Somewhere in Canada at this very moment, a woman is being abused. She will be left with bruises, cuts, broken bones, and scars. The scars that last forever are not physical; however, they are ones of mental anguish. Commonly, outsiders will wonder why battered women stay within these toxic relationships. How could these women choose to remain subject to this often life-threatening abuse which impacts not only her well-being, but the well-being of her children? Battered women suffer both short-term and long-term effects of violence and often become bound to their abusive situation by a dependence on their perpetrators, and by the misunderstood cycle in which they remain permanent victims. The present paper reviews the dynamics of abuse within a relationship and explores how the model of learned helplessness helps us to understand the reactions and behaviour of battered women.
Learned Helplessness as a Model:
The learned helplessness paradigm, initially described by Seligman and Maier in 1967, is the most widely studied animal model of depression (Honey, Powel, & Symbaluk, 2005). According to this theory, the degree to which organisms can exert control over events to which they are exposed has a strong impact on behavior and physiological functioning. According to Honey and associates (2005), effects caused by the uncontrollability of events that are beyond the organism's control, rather than by the events per se, have been called learned helplessness effects. At a behavioral level, uncontrollable aversive events result in associative, motivational, and emotional deficits (Briere & Jordan, 2004).
Regarding the model of learned helplessness, the punishment experienced occurs regardless of behaviour, more specifically, the punishment is noncontingent on behaviour (Honey, Powel, & Symbaluk, 2005). With regard to Seligman and Maier’s experiment, dogs were exposed to a shuttle avoidance procedure in which the task was to learn to...