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Although most women who are subjected to intimate partner violence attempt to leave their abusive partners, many return, and resultantly are at risk for even greater violence. Research to date has documented relations between several factors (income and economic dependence, frequency of intimate partner violence (IPV), fear of violence escalations, history of childhood abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms) and women's returning to their abusive partners. Nevertheless, the contribution of women's emotional bonds with their violent partners, known as identification with the aggressor (IWA), in explaining their perceived likelihood of going back to the relationship, has remained unclear.
The current study, conducted among 258 Israeli women who had left their violent partners, aimed to fill this void.
An online survey was conducted. Demographic variables, history of childhood abuse, frequency of IPV, economic dependence on former partner, fear of future violence escalation, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, IWA, and perceived likelihood of returning to the relationship, were assessed via self-report questionnaire.
Results indicated that two aspects of IWA-becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator and adopting the perpetrator's experience-were related to women's perceived likelihood of returning to the relationship. Furthermore, a logistic regression analysis indicated that only two factors-income and becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator-uniquely contributed to explaining the likelihood of returning to abusive partners. Major implications: The current findings suggest that women's tendency to be highly attuned to their partners' feelings and needs, as a part of IWA, may impede their ability to permanently leave abusive relationships.
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.
... The fact that these behaviors often occur in solitude may point to a less interpersonal role (involving diverting attention to perpetrators and their needs and feelings) and a more personal, private one. Hypersensitivity to the perpetrator was recently found to be associated with the likelihood of victims resuming contact with their abusers (Lahav, 2022), potentially highlighting the interpersonal aspect of this specific facet, contrary to the secrecy that characterizes binge episodes. These symptoms differ from shape and weight overevaluation and body dissatisfaction, which may involve an internalization of the objectifying gaze of the perpetrator, as suggested above. ...
Childhood abuse has been increasingly recognized as a risk factor for eating disorder symptoms. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that childhood abuse may lead to identification with the aggressor, an automatic defensive process, to survive the abuse. Although it has been clinically implied, the role of identification with the aggressor as a potential mechanism underlying the relation between childhood abuse and eating disorder symptoms has not yet been empirically explored.
This study examines the role of identification with the aggressor as mediator in the association between history of childhood abuse and eating disorder symptoms among adults.
Participants and methods
A convenience sample of 198 participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing history of childhood abuse, eating disorder symptoms, and the various facets of identification with the aggressor.
Severity of childhood abuse was significantly associated with shape and weight overevaluation, body dissatisfaction, and binge eating, as well as with all components of identification with the aggressor. In addition, almost all components of identification with the aggressor were significantly associated with eating disorder symptoms. Finally, identifying with the perpetrator's aggression mediated the association between childhood abuse and eating disorder symptoms.
The findings may contribute to future clinical interventions by illuminating identification with the aggressor as an important aspect in treating eating disorders. Understanding the pervasive effects of identification with the aggressor on survivors' self and their interactions with others may point to the significance of the therapeutic relationship, through which survivors can reprocess and weaken its detrimental effects.
Childhood abuse puts individuals at risk for psychopathology and psychiatric symptoms such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety symptoms. At the same time, research has indicated that some survivors report positive transformations in the aftermath of their trauma, known as posttraumatic growth (PTG). Yet the essence of PTG reports is questionable, and some scholars claim that it may reflect maladaptive illusory qualities. Furthermore, according to a recent theoretical model, PTG might be dissociation-based and related to survivors' bonds with their perpetrators. This study aimed to explore these claims by assessing PTG, dissociation, and identification with the aggressor (IWA), as well as PTSD and anxiety symptoms. An online survey was conducted among 597 adult childhood abuse survivors. Study variables were assessed via self-report measures. Analyses indicated positive associations between PTG, dissociation, and IWA. Three distinct profiles were found, reflecting high, medium, and low scores on PTG, dissociation, and IWA. Profile type explained PTSD and anxiety symptoms above and beyond gender, age, and abuse severity. These findings suggest that whereas some childhood abuse survivors might experience a positive transformation subsequent to their trauma, others' PTG reports might reflect dissociative mechanisms and pathological attachments to their perpetrators , and thus might be maladaptive. ARTICLE HISTORY
This study explored the relation between guilt and identification with the aggressor (IWA) and the moderating role of IWA in the relation between intimate partner violence (IPV) and guilt. An online survey was conducted among a convenience sample of 700 women. IPV survivors demonstrated elevated guilt, and IWA was related to guilt. Furthermore, IWA moderated the relation between IPV and guilt: Among participants with low IWA levels, IPV was unrelated to guilt, but among participants with high IWA levels, IPV was related to guilt. These findings suggest that IWA may be a key element in explaining guilt among IPV survivors.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be experienced as traumatogenic and may fuel or exacerbate psychological distress and trauma-related symptoms. Based on trauma research, one might expect that survivors of childhood abuse would be susceptible to these negative outcomes during the pandemic, and that among this population a stronger relation between emotion regulation difficulties and symptomatology would be found. Aiming to explore these suppositions, an online survey was conducted among 710 Israeli adults. Of them, 370 were childhood abuse survivors. A history of childhood abuse, COVID-19-related stressors, overall psychological distress, and peritraumatic stress symptoms during the pandemic were assessed via self-report measures. Participants with a history of childhood abuse had elevated overall psychological distress as well as peritraumatic stress symptoms during the pandemic, compared to nonabused participants, above and beyond demographic characteristics and COVID-19-related stressors. Emotion regulation difficulties were related to elevated psychological distress and peritraumatic stress symptoms among both childhood abuse survivors and nonabused participants. Nonetheless, a history of childhood abuse moderated the relations between the emotion regulation difficulty of being unable to engage in goal-directed behaviors when distressed (on one hand) and mental outcomes (on the other): Although the associations between inability to engage in goal-directed behaviors, overall psychological distress, and peritraumatic stress symptoms were nonsignificant among nonabused participants, they were significant among childhood abuse survivors. The current findings suggest that a history of childhood abuse might be a risk factor for distress in the face of COVID-19, and that childhood abuse survivors would benefit from clinical interventions that promote emotion regulation skills during this ongoing global health crisis.
