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Re-Presenting Woman Battering: From Battered Woman Syndrome to Coercive Control

NCJ Number
Albany Law Review Volume: 58 Issue: 4 Dated: (1995) Pages: 973-1026
E Stark
Date Published
54 pages
This article presents an alternative framework for battered women's defense strategies when charged with offenses against their batterers.
The battered woman's syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder are reductionist and potentially demeaning representations of woman battering, and particularly of its two most perplexing facets: (1) the situation is typically ongoing; and (2) it can elicit hostage-like levels of fear, isolation, entrapment, and retaliatory violence. The author proposes that, when charged with offenses against her batterer, a woman use an alternative defense framework that emphasizes the batterer's pattern of coercion and control rather than violent acts or their effect on victim psychology. This shifts the basis of women's justice claims from stigmatizing psychological assessments of traumatization to the links between structural inequality, the systematic nature of women's oppression in a particular relationship, and the harms associated with domination and resistance as it has been lived. The concept extends the claim of battering to children as tangential spouse abuse The coercive control framework does not abandon safety as a major concern, but shifts the emphasis to restrictions on liberty, highlighting a class of harms that extends beyond psychological or physical suffering to fundamental human rights. Footnotes