Last night I woke at three thirty in the morning drenched in sweat and sobbing. I had a dream where I was once again reliving the pain of his most recent betrayal from a couple weeks ago. When these dreams occur, I can’t tell if it’s happening again or just a dream, it feels so real. I am literally reliving the moment with all the same hurt and suffering as the first time. Actually, it’s probably worse because I am living it again and I feel like I am starting the healing process over at square one. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago after his affair. The triggers, the nightmares, and the anxiety are very hard to live with at times. His denial of the depth of his actions and refusal to get better and do better make it much harder for me to heal. The ongoing gaslighting and lying make sure I constantly get sucked back in and can’t get better and move on.
The main reason I started this blog began with a statement from my youngest son a couple months ago. He told me I have Battered Woman Syndrome. He began doing his own research a couple of years ago after he witnessed an episode between his dad and I where he was pounding his fist into his hand in front of my face. My son thought he was going to hit me. That was the day that truly marked the beginning of the end of our marriage. I knew my boys needed better and could not continue to live like that.
My son’s statement shocked me. I was not a physically abused wife, so how could I have Battered Woman Syndrome? That began my research into all the surrounding conditions that encompass BWS. The things in my previous posts, trauma bonding, cognitive dissonance, and abuse amnesia are all a part of BWS. Better understanding of those coping mechanisms leads to an explanation of how woman with BWS can stay with an abuser.
For the most part, BWS is associated with violent, physical abuse. But physical abuse is never the first step. It begins with verbal abuse, gaslighting, lies, manipulation, and control. Also, physical abuse does not have to mean that he actually hits, it can be that he physically intimidates and controls, much like my abuser would do to me. The punching of his fist into his hand in front of my face was threatening and intimidating, a show of strength and power; holding me down so I couldn’t walk away was to let me know he was in control. Those actions may not have left physical scars or bruises, but the emotional damage was deep. I will never know if he one day would have hit me, in twenty-three years he never did and the physical abuse was very rare, but I know for some that it turns into violence and complete control.
Below is an excerpt from the publication Domestic Violence & The Courtroom Understanding The Problem… Knowing The Victim. It explains how the coping mechanisms I discussed in previous posts all work together to create BWS.
Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a collection of psychological symptoms, often considered a subcategory of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and can be measured by a trained mental health professional.
Symptoms: BWS is a psychological reaction that can be expected to occur in normal people who are exposed to repeated trauma, such as family violence. It includes at least three groups of symptoms that assist the mind and body in preparing to defend against threats. Psychologists call it the “fight or flight” response.
The “Fight” Response Mode: In the “fight” mode, the body and mind prepare to deal with danger by becoming hypervigilant to cues of potential violence, resulting in an exaggerated startle response. The automatic nervous system becomes operational and the individual becomes more focused on the single task of self defense. This impairs concentration and causes physiological responses usually associated with high anxiety. In serious cases, fearfulness and panic disorders are present and phobic disorders may also result. Irritability and crying are typical symptoms of this stage.
The “Flight” Response Mode: The “flight” response mode often alternates with the fight pattern. Most individuals would run away from danger if they could do so safely. When physical escape is actually or perceived as impossible, then mental escape occurs. This is the avoidance or emotional numbing stage where denial, minimization, rationalization and disassociation are subconsciously used as ways to psychologically escape from the threat or presence of violence.
Cognitive Ability and Memory Loss: The third major impact of BWS is to the cognitive and memory areas. Here, the victim begins to have intrusive memories of the abuse or may actually develop psychogenic amnesia and not always remember important details or events. The victim may have trouble following his or her thoughts in a logical way, being distracted by intrusive memories that may be flashbacks to previous battering incidents. The victim may disassociate himself or herself when faced with painful events, memories, reoccurring nightmares or other associations not readily apparent to the observer.
I know this post is long, but let’s put this in a Biblical perspective. We’ve read the science, now let’s see what God says. Everyone pretty much admits that physical abuse is wrong, even the abuser will usually apologize and play nice for a while after violence. But, what about emotional abuse? Verbal abuse? Psychological abuse? What does scripture say about that?
In my previous post, What Is Love, we read all the things that God tells us about love- it’s patient, kind, and humble; not easily angered or selfish; it’s honest, it always protects and trusts and so on. Then in the Bible we see God ordering men to LOVE their wives.
Colossians 3:19– “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
Ephesians 5:25– “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Ephesians 5:28– “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself.”
Ephesians 5:33– “However, let each one you of love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
What does this say? Are men allowed to be controlling, mean, and abusive? Clearly, the Bible says no. They are ordered to be the exact opposite of abusive. What else does Scripture tell us about wives?
Proverbs 31:10– “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”
Proverbs 18:22– “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Proverbs 31:11– “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
Proverbs 19:14– “House and wealth are inherited form fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
Prudent means wise, considerate, and one who shows good and careful judgement. Do any of these verses imply that the Lord views women as inferior and meant to be controlled? No! It says that a good, Godly woman is incredibly special to God. She is worth far more than fame, power, and riches, she is the true gift from God to man. She is meant to be man’s on earth example of God’s love for us. In fact, Proverbs 18:22 states that man can find favor from the Lord, just by finding a wife. That alone makes him a better man than he was before.
A wife is a blessing meant to be cherished, not abused. As a natural nurturer, she is meant to teach man how not be so selfish. She is meant to be a companion, a lover, and a source of wisdom. She is the mirror of his walk with the Lord. When the husband is living in God’s will, his marriage will be good with a happy wife. When the husband is not following God, the wife will be unhappy, and the marriage will be miserable. When a husband refuses to love his wife, when he refuses to listen to her wisdom that God has given her, he is missing out on all the blessings God could bestow in him. Life is hard, it’s work, and God has given man a gift in a wife to make it easier and more joyful.
Ecclesiastes 9:9– “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has give you under the sun- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
Man is to rejoice in the gift of a woman that God has given him, not yell, make fun of, or lie to her. He is ordered to love and protect her, not threaten, gaslight, or deceive her. He is to listen to her wisdom and learn selflessness by her example, not abandon, blame, or humiliate her.
Proverbs 5:18-19– “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”
Women, we are a blessing; a masterpiece created by God! We are gifts that He designed to help men be greater, more Godly men. There is no reason to settle for abuse of any kind, it’s not what God intended. We are companions God created for man, not the “less than” version of man. We truly take the harshness from a rough world and create a safe place for those we love. And any man that chooses to abuse, rather than cherish that which God created, should not be tolerated as a mate!
God so very clearly loves you, dear woman, more than he hates divorce!
“Page 6 — Domestic Violence & The Courtroom.” Http://Aja.Ncsc.Dni.Us, American Judges Association, aja.ncsc.dni.us/domviol/page6.html. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.