Spouses of traumatized war veterans might suffer from distress following indirect exposure to combat and direct exposure to domestic abuse. Yet the effect of this twofold trauma exposure is far from being fully understood. Theory views attachment security as a personal resource mitigating adversity, whereas attachment insecurities intensify distress. Nevertheless, there are mixed results concerning the effects of attachment in the aftermath of trauma. Furthermore, the role of trauma exposure levels regarding the effects of attachment remains largely unin-vestigated. Filling these gaps, this study assessed female military spouses 30 (T1) and 38 (T2) years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Direct (domestic abuse) and indirect (veteran part-ners' posttraumatic stress symptoms) trauma exposure, attachment , depression, and anxiety were assessed. Findings indicated an interaction between the trauma types in predicting spouses' anxiety. Domestic abuse moderated the relations between attachment and distress. Although attachment anxiety had non-significant effects on anxiety among low-level domestic abuse sufferers, it predicted elevated anxiety among high-level domestic abuse sufferers. Furthermore, while attachment avoidance predicted elevated distress among low-level domestic abuse sufferers, its effects dissolved or became positive in nature among high-level domestic abuse sufferers. Discussion focuses on evolutionary explanations of the functions of attachment under different conditions of threat.
Many of the revolutionary principles introduced by Ferenczi in his clinical practice have now been widely accepted especially in the field of trauma and trauma therapy. Examples of these innovative views include his emphasis on empathy as opposed to technical neutrality and his stress on the real conditions of child caring and family environmental deficits and on the consequences of interpersonal violence and abuse that lead to “identification with the aggressor” by the victim thereby resulting in the internalization of both aggressiveness and guilt (the split guilt of the abuser). The resulting “fragmentation” of the personality, which is now considered dissociation (instead of Freud’s “repression”), is at the root of several severe disorders, characterized by distortion of reality, loss of touch with one’s body and loss of trust in the other. Therefore “abreaction is not enough”. A new, positive relational experience must be re-inscribed at the level of implicit memory.
This study examined the psychometric properties of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (PCL-5; Weathers, Litz, et al., 2013b) in 2 independent samples of veterans receiving care at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center (N = 468). A subsample of these participants (n = 140) was used to define a valid diagnostic cutoff score for the instrument using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5; Weathers, Blake, et al., 2013) as the reference standard. The PCL-5 test scores demonstrated good internal consistency (α = .96), test-retest reliability (r = .84), and convergent and discriminant validity. Consistent with previous studies (Armour et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2014), confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the data were best explained by a 6-factor anhedonia model and a 7-factor hybrid model. Signal detection analyses using the CAPS-5 revealed that PCL-5 scores of 31 to 33 were optimally efficient for diagnosing PTSD (κ(.5) = .58). Overall, the findings suggest that the PCL-5 is a psychometrically sound instrument that can be used effectively with veterans. Further, by determining a valid cutoff score using the CAPS-5, the PCL-5 can now be used to identify veterans with probable PTSD. However, findings also suggest the need for research to evaluate cluster structure of DSM-5. (PsycINFO Database Record
This article presents a brief summary of the literature on variables associated with cessation or continuation of partner violence with the aim of generating two conceptual models: psychological and environmental. Toward this goal, the authors first examine existing theoretical models of women's influence on partner violence. Second, they review psychological and environmental variables associated with women's influence on partner violence. To capture the richness and complexity of factors involved in partner violence, the two models include multifaceted constructs such as psychological difficulties, resilience, and partner violence. The conceptual models are designed to provide a framework for developing research that will enhance the understanding about women's influence on the course of partner violence and, in turn, will inform interventions aimed at helping women reduce violence in their lives.
Although research has documented the myriad ways that victims of IPV struggle to keep themselves safe, little research has gone the next step to investigate patterns in women’s use of strategies, the factors that influence choice of strategies, or which strategies are most effective. One obstacle to conducting such research is the absence of an instrument to measure the nature and extent of battered women’s strategic responses to violence across specific domains of strategies. This article describes the development of such an instrument, the Intimate Partner Violence Strategies Index, in the context of a longitudinal study of battered women’s experience over time.
