Battered Wife Syndrome

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Abuse continues to be a significant problem nationwide, shattering the lives of many. It is hard to imagine the domination that the abuser exercises over the abused, the danger that they feel, and the violence and fear that traumatise them. Violence is not a private matter. One cannot draw the curtains and forgive and forget, society must intervene and offer help and comfort. However, sometimes the help offered can be inadequate and illogical. Battered wife syndrome (a condition created by sustained physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, which creates a variety of physical and emotional symptoms) has been used as a defence in murder cases in which women have killed or harmed their abuser. Although expert testimony regarding battered wife syndrome has gained some acceptance in the courts, it is questionable that it provides enough solid and substantive evidence to be used as a credible defence. The battered wife syndrome defence is more of a demand for compassion and empathy, as one who was battered never deserved such treatment. The lack of a singular profile, the immorality of “two wrongs making a right”, and the support of a gender hierarchy, makes the use of this syndrome dubious. Battered wife syndrome suggests that the psychological impact of battering is defined by a common set of symptoms, but battered victims reactions to violence and abuse vary greatly and therefore there is no single profile on the effects of battering. Emotional reactions can include changes in beliefs and attitudes about them selves, others and the world, and symptoms of psychological distress or dysfunction. A particular battered victims reaction may or may not meet the criteria to warrant a clinical diagnosis. How can one decide the amount of battering that leads to the ability to plead battered wife syndrome in a court of law when each person reacts differently to being battered. No one can begin to understand each victim of abuse, what they have gone through, or what


Cited: Loshuk 6 Anne M. Coughlin. Excusing Women. California Law Review, Vol. 82, No. 1, Jan., 1994. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3480849?uid=3737720&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101654055197 Kosof, Anna. Battered Women: Living with the Enemy. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994. Print Torr, James D., and Karin Swisher, eds. Violence against Women. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 1999. Print.

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