But most of all, they fought together’: Judicial attributions for sentences in convicting battered women who kill
The topic of domestic abuse remains a controversial issue when it comes to determining punishment for battered women who use violence towards their partner. According to this study battered women who are seen as engaging in mutual violence and shared substance abuse are often regarded negatively and subject to harsher sentences.
The author analyzed the reasoning underlying judges’ sentencing decisions in 26 domestic homicide and abuse cases from 1974-2006 in Canada. She found that a judge’s reliance on each line of reasoning was associated with harsher sentencing. She also identified one judge who demonstrated resistance to these stereotyped portrayals of battered women who fight back. “Judges downgraded acts of previous partner violence by using minimizing descriptions and by emphasizing the mutuality of the violence and of substance abuse,” wrote the author. She asserted that legal systems need to recognize the complex psychological nature of victim mentality and behavior within domestic abuse cases.