The phrase “battered woman syndrome” was first coined by Walker to provide a clear picture about the recurrent events of violence occurring in a relationship. In this concept, some psychological structures are defined such as learned helplessness. This terminology will aid in the discussion of the reasons behind why certain women, who experience violence and assault, still remain and cling to the batterer and their relationship.
Battered woman syndrome has become the subject of court cases in the past years, ranging from the prosecution of the batterers up to the testimonies of the battered woman. It is also traditionally applied as a reason for self-defense of a woman, who is believed to be in an imminent danger at the time she killed the batterer (McCann, Shindler and Hammond, 2004). However, issues conjure in response to this traditionally accepted claim of the victim. One of which is that battered women are masochists.
Fulero and Wrightsman (2009) tackled issues about the battered woman syndrome. They also compiled myths about the battered woman syndrome and one of which is the masochism of battered women. Since it is a myth, there are insufficient proof that the said issue is true and factual. Englander (2007) further added that theories about masochism as being normal for women have no scientific foundation and empirical data to support these theories. It is also not necessary that a woman experiencing battered woman syndrome is a masochist.
Different angles of the issue must be viewed first. Consider the social status of the person because having an inferior social status does not necessarily mean that one is masochistic. Consider also her behavior. Although she behaves masochistically, it does not necessarily mean that she is suffering from masochism. Her act of masochism may be due to the fact that she needs to increase her chances of surviving or to eliminate the tension building inside her. A woman may not be able to leave her husband because of the benefit she gains from him (e. g.
, her children has father) or she cannot find any other man to satisfy her emotional needs (Rancour-Laferriere, 1995). Other factors to consider would include the following: social or financial dependence on spouse, insufficient marketing skills, limited independence and mobility due to continuous childbearing, uncertainty about the severity of the problem, fear of becoming single, poor and alone, and knowledge deficit about other options that may help her (Englander, 2007). If a woman is a masochist, then she enjoys the suffering or the pain inflicted to her.
However, Okun (1986) noted that masochism enlisted here does not imply enjoyment of suffering. Instead the suffering is endured because of the woman’s low self-esteem and failure to understand her role in their relationship. Battered women are then suggested to be suffering from a subtype of anxiety related disorder. It is said to be under the subclassification of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the cyclical act of violence has become a serious threat to the health of the victim and her life.
The battered woman often reports flashbacks, nightmares, emotional detachment, numbness, sleep problems, disrupted concentration, hypervigilance, startled response, guilt, and fears of experiencing recurrent violence. Other symptoms would include depression, indecisiveness, low self-esteem, self-blame, passiveness, social isolation, and unwillingness to seek help from others (Keltner, Schwecke and Bostrom, 2007). In conclusion, one must first consider several factors before making assumptions about battered women.
They may have some psychiatric disorders that render them incapable of leaving their abusive partner. They may have deeper reasons why they chose to experience physical rather than emotional pain. Knowing that some of these women are mothers, their love for their children may be the only bond that ties her to an abusive partner. References Englander, E. K. (2007). Understanding Violence (3rd ed. ). USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Fulero, S. M. & Wrightsman, L. S. (2009). Forensic Psychology (3rd ed. ). USA: Wadsworth. Keltner, N. L. , Schwecke, L.
H. & Bostrom, C. L. (2007). Psychiatric Nursing (5th ed. ). USA: Elsevier. McCann, J. T. , Shindler, K. L. , & Hammond, T. R. (2004). The Science and Pseudoscience of Ecpert Testimony. In S. O. Lilienfeld, S. J. Lynn, J. M. Lohr, & C. Tavris. (Ed. ) Science and Pseudoscience of Clinical Psychology. USA: The Guilford Press. Okun, L. (1986). Woman Abuse: Facts Replacing Myths. USA: State University New York Press Rancour-Laferriere, D. (1995). The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering. USA: New York University Press.
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