What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 17) The Battered Woman
The Battered Woman
New research points to some startling similarities found between victims of domestic violence and combat veterans; the realities of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). People who find themselves in traumatic and unusual circumstances develop ways to cope with stress that otherwise would seem irrational (Berry 55). These coping strategies take the place of the active response (one that would usually have the victim leave their situation), and through continued abuse and mistreatment, the victim no longer believes they even have the physical ability to leave their situation. Researches have proven that those suffering from PTSD have significant changes in their cognitive make up, which influences the way the victim thinks, acts, or behaves (Berry 55). This type of prolonged environment can foster the learned helplessness syndrome that we discussed in previous chapters, and allows the abuser to control the victim mainly through repeated verbal and emotional abuse. War veterans are most commonly attributed to the phycological illness, and research that has been done on vets reveals how intricate and difficult to manage the disorder actually is. The disorder can be completely debilitating and cause victims to act out in ways not synonymous with their character. Even an incredibly strong willed person can get trapped in the haunting cycle of abuse. Although we have talked about many ways in which the battered woman acts or reacts to her abusive situation, Dr, Walker gives the four pieces of criteria which is responsible for clinically diagnosing The Battered Woman Syndrome (Berry 56). First, a traumatic stressor exists. This is the source of extreme stress and usually seen as spousal abuse. Next is those traumatic events are revisited again and again, through flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive thoughts. Third is a numbness of emotion present in the victim, usually resulting in self isolation. And lastly the presence of symptoms which generate a higher then normal arousal response, like panic attacks, sleep problems, or irritability (Berry 56). It is incredibly important to outline from a clinical standpoint, because woman all across the globe are suffering from this syndrome, but many do not realize what they are being put through. It is easy to shake it off when one does not have a concrete outline of what constitutes abuse, but when laid out in plain wiring one might find themselves within the description.
In addition to PTSD and how it plays an important role within the battered woman syndrome, new research also suggests some type of Stockholm syndrome within victims of domestic abuse. Dr Susan Forward suggest that “This could help explain why a battered woman sometimes buys into her abuser’s statements that he is trying to make her a better, or that he is punishing her for ‘her own good’ s that she can become a better person” (Berry 57). Stockholm syndrome was first discovered when studying a bank robbery in Sweden. After the robbery was over, the victims oddly defended the robbers, and projected positive motives onto said robbers. Researchers found that in a strange attempt to secure their own safety, victims sided with the aggressors and legitimately viewed their actions as okay. When applied to domestic violence, one can see how a victim might take to this response in order to ensure her own safety. And with perpetual mistreatment this can manifest into the idea that the abuser is actually trying to help the victim, and uses abuse as the most effective means of doing so. This idea is also similar to the learned helplessness, where the victim really starts to believe they deserve the abuse that is inflicted upon them. Both of these theories of PTSD and Stockholm syndrome applied to domestic abuse help us and other researchers inch our way into finding a solution to ending domestic violence, and the more we know about the traumatic lifestyle the easier it will be to find a way in ending it.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 200