Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Dietz, M. L.


Sociology, Criminology and Penology.




The purpose of this research was to provide a critical examination of the Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS), with respect to its legally relevant premises and its uses in the legal defences of women who have committed violent crimes relating to their experiences with domestic violence. This was to be accomplished through a qualitative examination of case files for fourteen women of Michigan's Battered Women's Clemency Project, entitled Freedom Link. The case files contain interview data and documentation of women's experiences with domestic violence, information about their crimes, and details about their encounters with, and the handling of their cases by, the criminal justice system. The findings of this research support the literature in the field to date which acknowledges the extensive limitations of the legal use of the BWS, based on cases of BWS expert testimony. In the cases examined in this research, criminal justice agents failed to construct battered women in terms of their complex experiences with domestic violence. They tended to minimize, normalize, and even neglect to present or support accounts of battered women's experiences which acknowledged the diverse and severe forms of abuse they suffered at the hands of their abusers. Even women's own defense attorneys failed to demonstrate how women's experiences with domestic violence led them to fear their abusers and act reasonably in their crimes. Finally, this research has revealed, based on a utilization of Carol Smart's work on the power of legal discourse and its resistance to feminist forms of knowledge, that cases of both BWS use and non-use must be located within the larger structure of legal discourse which alters and disqualifies the experiences of women and, particularly, the experiences of battered women. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1995 .P33. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 34-06, page: 2252. Adviser: Mary Lou Dietz. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1995.