The present study examines self-identified reasons for returning to abusive relationships. Ninety female residents of an urban domestic violence shelter completed structured interviews that included questions about their previous attempts to separate from the batterer and their perceived likelihood of returning in the future. The results indicated that participants appeared to underestimate their likelihood of returning to the relationship. A particularly intriguing pattern of findings emerged with respect to emotional attachment. Compared to those leaving for the first time, participants with a history of past separations were significantly more likely to indicate that they might return to the batterer because of their continued attachment. Emotional attachment also had a high rate of repeat endorsement, indicating that those who considered returning because of their attachment to the batterer were significantly more likely to have done so for this reason in the past. Clinical implications of the findings will be discussed.
Studies have demonstrated that women with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are at increased risk of revictimization,
but research has not yet examined whether a history of CSA may affect patterns of remaining in or returning to abusive relationships
in adulthood. This study examines the impact of a CSA history on decisions to return to abusive relationships in a sample
of 104 adult domestic violence survivors. Participants were interviewed about the number of times that they had previously
separated from and returned to their abusive partner, the factors that influenced their decision to return (both psychological/internal
and environmental/external factors), and their perceived likelihood of returning in the future. As predicted, CSA survivors
(n = 34) reported a significantly greater number of past separations than non-CSA survivors (n = 70). CSA survivors were also significantly more likely to report that their decisions to return were influenced by emotional
attachment to the batterer. CSA survivors did not perceive themselves to be at greater risk of returning in the future, suggesting
that they may be more likely to underestimate their vulnerability to returning to the battering relationship. Clinical implications
of the findings are discussed.
For mothers, intimate partner violence (IPV) presents a concern not only for their own well-being but also for that of their
children who are exposed to the violence and its aftermath. In focus groups with adult women (N = 39) across three jurisdictions who had experienced legal system intervention for IPV victimization, mothers raised unsolicited
concerns about the negative effects of IPV exposure on their children. These comments were not prompted by the facilitator
but were raised by women in all seven of the focus groups during discussions about motivations and barriers to participation
in prosecution of their abusive partners. The overall message was that victims with children felt very conflicted. Children
both facilitate and inhibit leaving the abusive relationship. Mothers wanted to spare their children from harmful effects
of violence but also wanted to keep their families together and protect their children from potential agitation and instability
caused by legal system involvement. Participants described how fears and threats of involvement from child protective services
inhibited help-seeking while simultaneously voicing a desire for services that would help their children. More research is
needed to help service providers understand the quagmire mothers who are victims of IPV encounter regarding their children’s
KeywordsIntimate partner violence-Domestic violence-Child exposure-Decision-making-Barriers to help-seeking
Much of the discourse on intimate partner violence assumes that women must end their relationship with their abusive partner
to increase their safety and emotional well-being. Few studies, however, exist to support this assumption. Equally problematic,
those studies that do exist have failed to distinguish women who leave and stay out from those who leave only to later return.
Comparing emotional well-being and experiences of violence for 206 low-income, primarily Black battered women following different
relationship trajectories, this longitudinal study found that women both separated from and together with their partner for
the entire year of the study fared best at the end of that year compared to women “in” and “out” of the relationship over
time. Beyond challenging common assumptions, these findings highlight the importance of considering the larger context within
which an individual instance of leaving occurs.
The medical community's efforts to address intimate partner violence (IPV) have often neglected members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. Heterosexual women are primarily targeted for IPV screening and intervention despite the similar prevalence of IPV in LGBT individuals and its detrimental health effects. Here, we highlight the burden of IPV in LGBT relationships, discuss how LGBT and heterosexual IPV differ, and outline steps clinicians can take to address IPV in their LGBT patients.
This study compares women of color and non-Hispanic White women regarding the influence of socioeconomic status, family investment, and psychological abuse on leaving a violent relationship. It was found that most women who left stayed away for less than a month. Women of color and non-Hispanic White women did not differ in their length or rate of leaving, although women of color left more frequently when they did leave. Factors associated with leaving for both groups were threat with a weapon, psychological abuse, being single, and having fewer adults in the household. Women of color with higher socioeconomic status were less likely to leave, which was not the case for non-Hispanic White women. Non-Hispanic White women were more likely to leave if they had lived with their partners less than 5 years and had children at home.
The authors conducted a meta-analysis of empirical studies investigating associations between indices of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intimate relationship problems to empirically synthesize this literature.
A literature search using PsycINFO, Medline, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress (PILOTS), and Dissertation Abstracts was performed. The authors identified 31 studies meeting inclusion criteria.
