Battered Woman's Syndrome

(aka The Stockholm or "Hostage" Syndrome)

Many women feel locked into a "hostage" syndrome and thus continue to remain in an abusive relationship.

The abused woman of domestic violence:

  • may depend on the abuser (financially, emotionally, etc.).
  • is intensely grateful for small kindnesses shown by the abuser.
  • denies the abuser's violence against them, or rationalizes that violence.
  • denies their own anger at the abuser.
  • is hyper vigilant to the abuser's needs and seeks to keep the abuser happy; to do this the survivor tries to 'get inside the abuser's head.'
  • sees the world from the abuser's perspective; they may not have their own perspective.
  • sees outside authorities trying to win their release (for example, police, parents) as 'bad guys' and the abuser as the 'good guy.'
  • sees the abuser as the protector.
  • finds it difficult to leave the abuser even after their release.
  • has difficulty providing adequate care for dependent children.
  • fears the abuser will come back to get them even after the abuser is dead or in prison.
  • shows symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as a recurrent emotional reaction to a terrifying, uncontrollable or life-threatening event and/or develops symptoms such as nightmares, overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and increased stress in relationships after a person's sense of safety and security are violated.


Symptoms and reactions are common and an important part of initial adjustment and later recovery.


Why Some Women Do Not Report Abuse

  • Fear that they won't be believed
  • Shame or humiliation from family, friends or society
  • Fear of continued abuse
  • Values keeping the family unit intact
  • Unaware of the support available
  • Fear of a change in immigration status
  • Fear of losing children to the abuser
  • Financial concerns