Domestic violence is an extremely sensitive topic, especially for victims. It is not uncommon for victims of domestic abuse to develop a psychological condition called battered woman syndrome, or BWS. This condition can make it difficult for women in California to leave their abusers, even when they want to do so.
BWS is characterized by something called psychological paralysis, or so-called “learned helplessness.” A victim with BWS may develop depression and a sense of defeat, ultimately believing that she is not capable of ever leaving her abuser. She may also hold out hope that the abuse will one day stop while simultaneously living in constant fear.
BWS develops over three stages of an abusive cycle. The abuser first engages in behaviors that purposely cause tension within the relationship. Then, the abuser lets his or her tension explode by committing some form of violence, such as physical or emotional. Lastly, the abuser will apologize and try to right his or her wrong. As the cycle continues, victims begin to blame themselves for the abuse, which initiates the sense of learned helplessness.
Common BWS victims believe that their abusers are powerful, which makes it doubly hard to reach out for help. Some women even turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with what seems like an impossible situation. Fortunately, California state law provides protections for victims of domestic abuse. For example, legal actions, such as restraining orders, can help some victims feel more hopeful about leaving their abusers.