True score correlations (ρ) revealed medium-sized associations between PTSD and intimate relationship discord (ρ = .38, N = 7,973, K = 21), intimate relationship physical aggression perpetration (ρ = .42, N = 4,630, K = 19), and intimate relationship psychological aggression perpetration (ρ = .36, N = 1,501, K = 10). The strength of the association between PTSD and relationship discord was higher in military (vs. civilian) samples, and when the study was conducted in the United States (vs. other country), and the study represented a doctoral dissertation (vs. published article). The strength of the association between PTSD and physical aggression was higher in military (vs. civilian) samples, males (vs. females), community (vs. clinical) samples, studies examining PTSD symptom severity (vs. diagnosis), when the physical aggression measure focused exclusively on severe violence (vs. a more inclusive measure), and the study was published (vs. dissertation). For the PTSD-psychological aggression association, 98% of the variance was accounted for by methodological artifacts such as sampling and measurement error; consequently, no moderators were examined in this relationship.
Findings highlight a need for the examination of models explaining the relationship difficulties associated with PTSD symptomatology and interventions designed to treat problems in both areas.
It is well established that intimate male partner violence (IPV) has a high impact on women's mental health. It is necessary to further investigate this impact longitudinally to assess the factors that contribute to its recovery or deterioration. The objective of this study was to assess the course of depressive, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and suicidal behavior over a three-year follow-up in female victims of IPV.
Women (n = 91) who participated in our previous cross-sectional study, and who had been either physically/psychologically (n = 33) or psychologically abused (n = 23) by their male partners, were evaluated three years later. A nonabused control group of women (n = 35) was included for comparison. Information about mental health status and lifestyle variables was obtained through face-to-face structured interviews.
Results of the follow-up study indicated that while women exposed to physical/psychological IPV recovered their mental health status with a significant decrease in depressive, anxiety and PTSD symptoms, no recovery occurred in women exposed to psychological IPV alone. The evolution of IPV was also different: while it continued across both time points in 65.21% of psychologically abused women, it continued in only 12.12% of physically/psychologically abused women while it was reduced to psychological IPV in 51.5%. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that cessation of physical IPV and perceived social support contributed to mental health recovery, while a high perception of lifetime events predicted the continuation of PTSD symptoms.
This study shows that the pattern of mental health recovery depends on the type of IPV that the women had been exposed to. While those experiencing physical/psychological IPV have a higher likelihood of undergoing a cessation or reduction of IPV over time and, therefore, could recover, women exposed to psychological IPV alone have a high probability of continued exposure to the same type of IPV with a low possibility of recovery. Thus, women exposed to psychological IPV alone need more help to escape from IPV and to recuperate their mental health. Longitudinal studies are needed to improve knowledge of factors promoting or impeding health recovery to guide the formulation of policy at individual, social and criminal justice levels.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global health problem that often results in a variety of mental health detriments,
including trauma-related distress and depressive symptoms. According to the trauma literature, IPV victims
may develop strong bonds with their perpetrators – a phenomenon known as identification with the aggressor
(IWA) – in order to survive the abuse. Yet, this defensive reaction may endure after the abuse has ended, and
may adversely affect victims' mental health. Nevertheless, research exploring these suppositions is lacking. Filling
this void, this study investigated IWA in light of current versus past IPV as well as the relations between IWA,
trauma-related distress, and depressive symptoms among a convenience sample of 297 women. Of them, 68 and
229 participants reported being subjected to IPV at present or in the past, respectively. Results indicated that
whereas participants who reported current IPV had elevated trauma-related distress and depressive symptoms
compared to participants who reported past IPV, no differences were found in IWA levels between the groups.
Identification with the aggressor was related to trauma-related distress and depressive symptoms. Furthermore,
IWA had a unique contribution in explaining trauma-related distress and depressive symptoms above and beyond
background characteristics and IPV features. The findings of the current study suggest that IWA may mirror
the unique relational dynamics that characterize IPV, which continue to exist even after the abuse ends, and may
be implicated in IPV survivors’ psychological distress.
Trauma survivors who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms may be particularly vulnerable when facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet trauma exposure may also lead to salutogenic outcomes, known as posttraumatic growth (PTG). Nevertheless, the implications of PTG attributed to prior trauma, for trauma survivors’ adjustment when facing additional stressors, are unclear. Addressing this gap, 528 Israeli trauma survivors were assessed for PTG and PTSD symptoms attributed to prior trauma, as well as peritraumatic stress symptoms related to the pandemic, as part of an online survey. Analyses revealed that being younger, female, quarantined, negatively self-rating one’s health status, and suffering from PTSD symptoms were associated with elevated peritraumatic stress symptoms. Furthermore, PTG attributed to prior trauma made a significant contribution in explaining elevated intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms. The present results point to the need for clinicians to take into account reports of PTG attributed to prior trauma when treating trauma survivors during the current pandemic.
Childhood abuse survivors may display both inward and outward aggression manifested in self-injurious behavior (SIB) and violent acts toward others. Scrutinizing the literature reveals that the relational dynamics between victims and their perpetrators might be involved in these phenomena. Yet, research on this subject matter has been sparse. Filling this gap, this study investigated the contribution of the singular bonds between victims and their perpetrators, known as identification with the aggressor, in explaining survivors’ aggression. The study was conducted among 306 Israeli college/university students who reported a history of childhood abuse. Results revealed that levels of adopting the perpetrator’s experience, identifying with the perpetrator’s aggression, and replacing one’s agency with that of the perpetrator were significantly associated with survivors’ inward and outward aggression. Moreover, profile type—that is, having high versus low levels of identification with the aggressor—was implicated in participants’ SIBs, urge to harm others, and violent acts toward others, above and beyond the effects of gender and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The present findings suggest that identification with the aggressor might make survivors prone to the re-enactment of past abusive dynamics, which, in turn, could eventuate in aggression toward themselves and others.
