Battered Woman Syndrome

Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, stalking

One in three women experience some form of abuse in their lifetime. The fact that this statistic does not really make you stop and say “what really” is a simple proof of the fact that it is common enough to end up in trauma that requires its own label.

What is Battered Woman Syndrome?

Battered Woman Syndrome is a sub-type of PTSD that takes into account the result of this abuse. It refers to the psychological impact of on individuals who have undergone abuse at the hands of their intimate partner. The symptoms of the syndrome are similar to that of PTSD but differ because of the specificity of cause.

What are some causes of Battered Woman Syndrome?

Battered Woman Syndrome is a result of abuse. The abuse often includes:

  • Sexual Abuse
  • Stalking
  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological Aggression (name-calling and humiliation)

What are the stages of developing Battered Woman Syndrome?

  1. Denial: Most women are unable to accept that they are a victim of abuse. Instead, they make excuses for their abuser- often because of the guise of “unconditional love.” She tends to justify it as “just being that once.”
  2. Guilt: Intimacy often blurs the boundaries of consent and blinds people to their partner’s faults. This leads to women often believing that they are the cause of the abuse.
  3. Enlightenment: In this phase, she realizes that she did not deserve the abuse and acknowledges that her partner has an abusive personality.
  4. Responsibility: She accepts that only the abuser holds responsibility. In many cases, this is when she will try to escape the relationship.

What are some signs of Battered Woman Syndrome?

The impact of the abusive relationship exists even after the survivor has left it.

  1. Fear of punishment disables them from seeking help or telling someone about their situation. Along with it, comes the fear of stigmatization and judgement.
  2. They feel anxious, helpless, and trapped in the relationship and they are unable to leave for various reasons.
  3. The person who has experienced abuse tends to have low self-esteem and severe anxiety.
  4. They tend to have irrational thoughts. For example, “the abuser is all-knowing” and “the abuse is somehow my fault”.

How do these signs manifest as symptoms?

  1. Insomnia or recurrent nightmares
  2. Experiencing feelings of anger, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  3. Having panic attacks or flashbacks of the abuse
  4. Avoiding situations that remind them of the abuse

How can you get help?

  • Reach out to someone you trust like a friend or a family member.
  • You can also reach out to a therapist who could help you cope and/or an advocate who can guide you legally. Save money if possible.
  • Be prepared to give concrete examples of actions or abuse in order to file a restraining order against the abuser.

How can you help someone with Battered Woman Syndrome?

  • If you suspect that someone has Battered Woman Syndrome, talk to them with a non-judgmental attitude and encourage them to open up to you.
  • Help them gain access to resources that will safely get them away from their abuser.
  • Do not force them to do anything because they do not want to be controlled, they want to be supported.

The final step in both cases is to get help. Trauma therapists at Another Light are trained to recognize Battered Woman Syndrome. Moreover, we are here to help you heal from your trauma and live a life that is yours.