Women in abusive relationships have been known to kill or inflict bodily harm when they felt their lives were at risk. For a woman in this situation, there are certain legal defenses available. Battered woman syndrome is a condition where a woman suffering from abuse remains in the relationship, despite repeated violence on the part of her spouse or boyfriend. There are characteristics typical of battered woman syndrome, which include:
- Blaming oneself for abuse
- Inability to hold the abuser accountable
- Fear for one’s own life, or that of her children
- A belief in the abuser’s omnipotence
If a woman has hurt or killed her boyfriend or spouse, she and her domestic violence lawyer in Phoenix may use battered woman syndrome as a defense if testimony proves that she has the symptoms listed above. BWS isn’t a mental disorder, but some mental health professionals class it as a form of PTSD. Most states allow testimony on battering and its effects as part of a self-defense claim, which can bring about an acquittal or a lessening of charges.
BWS and Self Defense
BWS is not classed as a legal defense under the law, and its use has been widely criticized. However, proof of the toll of domestic violence has been used to excuse physical harm or murder perpetrated upon a domestic partner. For a jury to consider domestic violence evidence in a self-defense claim, a defendant must prove:
- That death or bodily harm was imminent
- That they had a belief they’d be harmed
- That their response was reasonable
To win a case, a defendant must prove that her life was in danger, or that she was about to be injured seriously. For example, if a woman’s partner threatened to kill her, and she stabbed him in his sleep, there would be no basis for a self-defense claim. However, if experts testify that the defendant was the victim of severe, repetitive abuse, she may have believed that her actions were reasonable. In that case, her culpability would be reduced but not eliminated, and charges would be reduced.
A Phoenix domestic violence lawyer can give you case specific advice and guidance - call Jason Lamm today!