If you’ve often wondered why victims of abuse (verbal, mental, emotional or physical) continue to stay with and find it difficult to leave their abuser, this could explain why.
The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological condition that causes hostages to develop sympathetic sentiments towards their captors, often sharing their opinions and acquiring romantic feelings for them as a survival strategy during captivity.
These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives or in this case between husband and wife or other partners in a relationship during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.
Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly eight percent of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.
Formally named in 1973 when four hostages were taken during a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, Stockholm syndrome is also commonly known as ‘capture bonding’.
The syndrome’s title was developed when the victims of the Stockholm bank robbery defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify in court against them.
Stockholm syndrome’s significance arises due to the fact that it is based in a paradox, as captives’ ot victims sentiments for their captors and abusers are the opposite of the fear and disdain an onlooker may expect to see as a result of trauma.
There are four key components that generally lead to the development of Stockholm syndrome: a hostage’s development or already existing positive feelings towards their captor, no previous hostage-captor relationship as in a marriage or romantic alliance , a refusal by hostages to cooperate with police forces and other government authorities, and a hostage’s or victim’s belief in the humanity of their captor or abuser for the reason that when a victim holds the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.
Stockholm syndrome is umfortunately considered a “contested illness,” due to many law enforcement officers’ doubt about the legitimacy of the condition.
So next time you come across a battered woman who bluntly refuses to leave or continues to return to her abusive partner, do consider that they may be a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome as well as being a victim of abuse, and do not expect in such a case that even the very obvious danger to her life will be enough to make her leave.
And rather than the scorn or added abuse that is often pilled upon victims that won’t make the break from their abusers by others who quite understandably cannot comprehend why a victim will chose to remain in an abusive relationship, a more understanding attitude is required and maybe some professional help to help them get over the syndrome before they can consciously realise the seriousness of their situation.