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“Domestic” Stockholm Syndrome

One of the most frequently asked questions about victims of domestic violence is why so many women choose to stay with a man who violently hurts them and her children. And we too ask ourselves why did we stay?

Stockholm Syndrome (SS) is a psychological involuntary state in which victims of kidnapping or abuse begin to feel sympathy, emotional bonding, and solidarity for those who are abusing them or keeping them captive in oppressive situations.  This was named in 1973 by psychologist Nils Bejerot after the six day kid napping and robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. The same coping mechanisms have been found in domestic violence victims.

“Domestic” Stockholm Syndrome is a coping mechanism to endure continual intimate violence.   Victims are always thinking about their survival and how they can control their non-controllable environment.   Victims are in a constant sensation of numbness separating from a part of themselves yet holding on to the piece of reality so they don’t completely disconnect. They are continually strategizing to emotionally survive and in order to do this, victims focus on their abuser’s kindness rather than his brutality. A high stress environment keeps one from seeing clearly. The abuser creates an environment so that he can emotionally and physically control his victim. He methodically plans to wear down his victim psychologically with continual threats of violence against her, her children and her loved ones.  The victim is convinced that she has to stay with him in order to protect them from the violence she suffers. Once he has control over her with the fear of violence, then he starts to isolate her from her family, job and any other threat that the abuser sees as a possible vehicle of her seeing reality beyond his world.

Isolation is a key point in the abuser’s method. If she is not getting any other stimuli other than fear and intimidation, then in his mind she will be easier to control and manipulate. Eventually, she sees herself as he sees her; an object to abuse and not worth anything else

A woman who is suffering from “Domestic” Stockholm Syndrome has been brain washed into believing in his world. To her he holds her safety, her life, her survival. He has convinced her of this through continual emotional, psychologically and physical intimidation. Through this she sees that her only way to survive is to be loyal to him.

“I praise you, Lord, for being my counsel; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8

Domestic violence is an epidemic please visit our website at www.thesheepfold.org to educate yourself and be apart of the solution.  
Education is the way to prevention.

By DeAnne DiGuiseppe
Legal Advocate to The Sheepfold



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