Defending Battered Women's Self-Defense Claims

01 Jan 1988

This Article contends that many battered women who kill their abusive spouses can legitimately raise the standard self-defense claim. No substantial extension of self-defense doctrine is required to justify the acquittal of battered women on self-defense grounds. Furthermore, no special "battered women defense" is necessary or even desirable in such cases.

Part I of this Article summarizes the results of psychological research studying abused women and battering relationships. It further explains the concept of the :battered woman syndrome" which describes the effects of sustained physical and psychological abuse by one's husband. Part II discusses the requirements of a successful self-defense claim and concludes that many battered women who kill their abusive husbands can prove each of the necessary elements. Finally, Part III critically evaluates the various objections to recognition of self-defense claims raised by battered women and also discusses several alternative defenses that have been proposed for such cases.