An analysis of the battle woman syndrome and criminal law

Criminal Law Two weeks ago, a jury found Barbara Sheehan not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband two and a half years earlier in their home. Sheehan did not dispute that she had killed Raymond Sheehan, but she claimed that she was justified in doing so by the need to protect herself from his violence. Had she not shot him first, she contended, her husband would have taken her life, as he had earlier threatened to do.

An analysis of the battle woman syndrome and criminal law

BWS is dangerous primarily because it can lead to what some scholars say is " learned helplessness " — or psychological paralysis — where the victim becomes so depressed, defeated, and passive that she believes she is incapable of leaving the abusive situation. Though it may seem like an irrational fear, it feels absolutely real to the victim.

Feeling fearful and weak, and sometimes even still holding onto the hope that her abuser will stop hurting her, the victim remains with her abuser, continuing the cycle of domestic violence and strengthening her existing BWS. Battered woman syndrome is recognized by many states as a legitimate mental disorder, and there are support systems available to women who suffer from a situation of domestic violence and BWS.

If you or someone you know is afraid of coming forward to authorities because of an injury to the abuser, there may be ways to avoid punishment. Read ahead to learn more. Battered woman syndrome begins as an abusive cycle with three stages. First, the abuser engages in behaviors that create relationship tension.

Second, the tension explodes when the abuser commits some form of abuse: Third, the abuser tries to fix his wrongdoing and apologizes. During the honeymoon stage, the abuser is forgiven, and the cycle starts all over again.

As the cycle continues, the victim starts to feel that the abuse is her own fault.

An analysis of the battle woman syndrome and criminal law

She becomes convinced of her helplessness, and that the abuse cannot be escaped. Thus, battered woman syndrome develops. Speaking with a battered woman should reveal these characteristics and help to identify her as sufferer of BWS.

The common characteristics of BWS women are as follows: BWS women will frequently show signs of depression, too. They may be less enthusiastic about the activities they used to enjoy. They may also start to abuse drugs and alcohol. Getting Help for BWS As with any domestic violence situation, women with battered woman syndrome should contact local law enforcement authorities and report their abuser.

The police can then make an arrest and the prosecution will hopefully advance. At this point, many battered women may try to recant their statements. They may feel sorry for their abuser or may fear violence if the police let him go.

If the abuser has been arrested and his case moved forward, recanting will do little to prevent this. Battered women may also worry about testifying in court against their abuser.

In domestic violence cases, the victim is required to testify in court against her abuser. BWS women are often afraid of their abusers. There are support options, however. Aside from these legal options, there are also organizations that provide psychological and emotional support to battered women.

This may be necessary, as the separation process can be extremely difficult and confusing for a battered woman.Law and lawyer cartoons, written by a Harvard lawyer.

Battered woman syndrome is now recognized in legislation by many states and is considered when defending battered wives who kill or injure their abusive spouses.

For the courts, BWS is an indication of the defendant's state of mind or may be considered a mitigating circumstance. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person's life.

Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues.

An analysis of the battle woman syndrome and criminal law

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4 Elizabeth Sheehy, Julie Stubbs & Julia Tolmie “Defending Battered Women on Trial: The Battered Woman Syndrome and its Limitations” () 16 Criminal Law Journal 5 Elizabeth Schneider ‘’Particularity and generality: challenges of feminist theory and practice in work on woman abuse” () 67 New York University Law Review "Battered Woman Syndrome: Shifting the Parameters of Criminal Defences (or (re)inscribing the Familiar?)" in Bottomely, A (ed) Feminist Perspectives on the Foundational Subject of Law, London: Cavendish. Breaking News News - get the latest from the Dallas News. Read it here first.

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