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Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome Essay


Introduction

Criminal law refers to that branch of law charged with the responsibility of punishing crimes committed against the public where it deals with felonies, misdemeanors and treason. Misdemeanors refer to minor crimes under law while felonies are serious crimes serving harsh mandatory sentences[1].

Treason on the other hand is also a serious form of crime under criminal law as it not only violates public interest but also tends to threaten the welfare and national security of a nation[2]. Criminal law is imposed through a process known as criminal procedure where a person found guilty has the intentions of committing a criminal act or has already committed it.

Domestic violence which involves battering is perhaps one of the most common occurring criminal offenses in the world that is least reported. Battery usually comes in a number of forms incorporating all manner of harmful and threatening acts. There are those cases where battery escalates to kicking, choking, hitting with objects, sexual assault and ultimately end in death[3].

Essay

One of the major mistakes majority of individuals make is to believe that battered women tend to bring the violence upon themselves and that if they really desired to leave they could do so easily. Such people do not stop and think that perhaps these battered women are being held hostage in their own homes and are psychologically being abused in an effort of breaking down their will and bring them under control[4].

However, domestic violence or battery is punishable under law where its criminalization has led to the enigma being defined legislatively and legally[5]. In other words it is currently prosecuted as a crime by attorneys even though no charges are brought against the abuser by the victim and where their assistance is not required.

Case Study and elaboration of Battered Woman Syndrome

A case study is given where W has been beaten and bullied by her husband H for a number of years. One night after enduring yet another beating, W decides that she has had enough of the abuse. In the middle of the night, she soaks the bed where her husband is sleeping soundly with gasoline then drops a lighted match onto the bed. H dies a slow and painful death after two weeks in hospital.

On trial for the second degree murder of H, W pleads self defense. Looking at the case study, it is obvious to conclude that W suffered what is called the Battered Woman Syndrome. This is a form of post traumatic stress mostly suffered by women who have been victims of consistent and/or severe domestic violence[6].

Battered Woman Syndrome is an occurrence of behavioral and psychological behaviors which happen in four main phases that is denial, guilt, enlightenment and responsibility[7]. At denial, these women hold on to the belief that the abuse or violence will never happen again and that they were actually responsible for provoking such behavior. The second phase is the guilt phase where a battered woman begins to acknowledge the fact that there is a problem in her relationship and that she has been a victim of abuse where it may occur again[8].

Enlightenment is the third state of the Battered Woman Syndrome where a battered woman begins to understand that no one has a right to be abused or battered. Even though she is in this particular stage, she may decide to still stay with her abuser in an effort of keeping the relationship firm hoping that things might change in future. Lastly is the responsibility stage where the victim accepts the fact that her partner has a problem that only he can be able to fix[9].

Battered Woman Syndrome and the Canadian Law

W had already reached the 4th stage of Battered Woman Syndrome but instead of taking the step of leaving H, she decided to kill him instead perhaps in the belief that he would never do that again to any other woman leave alone herself. Battered Woman Syndrome has been incorporated in criminal cases since late 1970s where in order to testify on this syndrome, experts need necessary qualifications[10].

The union of happenings in the social stream at that time resulted in a movement charged with the responsibility of catering to the equality for women[11].

It was a requirement that before a battered woman could present her case before a jury she required an advocate to present her experience. A battered woman’s self defense case required the vision of an attorney to formulate the case and a judge willing to give permission for it to be presented to the jury[12].

Under the Canadian Law Battered Woman Syndrome is recognized in the context of other defenses where presenting it in a courtroom involves the utilization of well prepared evidence[13]. Women in the past have been treated in an orthodox manner by the Canadian courts where their needs and situations were not fully considered. There was also a gendered construction of the self defense principle which evaluated woman against a male standard of reasonableness[14].

The Battered Woman Syndrome finally became recognized in Canadian courts after a decision in R v. Lavellee was passed. This was a case where the accused, Lavalee, was in a common law relationship with her husband Kevin Rust which was abusive[15]. In their course of fighting, her husband apparently threatened to harm her stating that either she kills him or he would get her.

The though of killing herself had also crossed her mind while they were fighting but when Kevin turned to leave the room she shot him in the back of his head, killing him instantly[16]. In the course of her trial, she pleaded she was acting in self defense and also had a psychiatric testify in her support[17].

