The Battered Woman Essay

2813 words - 12 pages

Battered women make up what is one of the most marginalized groups in society. Their relationship experiences sometimes bring these women into conflict with the law, especially when they kill their abusive partners. Battered woman syndrome was developed in the 1970's by a clinical psychologist and was created to describe the cycle of events that abused women often go through in their relationships. In Canadian law it is recognized in the context of other defenses, bringing battered women syndrome into the courtroom involves the use of well-prepared proof. It has become obvious in the past that women have been treated in a stereotypical way by the Canadian courts. Their circumstances and ...view middle of the document...

Clinical psychologist Lenore Walker developed the battered woman syndrome. It provides psychological explanations of the mental cycle that abused women experience throughout their relationships. Walker describes the "cycle of violence" as having different phases, which take charge of the victim. Over time, the abused women feel worthless and empty. The battering of the women leads to a sense of helplessness, whereby she believes there is nothing she can do to prevent the attacks. What is important about the syndrome is that it attempts to answer some of the most puzzling questions for people who have not experienced abuse, for example, why would anyone stay in such a bad relationship? Battered women live in fear often with low self-esteem and the feeling that they are powerless and cannot stop the violence. Many believe that leaving or separating from the relationship will not end the violence.Criticisms of the battered woman syndrome have become a main point in many writings. Sociological thinkers, feminist scholars and legal agents have all had their own opinions on the syndrome itself. Many psychologists criticize the concept of learned helplessness; which is described as an apathetic, depressive state, which women with the syndrome suffer from. Much of the research of this concept comes from animal studies and little is known about how it operates in human beings. 1 Not all battered women experience the stages in Walker's cycle, or in the same order, yet they are however traumatized by their abusive experiences. As well, criticisms have been brought against Walker's research methods.With all the criticisms and the view on the use of the battered woman syndrome, it is important to think about what is positive regarding the use of the syndrome. Author Elizabeth Sheehy, while admitting to the difficulties with the syndrome, admits that it offers "mercy for women who have defended their own or their children's physical integrity or very lives, and as providing an opportunity for public and legal education about the facts of women's lives."2 The battered woman syndrome indeed may play an essential educative role for a situation that many laypersons misunderstand. To recap, battered women often experience harsh conditions that are unfamiliar to many, especially the majority of men. Such women have usually been under appreciated and misunderstood by the criminal justice system. Many feminists, while not all happy with the definition of the syndrome, they have been pleased that more research and legal attention has been given to this group of women in society. Now that a foundation of the battered woman syndrome has been made, it is necessary to construct the introduction of this into the Canadian law.The battered woman syndrome became recognized in Canadian courts in the decision made in R. v. Lavallee. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the battered woman syndrome within the situation of spousal homicide. Prior to Lavallee in...

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