Views & Reviews Review of the week

Home truths about domestic violence

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 05 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:748
  1. Piyal Sen, consultant forensic psychiatrist, Blenheim Secure Services, Milton Keynes

    A new film offers some important lessons for doctors who suspect cases of domestic violence, writes Piyal Sen

    A man is sleeping in his bed; soon, his pyjamas are aflame. He wakes up in a panic and raises the alarm. The fire brigade and police arrive to find a woman huddled in a corner of the lawn with the children. A police officer escorts her to the police station and a detective constable aggressively interrogates her. The next day she is produced in court, formally charged, and remanded in prison. The husband dies six days later. Thus began the events leading to the trial of Regina v Ahluwalia, which introduced the concept of battered women's syndrome for the first time as a legal defence in UK criminal courts. This term, developed by American psychologist Leonora Walker, is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is characterised by a state of “learned helplessness” to explain the apparent passivity of many victims of violence, and “diminished perception of …

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