Domestic violence is a challenge that women in most homes around the globe face and more than ever, it has become prevalent in Zambia. Women that are in abusive relationships be it dating, courtship or marriage are usually trapped in abusive cycles that pose a risk of them developing Battered Women Syndrome and makes it almost impossible for women to regain control of their lives especially their mental balance and emotions.
This is because the abuser plays a pivotal role in ensuring that a woman is lured into staying in the toxic relationship. Remember that you have no way of ascertaining that someone has an abusive relationship until they dose you with a punch or knock you out mercilessly. However, it is important to note that domestic abusers are almost predictable in the cycle of activities they perpetrate in their quest of abuse. Most abusive men start out by being so nice. They use acts of love, romantic gestures and commitment to make a woman fall for them and then emotional or physical abuse begins soon after that, starting with subtle violet outbursts like a slap instead of a punch across the face or punching the wall next to the woman. These actions may be a sign of anger and management control however, they are just signs that things are about to get sour and worse. Following an abusive encounter, the abuser will suddenly show signs of remorse and guilt, most times swearing that they won’t repeat the act while being overly romantic in view of appeasing the woman and this behavior is followed by a temporal honeymoon treatment period in the attempt to make the woman feel safe and assume that their partner has change; and when this goal is achieved, the abuse starts all over again
Reports on past experiences and events on domestic violence have shown that most women usually want to stay in an abusive relationship for reasons that include:
- Financial dependency on the perpetrator of violence.
- Women’s need to have a complete family unit for the sake of the children.
- Fear of the perpetrator of abuse.
- Denial that the abuse is or has taken place leading to severe depression or low self-esteem and probably the hope that the perpetrator will change for the better.
The repeated cycle of abuse can lead to short and long term mental disorders with the most common one being Battered Women Syndrome, a subcategory of Post-trauma Stress Disorder abbreviated as PTSD. There are four stages that a women goes through when she is developing Battered Women Syndrome.
Denial is the first stage where a woman is unable to accept the reality of being in an abusive relationship and tries to justify the abuse encounter as being just once or having the notion that her abuser will change with time. This stage is followed by guilt where the woman begins to believe that she caused her abuser to perpetrate such a terrible act against her. At this stage, the woman believes she deserves the abuse she is receiving and tries so hard to correct her mistakes. However, in the third stage of enlightenment, a woman finally realizes that she is being mistreated and that she does not deserve the abuse she is receiving. In this phase, a woman acknowledges that she is in an abusive relationship and that he should take responsibility for his actions which is the fourth phase where she may consider escaping the relationship.
Domestic violence is usually fatal hence, some women in abusive relationships do not make it past the second and third phases. It is usually difficult to ascertain that someone is in an abuse relationship especially when they have the syndrome because the victims usually think that the abuse is being inflicted on them because it’s their fault hence, they even hide the abuse from friends and family. However, in a different case, most victims of domestic abuse do not open up because they fear for their life or their children’s as well as the irrational belief that the perpetrator is all knowing and can see her every moment.
Meanwhile, staying silent about this only leads to more and more effect such as extremely severe depression and lowered self-esteem, damaged relationships with friends and family, severe anxiety, feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness, feeling of lack of control over their lives and PTSD like symptoms like flashbacks, dissociative states and violet outbursts against the abuser.
Battered Women Syndrome is a very serious Disorder and this is why it is considered in the courts of law in a case where a woman turn violent and attacks her abuser to the point of death. However, it important that woman lookout for signs of abusive behavior in their relationships to avoid sinking deep into mental health disorders that are almost impossible to escape from. Women despite their physical appearance and strength deserve to live a happy and normal life with a vibrant loving partner. Let’s support our women’s mental health and save them from the trauma of abuse.