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7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 761 (2006)
Battered Woman Syndrome

handle is hein.journals/grggenl7 and id is 771 raw text is: CRIMINAL LAW CHAPTER
BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME
JESSICA SAVAGE
I. DEFINING BATTERED WOMAN'S SYNDROME .................... 761
I. TtiE EVOLUTION OF BWS IN THE LEGAL SYSTEM ................. 762
III. THE SPECIFICS OF EXPERT TESTIMONY .......................... 765
IV. THE CRITICISM OF BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME ................ 767
INTRODUCTION
Battered Woman Syndrome is a psychological theory that is meant to explain a
pattern of behavior that women who are abused by their partners exhibit. It was
first introduced into the legal system through claims of self-defense. More
specifically, it serves as an explanation for why abused women ultimately kill
their abusive partners rather than leave them. Now, every jurisdiction accepts
expert testimony on Battered Woman Syndrome to support claims of self-
defense. In fact, recently, several states have codified its use by statute. As the use
of Battered Woman Syndrome became more accepted in the legal system in
general, the introduction of expert testimony by prosecutors in domestic violence
cases has been allowed. However, in order for expert testimony regarding
Battered Woman Syndrome to be admissible in any case, the testimony must be
in line with Federal Rules of Evidence 401, 702, and 403.
As the prevalence of expert testimony on Battered Woman Syndrome has
increased, so too has the criticism regarding its use. In particular, many critics
argue that it labels women as helpless and submissive and ignores the emotional
complexities that arise in relationships in which battering occurs. Despite this
criticism, Battered Woman Syndrome persists within the legal system, and the
introduction of expert testimony regarding it has increased over the years.
I. DEFINING BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME
Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a psychological theory that is meant to
explain why women choose to kill abusive partners rather than leave them.' It
was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s by legal scholars and
practitioners, the foremost expert of whom is Lenore Walker. Walker defines the

1. See Rebecca D. Comia, Current Use of Battered Woman Syndrome: Institutionalization of Negative
Stereotypes About Women, 8 UCLA WOMEN'S L.J. 99, 101 (1997).

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