We may prefer to deflate ourselves in order to keep the relationship, even though we glimpse the impossibility of it and the slavishness to which it reduces us.
— Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death
Each of the explanations for women staying with, or returning to, their assaulters presented in Chapter 6 receive qualified empirical support. Yet taken individually or together, they do not adequately account for the sudden about-face that often characterizes the return of an assaulted woman to a relationship that has a high prognosis of future violence. Most of the above explanations, in fact, either address the woman's initial choice of a relationship or else present a picture of an amotivational woman who has lost interest in attempting to change her situation.
While ambivalence may manifest itself behaviorally in the assaulted woman, most professionals support the view that such a woman experiences very strong post-traumatic emotional states and that these serve either to push her out of, or to pull her back into, the battering relationship. My colleague, Susan Painter, and I have developed a theory based on the social psychological research on power and social traps and on the developmental research on the formation of emotional bonds. This theory links the tenacity and loyalty of assaulted women to special features of the abusive relationship rather than to inferred aspects of her own personality or to the socioeconomic milieu in which she finds herself.
The formation of strong emotional attachments under conditions of intermittent maltreatment is not specific to assaulted women but has been reported in a variety of studies, both experimental and observational, with both human and animal subjects. For example, as described in Chapter 6, people taken hostage may subsequently show positive