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PSYCHOLOGY 115 - PSYCHOLOGY OF ADJUSTMENT Calvin Toombs Professor BATTERED WOMEN SYNDROME A Survey of Contemporary Theories In Domestic Violence by Spring Rosati In 1991 Governor William Weld modified parole regulations and permitted women to seek commutation if they could present evidence indicating they suffered from battered womens syndrome A short while later the Governor citing spousal abuse as his impetus released seven women convicted of killing their husbands and the Great and General Court of Massachusetts enacted Mass Gen L ch 233 23E 1993 which permits the introduction of evidence of abuse in criminal trials These decisive acts brought the issue of domestic abuse to the publics attention and left many Massachusetts residents lawyers and judges struggling to define battered womens syndrome In order to help these individuals define battered womens syndrome the origins and development of the three primary theories of the syndrome and recommended treatments are outlined below The Classical Theory of Battered Womens Syndrome and its Origins The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV known in the mental health field as the clinicians bible does not recognize battered womens syndrome as a distinct mental disorder In fact Dr Lenore Walker the architect of the classical battered womens syndrome theory notes the syndrome is not an illness but a theory that draws upon the principles of learned helplessness to explain why some women are unable to leave their abusers Therefore the classical battered womens syndrome theory is best regarded as an offshoot of the theory of learned helplessness and not a mental illness that afflicts abused women The theory of learned helplessness sought to account for the passive behavior subjects exhibited when placed in an uncontrollable environment In the late 60s and early 70s Martin Seligman a famous researcher in the field of
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