Battered women syndrome

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Battered women syndrome, alternatively known as Battered Woman Syndrome or Battered Wives Syndrome, (BWS) is a pattern of signs and symptoms allegedly displayed by a woman who has suffered persistent intimate partner violence, whether psychological, physical, or sexual, from her male partner. It is classified in the ICD-9 (code 995.81) as battered person syndrome, although the application in the courts is always gendered. BWS is not in the DSM-5. It may be diagnosed as a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The condition is the basis for the battered woman legal defense that has been used in cases of physically and psychologically abused women who have killed their male partners. The condition was first researched extensively by Lenore E. Walker, who used Martin Seligman's learned helplessness theory to explain why women stayed in relationships with abusive men.

Although the diagnosis has mainly centered on women, it has occasionally been applied to men when employing the term battered person syndrome, especially as part of a legal defense. It is similar to an insanity plea and has been criticized by survivor advocates as being outdated terminology not used outside of courts. But, because courts are slow to change, many are stuck with using it as a way to introduce specific evidence. The newer term used among advocates and outside of the courts is criminalized survivor.

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