Battered Woman Syndrome as a Legal Defense

History, Effectiveness and Implications


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About the Book

The use of the battered woman syndrome defense in the courts is controversial, particularly when women turn to homicide in response to a partner’s abuse. Scholars worry that the syndrome has created a standard to which all battered women are compared. This book provides a comprehensive examination of the evolution of the syndrome, its effectiveness in court, and the contributions made by psychologists and legal scholars to aid our understanding of the use of battered woman syndrome evidence in trials of abused women who kill. Of particular interest is the influence of history, gender roles, and stereotypes in the evaluation of defendants who claim to suffer from the syndrome.

About the Author(s)

Brenda L. Russell is an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania University Berks.

Bibliographic Details

Brenda L. Russell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-5883-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-6004-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

Introduction      5

1. A General Description of the Problem      13

2. A Historical Analysis of Legal Responses to Battering      28

3. Theories Related to Domestic Violence: Abusers and Abused      37

4. Perceptions of Battered Women: Myth v. Reality      52

5. The Diversity of Battered Women: Myth v. Reality      74

6. The Battered Woman Syndrome: The Good, the Bad and the Alternatives      91

7. When Women Fight Back and Kill Their Abusers: A Realistic Appraisal of Danger or Pathology?      106

8. The Law of Self-Defense      116

9. The Evolution of Expert Testimony of the Battered Woman Syndrome in the Courtroom      131

10. The Admissibility of Evidence: Understanding Legal Standards      148

11. Theories of Jury Decision Making: The Role of Prior Beliefs and Social Cognition      166

12. The Battered Woman Syndrome and Social Cognition: Creating a Stereotype or Effectively Replacing Misconceptions?      188

13. Syndrome or Excuse: A Critical Analysis of the Use of the Syndrome      199

14. Redefining the Future of the Syndrome      211

References      223

Index      243

Book Reviews & Awards

“Russell has written the most thoughtful and best-researched book to date on the Battered Woman…a must read”—Partner Abuse.