Lavallee’s case is quite similar to W’s and if W goes to trial, the Canadian court would rule in her favor. After enduring a marriage of battering and violence and given her mental state at that particular point, W felt that if she did not act soon she would be killed by H. Because of repeated pattern of violence majority of battered women usually correctly foresee future violence or are aware of when to take threats seriously[18].

Even though some individuals believed that Lavallee’s case represented a step in the right direction in as far as a judicial system willing to help women’s needs was concerned, the case did not have as huge an impact as had been expected[19]. Given W’s and Lavallee’s cases it is quite clear to observed that each person’s experiences with battering is personalized and a real psychological understanding can only be achieved best with assistance from expert evidence[20].

Canadian Bar Association Proposal

According to the Canadian courts Battered Woman Syndrome is not a defense on its own as it is discussed in the context of already established and existing defenses[21]. The fact that the appellant was a battered woman does not necessarily entitle her to an acquittal as it is believed that battered woman may kill their spouses for reasons other than self defense[22]. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that more evidence is required to grant acquittal.

Canada has taken the initiative where the Supreme Court has made a decision to allow the Battered Woman defense throughout the nation[23]. The Canadian Bar Association upheld admission of divisive expert evidence regarding Battered Woman Syndrome[24]. As far as W-type cases are concerned there seems to exist a big gap between those that are taken through the courts and those that are not.

The Canadian Bar Association proposal for the reform of the self defense provisions would not produce a different result from what has thus far been observed as those cases brought forward such as W’s are creating concern as some of these women do not fit the stereotype of a battered woman in the eyes of juries and judges[25]. This can be attributed to failures in the criminal justice system which incorporates failure to prosecute the abusers[26].

General information

Up to date, there has not been a single strategy or solution that can greatly improve the case of battered women such as W due to a huge number of social factors to consider including the never ending waiting lists at majority of shelters, lack of responsiveness and care taken by the law enforcement and prosecutors in many domestic violence situations and their general treatment in criminal cases[27].

It is also unfortunate that since the Lavallee case victims of domestic abuse have not quite understood or found comfort in the justice system. Even though convictions and guilty pleas of battered women who appear on trial seem to outweigh acquittals such women are not being treated leniently by the courts[28].

In addition, failure by the law enforcement as well as prosecution to bring majority of cases forward in as far as battered women are concerned is evidence enough of the fact that the justice system does not always consider battering to be too serious a crime and that perhaps some of these women are hesitant on mentioning that they are actually victims of domestic abuse[29].

Conclusion

The Battered Woman Syndrome was first introduced by a single researcher in the early 1970s where it was founded on clinical observations. Despite the fact that it became a popular manner in which behavior could be justified in some court it has not yet been fully accepted or established in the psychology arena.

It is therefore important for those advocating for battered women with a social agenda to start doubting the political value of testimony regarding Battered Woman Syndrome. Solutions should also be sought to the increased domestic battering and abuse taking place in America as well as most parts of the world.

Bibliographies

Kilgore, Nancy, Every Eighteen Seconds: A Journey Through Domestic Violence (Volcano, C.A.: Volcano Press, 1992).

Saunders, R.P., Criminal Law in Canada: An Introduction to the Theoretical, Social and Legal Contexts (Toronto: Carswell, 2002).

Footnotes

  1. Kilgore, Nancy, Every Eighteen Seconds: A Journey Through Domestic Violence (Volcano, C.A.: Volcano Press, 1992), 69.
  2. Saunders, R.P., Criminal Law in Canada: An Introduction to the Theoretical, Social and Legal Contexts (Toronto: Carswell, 2002), 120.
  3. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  4. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  5. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  6. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  7. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  8. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  9. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  10. Saunders, R.P., Criminal Law in Canada: An Introduction to the Theoretical, Social and Legal Contexts (Toronto: Carswell, 2002), 120.
  11. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  12. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  13. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  14. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  15. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  16. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  17. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69.
  18. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  19. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  20. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  21. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  22. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  23. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  24. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  25. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  26. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  27. Saunders, supra note 2, 120
  28. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
  29. Kilgore, supra note 1, 69
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IvyPanda. (2019, February 20). Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-law/

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"Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome." IvyPanda, 20 Feb. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-law/.

1. IvyPanda. "Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-law/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-law/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-law/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Criminal Law of Battered Woman Syndrome'. 20 February.

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