Research Associate publishes in Psychology of Women Quarterly

October 01, 2012

Dr. Elisabeth Wells has published an article in Psychology of Women Quarterly (2012) called, “But Most of All, They Fought Together”: Judicial Attributions for Sentences in Convicting Battered Women Who Kill. Her study provides a discourse analysis of judicial attributions about battered women in Canadian sentencing decisions involving women convicted of killing their abusive intimate partners. For cases in which the accused received a jail sentence, judges downgraded acts of previous partner violence by using minimizing descriptions and by emphasizing the mutuality of the violence and of substance abuse. These discourses mobilized doubt about the relationship as abusive and limited sympathy for the accused as a battered woman. Judges’ descriptions formulated domestic abuse as discrete episodes of violence, attributed in many cases to alcohol rather than to an ongoing pattern of serious domestic abuse. These descriptionsreinforced the accused’s capabilities and strength, which served to diminish the opposing claim that she was trapped in a seriously abusive relationship. Recommendations include incorporating information about battered women’s resistance efforts into traditional battered woman syndrome testimony and examining police decision making in cases of dual arrest.