Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS)

Battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a psychological term that was developed in the 1970s by Lenore Edna Walker, an American psychologist and founder of the Domestic Violence Institute.

BWS encompasses the psychological condition of a victim who suffers from the abuse of an intimate partner. This syndrome encompasses an array of symptoms such as cognitive distortions (evidenced by the belief that the abuse was well-deserved), experiencing emotional trauma, having a debilitated self-concept, and going through severe depression.

Specifically, sufferers from BWS go through four stages. In “denial”, the abuse is perceived as normal or something that will not be repeated. The second stage, “guilt”, is characterized by the false belief that the victim is responsible for the abuse. Thirdly, in the “enlightenment” phase, a realization that the abuse is not at all deserved occurs. Finally, during the “responsibility” stage, the woman will try to leave the abusive relationship and will hold the abuser accountable. Though BWS is not recognized as a legal defense, the evidence of domestic violence and its psychological impact have been employed to assert self-preservation among women who have resorted to extreme measures against their intimate partners.

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