This chapter examines the stereotypes of women that currently pervade the legal system and their implications for women subjected to abuse who seek the system's assistance. It begins with an overview of images of victims of domestic violence prior to the rise of the battered women's movement. It then outlines the construction of the paradigmatic victim, a construction informed by Lenore Walker's theory of learned helplessness based on her book, The Battered Woman, and enshrined in the law through battered woman syndrome. It also considers an alternative theory intended to explain the behavior of women subjected to abuse: the survivor theory developed by sociologists Edward Gondolf and Ellen Fisher. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the consequences of the failure to conform to the passivity stereotype for women subjected to abuse.
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