Defense for Battered Women

defense for battered women

Defense for battered women is used in court for a woman accused of assaulting or murdering her husband or partner because of abuse. There is no medical classification that supports the existence of such ‘syndrome’ but it is still used by lawyers in court to defend the actions of women who have suffered from domestic violence.

Defense for battered women is also commonly referred to as ‘self-defense’; it is a woman’s response to her husband or partner’s abusive act. Due to suffering from constant and severe domestic violence, some women undergo depression and a feeling of helplessness. They are unable to take independent action to escape the abusive acts and they develop fears with regard to social support, financial means and many more.

Battered women also suffer from low self-esteem; they are often led to believe that the abuse is their fault. They develop misplaced feelings and therefore refuse to press charges against their abusive partners. Victims of abuse usually develop psychological disorders that may lead them to kill or harm their abuser. Although there is no medical proof for this that may excuse the alleged offenders, it is still used as a defense for battered women in court.

Defense for Battered Women: Kill or Be Killed

Women who are victims of abuse are usually faced with a difficult choice; killing their husbands/partner to save themselves. Killing their abuser is not usually planned – it is a woman’s last attempt to save herself. However, a woman who kills her abuser is not excused by the law. Their act is not seen as ‘self-defense’, they are usually charged with murder or manslaughter. The main reason behind this is that judges and juries don’t deem most acts of violence as life-threatening.

Killing is a last resort of defense for battered women; it is a defensive move that anyone suffering from domestic violence sees as an ‘escape’ from their situation. Women who kill their abusers are driven to do such action because they felt that their lives were on the line. They have all the right to feel scared as nearly 4,000 women die in the hands of their abusers every year.

The Story of Caroline Scott

She suffered excessive physical violence from the hands of Arthur Lee. One night, Arthur came home drunk from alcohol and a jealous rage. He told Caroline to put on her handcuffs – the precursor of severe beatings that became worst over time. Caroline has children and she had difficulty figuring out how to leave the house without leaving them behind. She overheard Arthur telling someone over the phone ‘she would be gone in 45 minutes’. Fearful of what may happen to her, she immediately grabbed one of her husband’s guns and shot him to death. But because Arthur wasn’t directly beating her when the shooting happened, Caroline was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.

The Story of Jane Churn

Jane ignored her lover’s question which led James to call her abusive names. James also struck her a couple of times and they both fell on the floor when Jane tried to fight back. She then stood up and grabbed a fork from the table which she used to stab James to death. Because she was still brimming with anger, she still hit her already dead lover with a fireplace poker. She was charged with manslaughter and served her time in prison.

However there have been cases when a battered woman gets away with her crime when defense attorney convinces the jury the woman was driven to insanity as in the following case:

The Story of John and Lorena Bobbitt

This couple’s relationship made worldwide headlines in 1993 when Lorena cut off her husband’s penis with a knife while he was asleep in bed. The penis was subsequently surgically reattached. Lorena testified that John had raped her and physically battered her on multiple occasions prior to the evening of the severing of his penis, that they lacked financial stability, and that he stole and spent her earnings. Both the prosecution and defense sides conceded that John had demonstrated a history of abuse toward Lorena, and that this abuse created a context for the assault. The defense strategy emphasized her action as being a mix of self-defense and temporary insanity constituting an “irresistible impulse” due to the history and pattern of abuse and rape. After seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Lorena not guilty due insanity causing an irresistible impulse to sexually wound her husband. As a result, Lorena could not be held liable for her actions.  Under Virginia state law, the judge ordered Lorena to undergo a 45-day evaluation period at Central State Hospital, after which she would be released.

Women who are victims of domestic violence tend to fight back with whatever weapon is available to them. As a defense of battered women against their abusers, most of them use guns. The reason why women choose this weapon among others is that they do not have to be too close to their abuser; they can stop the violence even if the abuser is far away. Also, it doesn’t require upper body strength to fight back like other weapons such as knife or poker.

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