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Battered Woman Syndrome

The term "battered woman syndrome" is an outdated one. Now known as "intimate partner violence" (IPV), it refers to varieties of abuse occurring between romantic partners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Abuse can affect anyone --regardless of sex, gender, age, class, or any other way of categorizing a person.

Presenting similarly to the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), IPV can lead to "learned helplessness" -- or psychological paralysis. In "learned helplessness," the victim becomes so depressed, defeated, and passive that they believe they are incapable of leaving their abuser.

This gripping fear feels absolutely real to the victim. Feeling weak while also remaining hopeful that the abuse will stop, the victim remains with their abuser. In the cycle of abuse that occurs with IPV, this fear and these feelings only reinforce the hopelessness and powerlessness of "learned helplessness."

The symptoms of intimate partner violence have been recognized by many state courts, while there are also many support systems available to victims of this kind of abuse. Some states also take the condition into account when addressing violent outbursts by victims of IPV.

If you or someone you know is afraid of speaking to authorities about an abuser, there may still be ways to improve the victim's situation. Read on to learn more.

What Does the Cycle of Intimate Partner Violence Look Like?

IPV begins as an abusive cycle with three stages. First, the abuser engages in behaviors that create tensions in the relationship. Second, the tension explodes when the abuser commits some form of abuse: physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or otherwise. Third, the abuser tries to fix their wrongdoing and apologizes.

This third stage is frequently referred to as the "honeymoon" stage, and it involves the abuser making amends for their bad behavior. During the honeymoon stage, the abuser is forgiven, and the couple are both on their best behavior. But the cycle starts all over again.

Feeling as though the abuse is their own fault, as the cycle continues, the victim develops "learned helplessness." They feel such helplessness because they are convinced of their fault in the cycle. But at the same time, the victim cannot understand why the abuse continues if it really is their own fault. As a consequence, they feel as though the abuse cannot be escaped, unless the most dramatic measures are taken.

Recognizing Intimate Partner Violence

People suffering from IPV share certain observable characteristics. Speaking with a victim of such violence should reveal these characteristics. It should help to identify them as suffering from it. The common characteristics of this abuse are:

  • The victim takes full responsibility for the abuse, and they find it difficult or impossible to blame the abuser for the abuse.
  • They fear for their safety.
  • They irrationally believe that the abuser is all-powerful and will hurt them if they contact the authorities and seek help.

People suffering from IPV will frequently show signs of depression, too. They may be less enthusiastic about the activities they used to enjoy. They may also start to abuse drugs and alcohol. Once the signs of intimate partner violence are recognized, it's important to get help.

Getting Help for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

As with any domestic violence situation, people struggling with IPV should contact local law enforcement authorities and report their abuser. The police may arrest the abuser, and prosecution of the perpetrator may occur. At this point, many victims may try to recant their statements. They may feel sorry for their abuser or may fear violence if the police let the abuser go.

Sometimes people suffering from IPV recant, but it's important to keep in mind that recanting could result in the victim facing criminal charges for lying to authorities. But it's also worth noting that recanting does not usually affect the case. If the abuser has been arrested and the case moves forward, recanting will do little to prevent this.

Victims of IPV may also worry about testifying in court against their abuser. In domestic violence cases, the victim is required to testify in court against their abuser. But victims are often afraid of their abusers. There are support options, however. In fact, there are people known as victim's aides who will stand in court and provide support for the victim as they testify.

Aside from these legal options, there are also organizations that provide psychological and emotional support to those facing intimate partner violence. This may be necessary, as the separation process can be extremely difficult and confusing for the victim.

Intimate Partner Violence and the Law

Intimate partner violence is now recognized by legislation in many states and is considered when defending IPV victims who kill or injure their abusive spouses. For the courts, this condition is an indication of the defendant's state of mind and may be considered a mitigating circumstance.

For example, the court may consider that a victim of such violence felt that they were justified in attacking their abuser and that they were in reasonable fear of imminent danger. Courts have recognized this in consideration of the victim's condition and their experiences with the abuser.

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence and possibly suffering from the condition, please contact your local authorities and local support organizations. There are many avenues available for victims to get help.

How an Attorney Can Help with Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic violence of any kind can leave deep wounds. After getting the medical and emotional support you need, you should seek help from an experienced family law attorney to explore your legal options. Such options can include restraining orders (also sometimes known as "orders of protection") and modifications to child custody arrangements. An attorney can help you protect yourself and your loved ones. They can also help you get your life back on track. Reach out to an attorney near you today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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