As the COVID-19 outbreak peaks, millions of individuals are losing their income, and economic anxiety is felt worldwide. In three different countries (the USA, the UK, and Israel: N = 1200), the present study addresses four different sources of anxiety: health-related anxiety, economic-related anxiety, daily routine-change anxiety, and anxiety generated by social isolation. We hypothesized that, economic anxiety would have a similar or greater effect, compared to health anxiety. Results show that in all three countries, the levels of economic and health anxiety were essentially equal, and both surpassed routine-change and isolation anxiety. Although the COVID-19 crisis originated in the health field, this study emphasizes the need to move from a generalized concept of anxiety to specific types of distress, most notably economic anxiety. Economic anxiety results in serious mental and physical health problems and should be attended to by clinical professionals and by policy makers.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined as physical or sexual violence, emotional abuse and stalking. It is typically experienced by women but can also be experienced by men. During quarantine due to the COVID-19, home risks to become a very dangerous place for victims of domestic violence.
Very recent studies focusing on abusive situations during COVID emergence were identified in PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Embase.
During the COVID-19 outbreak people have encountered an invisible and dark enemy and an experience of impotence. Due to the feelings of frustration and agitation, aggression arises with possible transgenerational transmission of trauma and violence.
Especially during quarantine and COVID emergence around the world there is a need of programs aimed to prevent acts of domestic violence and to achieve accurate assessment of multiple domains of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual) provided by trained multidisciplinary staffs (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social and legal services).
Identifying with the aggressor is a process wherein victims of abuse, particularly during childhood, take on their perpetrator’s experience. The victim defers to the perpetrator and adopts the perpetrator’s experience, learns the perpetrator’s desires and needs, and gratifies them. Although the clinical and theoretical literature suggests that identification with the aggressor occurs in the aftermath of abuse and has negative long-term implications, to date this concept has not been empirically investigated. To facilitate an exploration of this subject, the current study evaluated the psychometric properties of a new measure: the Identification With the Aggressor Scale (IAS). The study was conducted among convenience samples of students using online surveys. In Study 1, the IAS was administered to 318 students. In Study 2, the IAS, and a battery of questionnaires assessing features of abuse, dissociation, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and posttraumatic guilt were administered to a convenience sample of 368 students. Four reliable IAS factors emerged from Study 1: Adopting the perpetrator’s experience concerning the abuse, identifying with the perpetrator’s aggression, replacing one’s agency with that of the perpetrator, and becoming hypersensitive to the perpetrator. In Study 2, a confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the scale’s underlying factor structure. A history of childhood abuse, recurrence and severity of abuse, and the perpetrator being a parental figure were all associated with higher IAS scores. In addition, IAS scores were correlated with dissociation, PTSD symptoms, and posttraumatic guilt. The present findings indicate that the IAS has good psychometric properties, making it useful as an assessment tool in future research.
The study used the ecological model of trauma and recovery (Harvey, 1996) to examine the rates of probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among female victims of domestic violence. Five hundred and five participants completed questionnaires upon entering shelters in Israel. Analysis showed that 61% of the participants reported probable PTSD. Childhood exposure to violence, violence severity, and feeling helpless were all associated with high PTSD levels. By contrast, Ethiopian ethnicity, social support, and a stronger sense of control were associated with lower PTSD levels. However, the interaction between social support and violence duration showed that social support did not moderate PTSD when exposure to violence endured. The study emphasizes that resources deteriorate, and that policy-augmenting prevention programs would increase treatment potential to strengthen survivors' coping capacities.
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) poses a risk for sexual revictimization.
Additionally, according to theory CSA may lead to
identification with the aggressor, expressed by adopting the
perpetrator’s experience concerning the abuse; identifying
with the perpetrator’s aggression; replacing one’s agency
with that of the perpetrator; and becoming hyper-sensitive to
the perpetrator. Although clinical impressions suggest that
identification with the aggressor underlies reenactment of
trauma, this linkage between identification with the aggressor
and sexual revictimization remains largely uninvestigated. This
study assessed (a) the relationship between identification with
the aggressor (total score and four subscales) and sexual revictimization;
(b) the unique associations between identification
with the aggressor (total score and four subscales) and sexual
revictimization, above and beyond chronicity of abuse and
PTSD symptoms. Participants were Israeli women students
who reported a history of CSA (n = 174). Analyses indicated
significant correlations between two subscales of identification
with the aggressor – replacing one’s agency with that of the
perpetrator and becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator –
and sexual revictimization. These subscales of identification
with the aggressor were associated with sexual revictimization,
above and beyond the effects of chronicity of the abuse and
PTSD symptoms. Nevertheless, these associations were in
opposite directions – while replacing one’s agency with that
of the perpetrator was related with higher occurrence of sexual
revictimization, becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator
was related with lower levels of revictimization. These results
imply that identification with the aggressor may serve as
a multifaceted phenomenon in the context of sexual revictimization,
comprised of both adaptive and maladaptive aspects.
