Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) has been denounced in courts as not a legitimate excuse for retaliatory acts of violence, self defense, or other acts of violence. It is coming to be known under a different terminology (adult physical abuse is one term) and no longer attempts to have a single term serve the many dynamics that can present when the sufferer reacts to a motivating incident.
The reason you want to be aware of this condition in your role as a hiring manager or recruiter is because instances of bullying can also be considered a form of abuse and very possibly cause a reaction in someone who has survived an abusive relationship and is re-establishing their life.
The condition is real. The sufferer may have succeeded in masking the condition until and even held theirself in denial about it until a precipitating moment. But after a period of successive beratings, torments, insults, and even physical assaults, the person on the receiving end will no longer be able to tolerate the treatment in silence nor brush it off.
There will come a day when the insults to self are too much -- more than the ordinary person can and should tolerate. Or there will be a bump that sends them flying through the air a few inches and releases a flashback of a similar incident that involved flying several feet. A name-calling session will reach saturation point and no more tolerance. The reaction will ensue and seem disproportionate to what others saw. Unfortunately, others do not see the psychological scar tissue that's been building for years and not tolerating the new attacks.
The best way to avoid having some form of BWS erupt in your office is to:
- Maintain a respectful decorum with every person from the lowest part of the hierarchy to the most powerful.
- Be certain that everyone in the organization is focused on one vision -- the livelihood of the organization.
- Also make certain your safety protocols address the needs and special circumstances of your organization.
Following these three disciplines will not guarantee the most wholesome environment. But generally following these practices will provide the first steps to addressing the many needs and priorities associated with what was formerly called battered woman syndrome.