Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

John Brunero


Brunero, John

Brogaard, Berit

Piccinini, Gualtiero


This paper considers two possible alterations to the current use of Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) as a defense for the criminal act of murder. First, I will argue that BWS is best used as an excuse defense for murder. In the United States, BWS has historically been used as a justification defense for victims of long-term domestic violence who kill their abusers. A justification defense attempts to show that the criminal defendant’s action was warranted and justified while an excuse defense is meant to show that the criminal defendant is not fully responsible for her actions due to some mental disease or defect. I believe that BWS should be used as an excuse defense for murder because there is a significant amount of research linking BWS to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and PTSD is currently accepted as an excuse defense for criminal action. Second, I will argue that one way to formulate BWS as an excuse defense is to name BWS in the DSM-VI as a sub-category of PTSD. I will also argue that the neural correlates of BWS are discoverable and the presentation of neural evidence will support BWS as a genuine psychological condition and excuse defense.

OCLC Number