Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Domestic Violence and Stockholm Syndrome

Read this article the other day which says that victims of domestic violence show similar traits of victims of Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome is recognised as a psychological phenomenon whereby hostages identify and ally with their captors. (The 6 hostages of a bank robbery in Stockholm identified with the cause and later raised funds in support of their captors, hence the name.)

Excerpt from another article on the net-(
Some theorists have tried to give light to the emergence of these paradoxical bonds between victim and aggressor, mainly appealing to affective or emotional cues developed in the context of the traumatic environment.
Dutton and Painter (1981) have depicted a scenario in which two factors, the power imbalance and the intermittent good-bad treatment, generate in the battered woman a traumatic bonding that ties her with the aggressor through behaviours of docility.
According to Dutton et al., the abuse creates and maintains a dynamics of dependence in the couple due to its asymmetric effect over the power balance, being the traumatic bonding produced by the alternation of reinforcement and punishment.

Domestic Violence and Indian Law: definition
(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse
(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security;
or(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.

Types of abuse:
(i) "physical abuse" means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force;
(ii) "sexual abuse" includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;
(iii) "verbal and emotional abuse" includes-(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule specially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.
(iv) "economic abuse" includes-(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial (b) disposal of household effects (c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities

The psychological reasons given for victims developing Stockholm syndrome are-
1. A threat to their physical or psychological survival
2. An inability to escape
3. Acts of small kindness from the captor (letting the captive live is enough)
4. Only the captor's point of view, and no one else's, is seen and experienced

Given that, a victim of domestic violence may well have these very reasons to start overlooking the negative and supporting the positive sides of the abuser. Often the victim is thankful for the apologies that the abuser comes up with after a spate of violence. The victim is usually without a support system. The fear is too great.
  • An abuser usually passes through this stage of abusing and then comes a stage of self pity and apology. The abuser usually apologises and promises romantic sunsets after he has done his job battering his partner. (I am not sexist and use "he/him" only because it is more common that the abuser is the husband)
  • The abuser usually threatens with self annihilation or suicide as a means of holding on to the abused. It as also a form of abuse by the way.
  • An abuser usually has a violent past or an abusive parent. A deep seated wound in the mind is usually cause for children to become bullies and then to abusers in adulthood.
  • Any kind of abuse- Physical, Verbal, Psychological, Emotional, Sexual, Economical- is a means of gaining power of another human being. Abusers suffer from extensive LOW SELF ESTEEM. That is why the need to control someone else.
  • Another classic sign- an abuser will BLAME EVERYONE but himself. The partner was torturing, the friends are against him, the whole world is conspiring against him, but it is NEVER HIS FAULT.

Countless women live with the very real threat of abuse and violence in their surrounding environment every day. The feeling of guilt hounds the victim either way, whether it is the shame of accepting that ones partner abuses him/her, or the guilt of having complained. Too many women are still not financially capable of maintaining their course of action. Even if they are, and many many women are otherwise succesful professionals, they stay in abusive relationships for years... decades. It takes a different kind of strength to stand up for your rights. It takes a different state of mind to fight. It takes the capability to be lonely, blamed, victimised in a different way, to say- ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. STOP ABUSING ME.

Some have already done it. We need more women like that.


  1. Someone promised me that she would teach me the little nuances of writing. But she seems to have forgotten that :)

    Sorry I had to write this here, but I never had your email id. Delete this comment cause it does not belong here.

    Would be waiting to hear from you soon. Till then take care and keep smiling :)

  2. Thought-provoking and so horrifyingly true!