Family violence poorly understood in defensive homicide cases

December 13, 2013

Women who kill their partners after years of family violence will have fewer options to defend themselves against murder charges if the current Victorian law is abolished, according to a new study.

Defensive homicide applies to killers who unreasonably believed their actions were necessary to defend themselves or others; many are women who are victims of .

The study, by researchers from Monash University and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, examined eight cases of women charged with killing their partners since defensive homicide was introduced by the former Labor government in 2005. The study found family violence was still poorly understood and the perception of what is 'reasonable' self-defence continues to be shaped by gender-based stereotypes.

Monash University criminology expert Dr Danielle Tyson from the School of Political and Social Inquiry said there still remained a failure to understand how prior family violence may affect women's responses and why victims may remain in abusive relationships.

"If defensive homicide is abolished and no other partial defence is established to replace it, it is likely that some women who kill in the context of family violence will receive harsher sentences than is currently the case," Dr Tyson said.

"The current limited recognition of family violence gives us little confidence that women will successfully be able to claim self-defence at trial."

Dr Tyson said the need for law reform to ensure justice for women who kill violent partners has been well established for some decades.

"Currently defensive homicide is being used more often by men who kill other men and rarely by women, but the reliance on partial defences or manslaughter by men who kill other men is nothing new and not a sound reason to abolish defensive homicide," Dr Tyson said.

"Victoria has led the way for other Australian jurisdictions in its commitment to bringing about more positive changes for women defendants.

"We need to continue our efforts to develop the law in a way that adequately recognises the impact of family violence on women's lives, but also to work with the to improve the applications of the law so that the spirit and potential of legislative reform can be effectively realised."

Dr Tyson said that until women victims of family violence can be seen to be successfully raising self-defence, defensive homicide should not be abolished.

"We need to see further shifts in the legal profession and culture around the recognition of family violence and women's responses to it. At present, there is no evidence that women's prospects of raising self-defence successfully have improved," Dr Tyson said.

"There is still a long way to go to improve legal responses for who kill an abusive partner and this won't be achieved if the current laws are abolished."

Explore further: Suicide linked to partner violence for New Zealand women

Related Stories

Suicide linked to partner violence for New Zealand women

November 1, 2013
New Zealand women who have experienced partner violence are more likely to contemplate suicide, according to New Zealand findings published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health last week.

CVI puts research into practice on firearms and domestic violence

November 13, 2013
The Crime Victims' Institute (CVI) at Sam Houston State University initiated a new series of reports to help victim advocates translate the latest research in the field into practical services and resources for victims, beginning ...

When battered women fight back stereotyping can kick in

September 12, 2012
The topic of domestic abuse remains a controversial issue when it comes to determining punishment for battered women who use violence towards their partner. According to a recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, ...

Disabled women twice as likely to be abused

October 29, 2013
Australian women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence and abuse as other women, new research shows.

Bisexual women at especially high risk of sexual violence, CDC says

January 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Bisexual women in the United States are more likely to suffer from domestic violence than either lesbian or heterosexual women, a new government report shows.

Institute explores intimate partner violence across generations

October 30, 2013
Most parents who experienced intimate partner violence had children that grew to face violence in their own adult relationships, according to a study published by the Crime Victims' Institute at Sam Houston State University.

Recommended for you

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.