Living with veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with elevated distress in spouses. Moreover, military spouses are at an elevated risk for domestic abuse, which might exacerbate their plight. Forgiveness is posited to have a healing effect for individuals, both in general as well as in the context of marital relations. Yet, the outcomes of forgiveness under conditions of ongoing abuse are not well understood. The current study fills this gap. Military spouses (n = 245) were assessed 30 (T1) and 38 (T2) years after the 1973 Yom-Kippur War. Abuse inflicted upon the spouses, spouses’ forgiveness, spouses’ distress (self-rated health and psychiatric symptomatology) and veterans’ PTSD symptoms were assessed. Domestic abuse was associated with spouses’ distress beyond the effect of the veterans’ PTSD. Furthermore, domestic abuse moderated the associations between forgiveness and distress. Whereas forgiveness predicted reduced distress among spouses who reported a lower frequency of domestic abuse, its effects were non-significant among spouses who reported a higher frequency of domestic abuse. Results imply that the protective effect of forgiveness dissolves in the face of an elevated frequency of ongoing abuse and that promoting forgiveness as a part of psychotherapy for individuals who undergo abuse might be ineffective.
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is an extreme traumatic event associated with numerous long lasting difficulties and symptoms (e.g., Herman, 1992). These include, among other things, the impediment of basic interpersonal structures of attachment (Rumstein-McKean & Hunsley, 2001), as well as impairment of mental integration manifested in dissociation (Van Den Bosch et al., 2003). Theoretically, attachment insecurities and dissociation are closely linked, since dissociation is generated as a way to resolve the conflicted attachment demands faced by the abused child (e.g., Liotti, 1992). Nevertheless, the directionality of association between attachment insecurities and dissociation during treatment of adult CSA survivors remains largely uninvestigated. Filling this gap, the present prospective study assessed female adult survivors of CSA who were outpatients at four treatment centers in Denmark (n = 407), at the start of treatment (T1), 6 months after starting treatment (T2) and 12 months after starting treatment (T3). Results indicated that both attachment insecurities and dissociation reduced over time during treatment. Elevated attachment insecurities were associated with elevated dissociation at each of the measurements. Moreover, there was a reciprocal association between attachment avoidance and dissociation during treatment. Low levels of attachment avoidance predicted a decline in dissociation and vice versa. Findings suggest that treatment creates a cycle of healing in which rehabilitation of attachment fosters reintegration, which in turn deepens the restoration of attachment.
This paper examines the consequences, measured by subsequent violence, of returning to a previously abusive relationship. Two stage least squares estimation is used to control for the effect of prior violence on the probability of leaving, thus isolating the independent effect of leaving on later violence. The theoretically expected result is ambiguous: On the one hand, if aggressors view the attempt to leave as disobedience, then violence should increase upon return. If, instead, aggressors believe the temporary leave indicates that the victim will leave permanently (because she is unwilling to tolerate further abuse), then violence should decrease. Using data from the 1985 Physical Violence in American Families survey, the results show that victims who temporarily leave their abusers suffer increased violence relative to those who never leave. This paper contributes to the literature on domestic violence in several ways. First, the analysis explicitly models the endogeneity of the decision to leave. Second, the sample of abuse victims is nationally representative and includes both women who temporarily leave and women who never leave their abusers. Finally, the analyses test the prediction that the mere presence of shelters will decrease violence within intact relationships. While the results do not support this hypothesis, this may be due to the imperfect (state-level) measure of support services used.
Past research and theory suggest that a battered woman's economic dependence on her assailant, and her commitment to "saving" the relationship, are important factors in the decision to leave her partner. However, clear empirical evidence for these relationships is lacking. The present study examined these two factors, using both objective and subjective measures. Results indicated that both economic dependence and commitment were significantly, and independently, related to decisions to leave an abusive relationship. Furthermore, these results held for both objective and subjective measures, though more strongly for the latter.
The relationships between child psychological maltreatment, interpersonal schemas, and adult relationship aggression were explored in 301 college men and women. Participants completed questionnaires assessing a history of child abuse, current maladaptive schemas, adult intimate partner victimization, and perpetration of adult aggression. Child psychological maltreatment predicted both perpetration and revictimization experiences of adult interpersonal aggression even after controlling for other childhood abuse experiences. The schemas of mistrust, self-sacrifice, and emotional inhibition fully mediated the relationship between child psychological maltreatment and adult intimate partner victimization. The schemas of mistrust, entitlement, emotional inhibition, and insufficient self-control partially mediated the relationship between child psychological maltreatment and one's own perpetration of aggression. Implications for intervening with young adults at risk for relationship aggression are discussed.
