In 1994-1995 while O.J. Simpson was awaiting trial, Dr. Lenore Walker, the Architect of the Battered Women’s Syndrome Theory & Cycle of Violence, spent over 40 hours with Mr. Simpson to psychologically assess & evaluate O.J. Simpson. What follows is Dr. Walker’s report.
O.J. Simpson & Domestic Violence. A Multi-Part Series
Part 6: Inside the Mind of O.J. Simpson
Who Is Dr. Lenore Walker?
Dr. Lenore Walker is the trailblazing researcher who, in the 1970’s, first identified the cycle of violence known as the Battered Woman Syndrome Dr. Walker’s work on behalf of victims of abuse has profoundly influenced the public and the law’s view of domestic violence.
Lenore Walker received her doctorate at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 1972 and immediately went on the psychiatry faculty at the then CMDNJ Rutgers Medical School where she began her research about the psychological effects of domestic violence on women and children. In 1978 Walker received an RO1 research grant from NIMH to study what she named “Battered Woman Syndrome”. She continued that research on the faculty of Nova Southeastern University Center for Psychological Studies where she is the Coordinator of the Clinical Forensic Psychology Concentration in the doctoral program and Director of the Masters in Forensic Psychology program.
Dr. Walker’s three primary areas of interest are feminist psychology, family violence, and violence against women. She has written a total of twelve books and has been published in many journal articles, magazines, and newspapers. Her famous book, The Battered Women, is known for bringing the issue of domestic violence into the public eye (Walker, 2001). From 1978 to 1981, she did interviews and studies on battered women. The major study she did was the Battered Women Syndrome study. Out of this study, she developed theories on how and why domestic violence occurs. She also developed theories on treatment and survival. Dr. Walker became a consultant to many shelters and she developed many questioners to help develop her theories (APA, 1988).
Dr. Walker has spent her career fighting for the rights of victims in domestic violence situations. She has also worked to find the causes of domestic violence, as well as how to treat it. While many do not know of her, the work she has done on domestic violence has shaped the way people today are taught about the issue. Dr. Walker also founded the Domestic Violence Institute and has served on the American Psychological Association’s Board of Directors and Council of Representatives.
What is the Cycle of Violence?
The material that follows comes from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters counselor training publication Understanding Abuse [.pdf] which explains the cycle of violence which Dr. Walker first identified in The Battered Woman (1979):
The cycle of violence refers to the pattern in which intimate partner abuse often occurs (Walker, 1979). Lenore Walker in the Battered Woman (1979) outlined a three stage cycle of abuse in where each stage, while varied in length, is completed before the next stage begins.
Dr. Walker Identifies the three stages of the Cycle of Abuse:
During this phase, the individual that has been abusive begins to demonstrate signs of increased tension. The abusive individual may increasingly use insults and putdowns and may attempt to isolate his partner more than usual. Many women are aware that an explosion is going to occur. This stage has been referred to as, ‘walking on eggshells’. Some women have shared that they knowingly triggered an explosion in order to have it over with, as they know that it is inevitable.
This incident may last a few minutes or go on for an extended period of time. There may be physical or sexual violence during this phase as well as psychological abuse. The individual who becomes abusive may appear to be out of control, but that usually is not the case. The individual is making a choice. The individual being abused has little or no control over what the other person will do. She often feels powerless and terrified.
Honeymoon or loving and contrite stage:
The individual perpetrating the abuse may apologize, show kindness and promise that the abuse will never happen again. The individual that has been abused often wants to believe that the abuse will not happen again and feels hopeful for the relationship. Later, abuser may deny the severity of the abuse, minimize what happened, make excuses, or blame his partner for his abusive behaviours.
Over time this cycle may speed up; the violence may become more frequent and more severe. The honeymoon period often becomes shorter or nonexistent. Without intervention, the abuse is likely going to get worse. This cycle appears to occur in many but not all relationships where there is abuse.
This cycle helps to explain why individuals remain in abusive relationships. The realization that an abusive relationship sometimes has a pattern is an important contribution to the understanding of abuse. By understanding this pattern, women may begin to understand that many of their partner’s behaviours are intended to control them.
The above was taken from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters counselor training publication Understanding Abuse [.pdf] which explains the cycle of violence which Dr. Walker first identified in The Battered Woman (1979)
Between 1977 and 1995, Dr. Walker testified on behalf of more than 350 battered women on trial for homicide, helping shape court law along the way. Every state now permits the introduction of battered woman syndrome in testimony and 10 states require it if the issue of battering is raised.
Dr. Walker’s Evaluation of O.J. Simpson
Dr. Lenore Walker agreed to evaluate O.J. Simpson and potentially testify in the 1995 criminal trial. To fully and accurately evaluate O.J. Simpson, Dr. Walker spent over 40 hours interviewing him and subjecting him to multiple tests. The sessions between Dr. Lenore Walker and O.J. Simpson were held in late-1994 and early-1995, while Mr. Simpson was awaiting trial.
Dr. Lenore Walker provided the defense team with the following key findings following her 40+ hour evaluation and assessment of O.J. Simpson. In 1996, Dr. Walker’s findings were published in the book American Tragedy : The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense by Lawrence Schiller and James Willwerth.
In her report to the Simpson defense team, Dr. Walker shared the following findings:
- O.J. Simpson did not fit the profile of a batterer who murders: “He has good control over his impulses. He appears to control his emotions well.”
- Dr. Walker explained that there are three general categories of batterers. One common type is mentally ill. Another group is violence-prone, in and out of the home. The third, less pathological, group seeks power and control. Simpson’s problems fell into the third category.
- The New Year’s Eve beating in 1989 frightened Simpson, the doctor explained. He was shocked by his capacity for violence. And he knew that as a black man, he faced double condemnation, first as a batterer, second because he had beaten a white woman. This might destroy his career as a pitchman. His offer to tear up the prenuptial agreement if he beat her again wasn’t aimed at reassuring her. He was setting up a penalty system for himself. Now a failure to check his violent impulses could cost him millions in a divorce. O.J. wrote that letter as much for himself as for Nicole. The third phase began post-divorce.
- Simpson suffered deeply from his loss of control over Nicole, over his life. Yet he wasn’t a classic stalker. Walker had studied Simpson’s calendar. Stalkers don’t travel to golf tournaments, she explained. They don’t see other women. They don’t redecorate the bedroom and bath for a new girlfriend, as Simpson was doing for Paula Barbieri. Stalkers are single-minded, monogamous. O.J.’s pattern was closer to that of a heartsick lover, Walker felt.
- The incident with Keith Zlomsowitch was more a matter of jealousy than of stalking. Mr. Simpson could control his anger. He had a bad temper, but he yelled and left, or just left.
- Walker had administered a battery of tests: the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Rorschach test, the Wechsler Scale of Intelligence test. Mr. Simpson’s cognitive functioning was normal. The test results demonstrated that Mr. Simpson’s intelligence was in the superior range. Mr. Simpson’s social skills were found to be remarkable.
- Even one incident, Mr. Simpson understood, characterized him as a batterer.
- Mr. Simpson is not an end-stage batterer, as the prosecution charges, Dr. Walker added
These are the findings of Dr. Lenore Walker’s 40+ hour evaluation and assessment of Mr. Simpson. Dr. Lenore Walker is a world renowned, trailblazing researcher who in the 1970’s first identified the cycle of violence known as the Battered Woman Syndrome.
This was the sixth part of our multi-part series investigating O.J. Simpson and Domestic Violence. The seventh and final part of this series will examine the key findings established in parts one through six as well as address any loose ends not previously examined.