More Than Victims: Battered Women, the Syndrome Society, and the Law
University of Chicago Press, 1996 - 309 pages
Battered women syndrome, unheard of several decades ago, is now the subject of heated debate in courtrooms across America. In "More than Victims, " Donald Downs offers a sympathetic and powerful analysis of the injustices behind the logic of battered women syndrome, ultimately revealing how that very logic harms those it is trying to protect.
Battered women syndrome proposes that battered women suffer from "learned helplessness, " a condition affecting the way these women think, feel, and behave. Downs argues that the syndrome's logic denies women their reason and will, reinforcing their victimization. Drawing on extensive research as well as on personal interviews with abused women and professionals in the field, he attempts to distinguish the syndrome from the reality of domestic abuse.
Downs shows that battered women often adopt heroic means of survival, retaining accurate, reasoned perceptions concerning the actions and intentions of their abusers. To portray battered women as lacking reason and will undermines otherwise valid self-defense claims and hurts women more generally. Courts that have relied on battered women syndrome in child custody cases, for example, have often deprived mothers of custody, declaring them incapable of responsible parenting.
Addressing our "syndrome society" more generally, Downs concludes that we can achieve justice without stripping victims of reason and personal responsibility, the very attributes that make citizenship possible. By taking into account specific situations and accurate perceptions of danger rather than psychological incapacity, battered women can find justice without being reduced to victims.
A persuasive account of howconstitutional freedom and individual justice can be threatened by current legal standards, this thorough yet accessible work presents a dramatic rethinking of the criminal justice system.
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The Syndrome Society
A New Perspective on Criminal
The Nature of Domestic Abuse
Theories of Battering Relationships
BWS and the Narrative of Abuse in Law and Society
Legal Critiques of Battered Woman Syndrome