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Battered Person Syndrome

A History of Battered Person Syndrome

A History of Battered Person Syndrome

In the 1970s, clinical psychologist Dr.
Lenore Walker observed, described, and published information about the battered
woman syndrome.  She sought to develop a theory that would explain
domestic violence and why intimate partner abuse often reoccurred. Dr. Walker
developed the battered woman syndrome after spending a great deal of time
counseling and treating victims of domestic violence. 

She noticed that
individuals who were subjected to intimate partner abuse often experienced
victimization repeatedly. Despite this, many women did not try to escape their
harmful environment or leave their abusive partner. Victims often remained in
harmful relationships despite the violence and the brutality that they were
suffering from. 

The battered woman syndrome provided explanations for why a
victim remained in these detrimental environments. It also addressed questions
regarding the victim’s failure to report abuse and seek help from friends and
family members. A few years after it’s conception, Dr. Walker started providing
expert testimony regarding the battered woman syndrome.

Once the public became aware of the battered woman syndrome that was described
by Dr. Lenore Walker, many women employed this condition as a legal defense for
killing their abusive husbands. Dr. Walker often acted as an expert witness for
women who were standing trial for murdering their violent and aggressive
partners. Dr. Walker utilized the causes and effects of the battered woman
syndrome in order to convince courts that these women’s actions were justified.

The use of the battered woman syndrome as a sufficient legal defense became
extremely controversial because many people did not feel that the effects of
this psychological condition were serious enough to legitimize murder. In many
cases, in order for the battered woman syndrome to be effective in a courtroom,
the defense attorney will be required to affirm that the victim was acting in
self defense. They will therefore need to prove that the victim was being
exposed to present provocation, that they were in unavoidable danger, and that
they countered their attacker with an equal amount of force. 

When congress
passes the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, the validity of the battered
woman syndrome was investigated. Based on the findings, congress discounted
this condition as a substantial legal defense. Despite congress’s position on the
battered woman syndrome, this psychological condition is often cited as a
defense. In 2002, California passed a new law that permitted the women who were
convicted of murdering their abusive husband before 1992 to seek a sentence

Since the passage of this law, over one hundred victims of abuse who
have been incarcerated for the murder of their abuser have been released. The
first of  these women to be released was Marva Wallace, who served
seventeen years in prison for murdering her violent and abusive husband.
Although, the effectiveness of using the battered woman syndrome as a legal
defense will vary a great deal from state to state and from cases to case.
However, since its discovery, this psychological condition has helped people to
understand the mentality and the state of mind of women who have suffered from
domestic violence.

Is There a Legal Defense to Hurting a Woman?

Is There a Legal Defense to Hurting a Woman?


Physical abuse and domestic violence against women is extremely painful and agonizing for an individual who is being subjected to it. In many cases, domestic violence against women only becomes more severe overtime. Abused women may notice that their partners are becoming more aggressive and violent as time progresses. Often, victims of domestic violence will feel trapped. Abused women may feel that there is no safe way to escape their current situation. 

A perpetrator will forbid their victim from speaking with anyone about the abuse. They may threaten their victim with extreme brutality and death if they seek help. The offender may also threaten to subject the victim's children to abuse. In situations such as this, a victim of intimate partner abuse may believe that attempting to escape the detrimental relationship will be more harmful then remaining in their current environment. Attempting to leave may put the victim's children at risk for harm. 

Therefore, a victim may be convinced that they have no options. In situations such as this, abused women will fear for their lives and for the lives of their children. Domestic violence against women often ends fatally, not only with the death of the victim, but in some cases with the murder of the abuser.

Women who believe that their abuser will subject them to fatal abuse may go to extreme measures in order to protect themselves and their children. Domestic violence against women may result in the premeditated murder of the offender, or the accidental slaying of the abuser. Victims of abuse are not always submissive and compliant. 

Sometimes abused women fight back. The wounds that an individual inflicts upon an abuser in self defense may be fatal and can result in the death of the offender. In some cases, abused women will be so convinced that there is no way to escape their abuser that they will plot and carry out the perpetrators murder. In instances such as this, many individuals who have killed their abuser will exercise battered women's syndrome as a legal defense. This psychological condition is used in order to illustrate the victim's mentality throughout their affliction. 

This defense will help to explain why a victim did not try to escape their detrimental relationship and why they dud not seek assistance from other individuals. It will also help to answer questions regarding a victim's failure to report abuse and their denial of the domestic violence. If this condition is accepted as a sufficient legal defense, then an individual who is responsible for murder may receive few or no negative repercussions for their actions. However, utilizing this psychological condition as a legal defense has been very controversial because there is no medical evidence that battered women's syndrome is a serious enough medical ailment to justify the victim's actions. In some cases, battered women's syndrome is not considered to be an acceptable legal defense.  If you need legal advice and assistance, contact defense lawyers.

However, courts recognize that an individual who is suffering from this condition may use self defense, insanity, or provocation as a legal defense. Although many people recognize battered women's syndrome as a severe psychological condition, and they understand that domestic violence against women results in battered women's syndrome, not all courts believe that it justifies the murder of the abuser.