When we feel overwhelmed by an inescapable threat, we "identify with the aggressor" (Ferenczi, 1933). Hoping to survive, we sense and "become" precisely what the attacker expects of us--in our behavior, perceptions, emotions, and thoughts. Identification with the aggressor is closely coordinated with other responses to trauma, including dissociation. Over the long run, it can become habitual and can lead to masochism, chronic hypervigilance, and other personality distortions. But habitual identification with the aggressor also frequently occurs in people who have not suffered severe trauma, which raises the possibility that certain events not generally considered to constitute trauma are often experienced as traumatic. Following Ferenczi, I suggest that emotional abandonment or isolation, and being subject to a greater power, are such events. In addition, identification with the aggressor is a tactic typical of people in a weak position; as such, it plays an important role in social interaction in general.
Much of the existing research on intimate male violence against women has focused on the prevalence of and response to abuse that occurs within an ongoing intimate relationship. Little attention has been paid to the abuse that occurs after women have ended abusive relationships. In the current study, women leaving a shelter for women with abusive partners were interviewed across 2 years. More than one third of the women were assaulted by a former partner during the time of the study. Several factors under the control of the batterer were found to be related to ex-partner assaults, including his prior violence, threats, and sexual suspicion. Several factors under partial control of the survivor were also explored and were found to be less strongly related to violence by an ex-partner. Implications for improving the community response to women with abusive partners and ex-partners are discussed.
The aim of the survey reported in this article was to assess the frequency and severity of violence against women in Israel and to identify some major risk factors associated with that violence. During 2000 and 2001, a structured self-report questionnaire was administered to a stratified probability sample drawn from the general population in Israel including 2,544 households, of which 2,092 included only women respondents and 452 included both men and women (904 respondents in total). When compared to those of other Western countries, the rates of psychological aggression in Israel are slightly higher, although the rates of physical aggression are lower.
The present study examines help-seeking behavior among abused Vietnamese American women to understand factors associated with their decisions to seek help. Using a qualitative method and data obtained from in-depth interviews with 34 abused Vietnamese American women selected from four different Vietnamese communities in the United States (Orange County, CA; Houston, TX; Boston, MA; and Lansing, MI) and 11 Vietnamese Americans who had contacts with Vietnamese American victims of domestic violence through their jobs, the study found that abused Vietnamese American women have sought help from their personal networks, the criminal justice system, and various victim service agencies. Data analyses suggest that the decisions of Vietnamese American women to reach out are complex and diverse and are shaped by various structural, cultural, and organizational factors. Acculturation on the part of abused women as well as victim services can facilitate the women’s efforts to seek help outside their personal networks.
For battered women who participate in social and police services designed to help them, a dominant cultural script has emerged that directs them to get away and stay away from their abusers. Using in-depth interview and participant-observation data, the author examines the strategies battered women employ to resist that script. Staying with an abuser, ignoring and lifting restraining orders, and refusing to call and cooperate with police were active, reasoned choices battered women made in response to an array of conditions including fear of and harassment by abuser, complex everyday-life contingencies, and emotional attachment to abuser. The battered women tried to use the dominant cultural script to get away and stay away, but found that the script was overly narrow and there was a lack of coordinated institutional support for their decisions. This study extends sociological perspectives on battered women by viewing them as a culture of resistance and focusing on strategies they employ to assert control and make choices relevant to their needs and interests.
In this study, the extent to which nine indicators of intrusion (i.e., unwanted interference in everyday life) predicted the odds of women maintaining separation from an abusive partner was examined using data from a community sample of 286 Canadian women. Higher levels of depression and PTSD symptoms significantly and independently increased women's risk of being unable to maintain separation from a former or new abusive partner over a 12-month period (Odds Ratios 4.6 and 2.7, respectively). These finding underscore the importance of supporting women to identify and manage mental health problems as a means of enhancing their safety.
Working with women living with domestic violence has always been a sensitive and potentially stressful issue for frontline workers. It is essential that workers have a good understanding of the impact that living with domestic violence has on women and that they have identified some positive ways to work with women living with domestic violence if they are to feel confident when dealing with this topic.Stockholm Syndrome is recognised as a psychological phenomenon whereby hostages identify and ally with their captors. This article explores the parallels between this syndrome and domestic violence and explains why women living with violence often behave in a way that seems bizarre to an onlooker. Then it identifies how this can be used in a training context to enable participants to be able to work more effectively with women living with domestic violence.
