CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles


Reputation and Behavior of Battered Women Who Kill Their Partners: Do These Variables Negate Self-Defense?


Vignettes describing a case in which a battered woman killed her husband were presented to college students. Independent variables were the presence or absence of verbal aggression by the woman toward her husband before the final beating, the woman's reputation and social desirability as a wife and mother, and whether or not a weapon was present when the battering husband threatened the woman before she killed him. After reading a vignette, subjects (N=413) selected a verdict, reported what influenced their verdicts, and completed attitudinal measures on sex-role attitudes, attitudes toward wife-beating, and “just world” attitudes. The presence of verbal aggression by the woman increased the odds of subjects choosing a guilty verdict by 1.71 times compared to the absence of verbal aggression. A defendant characterized as a “bad” wife/mother or a dysfunctional wife/mother was, respectively, 6.24 and 2.49 times more likely to be found guilty rather than not guilty by reason of self-defense (NGRSD) than the “good” wife/mother. Use of a weapon by the husband did not significantly increase the number of NGRSD verdicts over conditions in which no weapon was present. Neither subjects' attitudes nor demographics appeared to be related to their choice of verdicts.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Family Violence, v. 11, issue 3, p. 251-267.

Dr. Diane Follingstad had not been a faculty member of the University of Kentucky at the time of publication.

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