Domestic Violence Report Volume: 5 Issue: 3 Dated: February/March 2000 Pages: 33-45
This paper examines how Lenore Walker's paradigm of the "battered woman syndrome" has been indiscriminately applied in the legal arena as a stereotype for explaining to juries why an abused woman continues to stay with her abuser; an alternative explanation for variations in abused women's behavior in an abusive relationship is proposed.
The battered woman syndrome is an umbrella term of a two-part syndrome that encompasses the phenomenon of learned helplessness and Walker's cycle theory of violence. This syndrome is a reductionist and categorical theory that pays insufficient attention to the particular situation and characteristics of a battered woman. The battered woman syndrome became problematic when it was noted and exemplified in legal cases; the problem arose when particular abused women did not fit the checklist that has become associated with the syndrome. The battered woman syndrome does not explain why women stay in abusive relationships; rather, it merely presents the image of a masochistic, economically dependent woman who is helpless and mentally damaged. Reframing the language relating to domestic violence as a hostage situation is an alternative paradigm, since it focuses on the violent act and the various alternatives the victim may use to survive and cope while being a hostage in a dangerous situation. Instead of asking why the woman remains in the abusive relationship, researchers should ask how a particular woman survives in a particular abusive relationship. 13 references
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