Objective: This paper proposes a conceptual model for gender differences in outcomes of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization, broadly conceived as including physical, sexual, emotional, and coercive control forms of abuse, as well as stalking. Method: Literature review of PsycInfo and PubMed databases. Results: The literature reviewed suggests these negative effects are not equally distributed by gender—studies indicate that women suffer disproportionately from IPV, especially in terms of injuries, fear, and posttraumatic stress. The review also finds that women experience greater decreases in relationship satisfaction as a result of IPV. Conclusions: Our review largely supports the contention of feminist theory that gender matters—but we would go further and say that what really matters is power; gender matters because it is so highly correlated with power. We propose that, due to cultural factors that typically ascribe higher status to the male gender, and men's greater size and strength compared to women (on average), women are more likely than men to encounter contextual factors that disempower them and put them in situations—such as sexual abuse—that increase their risk of poor outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
the model of the Stockholm Syndrome, which has been developed to account for the paradoxical psychological responses of hostages to their captors
when threatened with death by a captor who is also kind in some ways, hostages develop a fondness for the captor and an antipathy toward authorities working for their release
feminist analysis of battered women / situation-centered as opposed to a person-centered approach
detail the development of the Stockholm Syndrome, its underlying psychological mechanisms, and the principles of behavior for hostage survival
after highlighting similarities and differences between the situations of battered women and hostages, we will briefly discuss implications for treatment (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
A contemporary psychoanalytic view of relational masochism is presented and applied to the 2 major psychological paradigms used to understand domestic violence: traumatic bonding (D. G. Dutton and S. Painter; 1981) and the cycle theory of violence (L. Walker; 1979, 1984). Some of the prominent dynamics of relational masochism are considered: (1) the attempted control over the love object; (2) defensive operations of denial, identification, and projection; (3) low self-esteem; and (4) depressive affect. The relationship between child abuse, future spouse abuse, and difficulties in separating from the abusive partner is examined. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This chapter explores the identification of domestic violence as a major social, legal, and health problem with the potential to destroy millions of families. Domestic violence has been conceptualized as an abuser's attempt to use physical, sexual, or psychological force to take away a woman's power and control over her life. The studies of damaging relationships have elucidated the dynamics that force their progress until the woman feels like she has become imprisoned. Most battering relationships do end in divorce, often putting the woman at the highest risk for further harm or actual death from the point of separation to about 2 years postdivorce. Stalking is the name given to a grouping of behaviors that batterers do to keep the relationship between themselves and their partners from being detached. The battered woman's checklist presented in this chapter often helps a battered woman or her family and friends to evaluate whether there is abuse in the relationship. The mandatory reporting laws for domestic violence and subsequent court ordered treatment programs in the United States have recently provided better access to the understanding of abusive men.
Surveyed 185 survivors of abusive relationships to identify women who successfully ended such relationships, to present a profile of their personal and abuse histories, to describe the strategies for ending the violence, and to report their satisfaction with treatment methods and results. 16 Ss were living with the former abuser and were satisfied, 11 Ss were living with the former abuser and were not satisfied, and 158 Ss were not living with the former abuser. Ss tended to be advantaged in that they were older, married longer, better educated, and working outside the home. They had a substantial history of abuse and had tried numerous unsuccessful strategies before ending the abuse. Satisfied Ss clearly felt a strong emotional attachment to their partners and felt hopeful, as opposed to emotionally estranged, in contrast with dissatisfied Ss. Of the range of resources used to end abuse, the majority of survivors used friends and family. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Examined the correlates of battered women's decisions to return home to the abuser after termination by a shelter. Data were collected on 426 battered women who sought help from a spouse-abuse shelter. Results indicate that Ss were most likely to return home to the abuser when (1) the annual family income was relatively high; (2) they were unemployed; (3) they had been victims of severe abuse; and (4) they had negative perceptions of themselves. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Most often, for battered women, the decision to stay or leave is not made at a single point in time with finality, but instead unfolds over time, and represents the most fundamental and difficult decision women may face (Barnett & LaViolette, 1993). In order to increase our knowledge of the complex factors involved in stay–leave experiences for women in violent relationships, this study focused on explicating multiple variables relevant to battered women who were either in a violent relationship or who had left a violent relationship. Five relationship status groups were examined in order to better understand the potential differences in women's experiences at different points in time: women in violent relationships (1); women out of a violent relationship for up to 6 months (2); women out of a violent relationship from 6 months to 1 year (3); women out of a violent relationship 1 to 3 years (4); women out of a violent relationship 3 years or more. Two hundred women were recruited via advertisements and posters. Using cross-sectional analyses, the variables examined included trauma symptoms (Briere, 1989); coping (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985); self-efficacy for leaving a violent relationship (a measure developed for this study; Kennedy, 1996); and physical violence (Straus, 1979). Results indicated that dynamic psychological variables such as self-efficacy, trauma symptoms, and coping varied depending on whether women were in or out of the relationship and how long it had been since they had left the relationship. These findings support the importance of understanding and responding to process variables, relevant to battered women's experiences and the potential value in tailoring interventions that are relevant to each woman's needs at a given point in the decision-making process.
Conservation of resources theory (S. E. Hobfoll, 1988, 1999) hypothesizes that loss of resiliency resources can contribute to abused women's posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which, in turn, contribute to a further loss of resources, which can make abused women even more vulnerable to future stressors. This study investigates the impact of PTSD symptoms on abused women's future loss of resources-resources that women both value and need to aid their ongoing adjustment. Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms contributed to future resource loss in abused women, even when controlling for the effects of prior resource loss and depression. Emotional numbing symptoms of PTSD accounted most for women's resource loss. Findings highlight the importance of research and intervention that more directly examines the link between emotions and resource loss.