Battered Woman Syndrome in Pakistani Society

This post has been authored by a guest blogger who is a neuropsychology student and researcher at the University of Toronto. She likes to blog for Rozan Helpline.

Pakistani society has recently made strides that have favored the protection of women in society. The passing of the Violence against Women bill(2016) was long overdue. However, this bill was met with scorn and anger by some parties. Why, one may ask, is violence acceptable in Pakistani society? And furthermore if the perpetrators of violence against women execute these crimes then why are women who suffer accepting of this?

Women who suffer repeated emotional or physical abuse can sometimes experience something called Battered Woman Syndrome. A woman who suffers from this disorder can experience a variety of symptoms: fear for her life, daily activities are impaired, fear of violence or unwanted sexual advances, health and stress issues, and an inability to be sexually intimate. Why don’t women allow themselves to flee from this pain?

The answer to why battered women do not leave is a complicated one. If women have children in the context of the family then it makes it doubly difficult. Often women have no means of supporting themselves or their children financially and so besides the internal factors of violence there are external societal factors in play. Pakistani society does not tend to reprimand the man for their violence enough. Therefore, battered women sometimes develop an idea that this how society and the power structure is and they become complicit in the perpetuation of this violent cycle.

Society needs to address this problem by first addressing that the Battered Woman is not to blame for being abused or beaten. The amount of violence against women is very strongly linked to patriarchal structures that are encouraged and enforced in Pakistani society. In order to combat this there first needs to be awareness programs that encourage men to change their behavior towards women. There also needs to be safe shelters that exist for women and children that have suffered abuse to escape to and seek shelter from abusive parties.

Another consequence and contributing factor of not speaking against this violence is low self esteem. When violence continues sometimes battered women begin to blame themselves as the reason for this violence. They feel if they did everything correctly and were good enough then they would not have received the beating. This warped logic allows the women to stay with their husbands and not demonize the abusers behavior and instead blame themselves and experience something called learned helplessness.

Often times, it is important to understand that the perpetrator of abuse is not always violent or abusive. Sometimes he offsets negative behavior with positive actions of love or affection immediately following the abuse. This makes the woman feel that there is not just negativity and in fact there are positive aspects to the relationship. This twisted demonstration of love and concurrent dependency on the male figure for the few acts of kindness perpetuate the relationship and the battered woman remains in the relationship.

If society wants to take a stand against the battering of women and the perpetuation of patriarchal power structures then it is necessary to empower the women and enlighten the men. There are ways of teaching men that violence is not the only way to express their frustration. There should also be programs in rural areas of Pakistani society that express to women that there are options and protection available if they choose to leave their husbands.


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