Battered Woman Syndrome
Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a term that was developed to describe the mindset and emotional state of a battered woman. It describes the physical and psychological abuse a woman suffers at the hands of her abuser, with whom she shares a personal, intimate relationship(Jackson). It was first proposed in 1970 based on the observations of clinician, Dr. Lenore Walker(Dixon). A battered woman is woman who has experienced at least two complete battering cycles in terms of dating and domestic violence(Battered Woman Syndrome). BWS claims that battered women are generally psychologically traumatized and therefore not responsible for their violent actions. Because of this, a battered woman is not held responsible for murdering her abuser(McElroy). BWS has become a defense mechanism reoccurring more and more often in criminal court cases.
Battered Woman Syndrome is often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. “Domestic violence involves exposure to severe trauma and so the reactions of a battered woman may be due to flashbacks or other intrusive experiences from previous traumatic events so that the woman believes that she is in danger, even if she is not(Battered Woman Syndrome).” Courts have yet to establish an independent defense based on BWS. Instead, cases involving battered woman typically establish a claim of self defense(Jackson). It is commonly found that self defense wins cases over BWS(Raybin).
There are two types of cases where BWS evidence is offered during criminal cases: Non-confrontational cases and confrontational cases. Non-confrontational cases are those where the battered woman attacks her abuser at a time where she is in no immediate harm or danger. An example of non-confrontational cases would be when the attacker is asleep. Confrontational cases describe situations where a battered woman attacks her abuser in the midst of being abused. Obviously in confrontational cases, the court is more likely to...
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