is the most difficult for any woman exhibiting symptoms of battered women syndrome. Once you are certain that an individual who proclaims to love you is abusing you, you must evaluate your situation, safety, and the most effective means of addressing the issue.

The best approach to help yourself if you suffer from battered person syndrome is to quit the violent relationship, seek outside assistance, or stay in the relationship until you can do so securely. Remaining in an abusive relationship until help arrives necessitates playing along to ensure safety.

1. Establish A Safety Strategy

Your safety strategy will be tailored to your situation. For instance, if you reside in a remote place, it may be difficult to solicit support from your neighbors. Ask yourself, “What can I do to ensure my safety in this situation?”

Other possibilities include:

  • To call the police.
  • Using your eyes to communicate when you are both attending an event.
  • Use a secret word that only your buddies can decipher to ensure your safety.

2. Seek Support

Find the nearest assistance center to your location. In the majority of towns, hospitals, and religious institutions, domestic violence services are available to support battered and mistreated women.

3. Consider Therapy For Recovery

This could feel like the war has stopped once the offender has been captured, but it hasn’t. Leaving an abusive relationship can have profound effects on other elements of your life. Therefore, you must recover fully. One method to accomplish this is by visiting a therapist.

Victim of battered woman syndrome can regain their life and develop healthy relationships via therapy. A therapist can assist you in developing independence, self-assurance, and mental health.

If you suspect that somebody close to you is a victim of battered woman syndrome, you must immediately learn how to assist an abused woman. You can seek out your nearest support system or see a therapist.

If possible, assist them in developing a safety plan to escape their male or female abusers, or provide them with shelter information.

In the meanwhile, you must not force a person with battered woman syndrome to act. In certain instances, bruised and mistreated women are unwilling to flee. They have not accepted their circumstance. If you attempt to compel them to leave, they may return to their abuser or file a complaint against you. Therefore, you simply make their situation worse.

If you believe that a person is in an abusive situation or suffers from battered woman syndrome, you must refrain from passing judgment.

Although the abuser is on the offensive, many individuals may doubt why a victim would remain. Many individuals in these situations feel shame or fear of admitting their situation. Make it easy for them to do so, and just let them know you are always available if they require assistance.

If appropriate, help them in gaining access to the information they lack. Assist them in developing a safety plan to escape their abusers. If possible, provide them with transportation and shelter information.

Note that you should never compel a person with battered woman syndrome to act. If you attempt to force them to quit before they are prepared, they may return to the abuser.

  1. What to know about battered woman syndrome. Healthline. Healthline Media. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/battered-woman-syndrome#the-law.
  2. What is battered woman syndrome? WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/battered-woman-syndrome.
  3. Intimate partner violence (battered woman syndrome): How to get help (no date) Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320747#getting-help.
  4. Battered woman syndrome: What it is and how to get help, Marriage Advice – Expert Marriage Tips. Available at: https://www.marriage.com/advice/mental-health/battered-woman-syndrome.
  5. Battered woman syndrome. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battered_woman_syndrome.

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