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The Stockholm Syndrome

Why do battered women stay in abusive situations? Why do batttered women go back again and again, only to be further abused. Maybe he only broke a finger this time, what will he break next--her nose? People get so disgusted when they hear these stories.

Part of the answer to this phenomenon can be explained in the thought distortions and psychological changes which have been found to occur in captors held hostage known as The Stockholm Syndrome. This concept developed in 1973, when four people were held hostage in a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, for six days.

In these incidents of captivity, there developed a paradox of emotions and behaviors in both the captors and the captives. In the aftermath, certain observations were made: i.e. the captors showed kindness to their hostages, while they terrorized them, there developed a mutual concern between them, the hostages were in denial of the danger and terror, hostages felt a strange sense of loyalty to their captors, hostages to felt almost no anger toward their captors, but gratitude, they somehow felt responsible for their captors. These hostages also experienced long term effects i.e. fear that their captors would come back to get them and the whole thing would begin again, distrust of others, and many characteristics of PTSD. a link below

If the reader has studied the power and control wheel, a link below and the different kinds of abuse, the connection between battered women and the Stockholm Syndrome can be easily understood. The same elements are there. But in this case, she knows her captor, intimately, which it would seem would raise the odds of this "syndrome" developing.

At one time it was believed, that at least six days were required for this to develop, however studies have found that these same characateristics could develop within, as short a period as three hours! One of our rape victims, held hostage in her bedroom for three hours exhibited these characteristics. She kept telling the rapist, whom she could not identify because he had put a pillow case and sweater over her head, "I know that you are really a nice person and you don't really want to be doing this." Even though he punched her in the face, urinated on her, raped her and threatened to kill her, she kept saying this to him. When she needed to go to the bathroom, he was nice and let her, and even put a blanket around her because she was cold. But even though he urinated on her again at that time, she perceived him as nice for his kindness to her. She kept telling me that he was nice to her. It took her almost a year before she could say, "He was not nice, that was not nice to rape me, and beat me and urinate on me and take so much away from me, from my soul." She could finally get angry at him. And even though he is still out there somewhere, she has gone on with her life.

Power & Control Wheel
Kinds of Abuse & Dynamics of Abuse
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