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Moral Implications Of The Battered Woman Syndrome

3143 words - 13 pages

Moral Implications of the Battered Woman Syndrome

The Battered Woman Syndrome, like the Cycle Theory of Violence, helps to illuminate the situation of the person victimized by domestic violence. However, it may also contribute to the violence of the battering situation. In this paper, I explore some of the implications of the Battered Woman Syndrome for domestic violence cases wherein an abused woman kills her abuser. I begin by delineating some of the circumstances of a domestic violence situation. I then discuss the particular moral issue of subjectivity or moral personhood involved in instances wherein a woman victimized by domestic violence responds by killing her batterer. Finally, I argue that the Battered Woman Syndrome and similar alternatives to or qualifications of self-defense are problematic because they strip a woman of her moral subjectivity. I conclude with a brief articulation of a proposal for reform of the criminal justice system specifically aimed at cases wherein there has been a long history of abuse or violence. This reform is unique because it does not rely on a separate standard of reasonableness particular to battered women, but arises out of consideration of the moral implications of legal proceedings involving domestic violence.

Introduction

The case of battered women who kill raises some interesting questions regarding the criminal justice system's ability to respond to domestic violence. The Battered Woman Syndrome, like the Cycle Theory of Violence, helps to illuminate the situation of the battered woman, why she does not just leave the relationship, and why some domestic violence relationships end in the death of the batterer. However, it may also contribute to the violence of domestic violence.

In this paper I begin by delineating some of the circumstances of a domestic violence situation. I then discuss the particular moral issue of subjectivity or moral personhood involved in instances wherein a woman victimized by domestic violence responds by killing her batterer. Finally, I argue that the battered woman syndrome and similar alternatives to or qualifications of self-defense are problematic because they strip a woman of her moral subjectivity. I conclude with a brief articulation of a proposal for reform of the criminal justice system specifically aimed at cases wherein there has been a long history of abuse or violence.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as violence among intimates. It raises problems for our moral and legal systems in that it is often characterized by a loving partnership wherein one or both of the partners commits a violent crime against the other partner. (1) The Cycle Theory of Violence, articulated by Lenore Walker, helps to clarify domestic violence and says that abuse tends to occur according to a particular pattern. There are three basic stages to this pattern. The first stage is characterized by tension between the pair. During this tension building...

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