Frying Elizabeth Sheehy’s Battered Wives

Battered Wife Syndrome – or BWS is real. Which is to say, it exists. In Canada.

However, Battered Wife Syndrome is a thing distinct from being a category of post traumatic stress disorder. The name cleverly includes the word Syndrome. But Battered Wife Syndrome is not a psychological condition. Battered Wife Syndrome isn’t even a condition which affects wives, or women, whether they’re battered or abused or not.

Battered Wife Syndrome is simply a legal defence for the killing, by a woman, of a man, in the Canadian court system. It is justification for the killing of another human being. It is also a fraud, a hoax, and undiluted weapons grade, unequivocal nonsensical twaddle.

And by the way, that redundant statement, noting the killing of a man, and then clarifying with the addition of the phrase “human being” was purposeful -– because most of the time, when you read or hear the word “man,” you have been conditioned by our culture’s prevalent ideology to dis-associate the word from recognition of the deceased as a member of your own species.

On the evening of 30 August 1986, Angelique Lynn Lavalee and Kevin Rust hosted a party at their home in Winnipeg Manitoba. During that party, Lavalee, 21 years old, shot Mr Rust in the back of the head, killing him as he walked from the room where the couple had been arguing.

Could a woman who shot a man in the back of the head have been acting in self-defense?

A jury decided she could, acquitting Lavalee in a supreme court decision written by judge Bertha Wilson. This verdict was influenced by the testimony of Dr. Fred Shane, a psychiatrist credited with “extensive experience“ in the treatment of “Battered Wives.”

In fact, Dr Shane’s work on Battered Wife Syndrome is described by the doctor himself as “seminal” in that field. Indeed, he is one of the pioneers of the use of Battered Wife Syndrome (BWS) as a legal defence in Canada. As such, he was not just an expert legal witness in cases relying on BWS, Shane was heavily invested in establishing and maintaining the legitimacy of BWS as a legal defence. Dr Shane cannot be considered a disinterested party. This, by the way, provides a logical basis to challenge any acquittal in which BWS was used, and in which Dr Shane collected his fee as an expert witness.

The Battered Wife Syndrome hypothesis attempts to explain why abused people may not seek assistance from others, fight their abuser, or leave the abusive situation. Some individuals within abusive relationships may suffer from low self-esteem, and may believe that the abuse is their own fault. Such persons may also refuse to press charges against their abuser, and may refuse offers of help.

There is no consensus in the medical profession that such abuse results in a mental condition severe enough to excuse alleged offenders. Neither the DSM nor the ICD medical classification guides as currently drafted include the syndrome in the sense used by lawyers. But even if the condition of previous abuse exists, and even if such prior trauma produces a condition of mental incapacity, or learned helplessness, then the resultant choice to use violence or lethal force by an individual previously subject to abuse remains criminal.

If you are a man, and your male room-mate repeatedly assaults you over a period of time, you will be rightly and correctly jailed if you later kill him. This is so obvious that inclusion of this reality within this article may appear strange. However, the existence in law of the Battered Wife defence necessitates the painfully stupid need to actually make so obvious an observation. Suffering from previous incidence of violence is not a legal, nor a moral defence of murder.

Correction: past violent victimization is not a legal defense of killing for anyone except those who our society has, at the insistence of feminists, deemed incompetent and helpless. Specifically, women. Taken farther, if such prior trauma actually induces a state of mental derangement whereby violence seems reasonable to the affected individual, that person represents a hazard to themselves and the public, and should be treated medically, if not criminally.

However, the ideological approach to excusing of such violence appears designed to amplify and enable violence engendered by past trauma within our culture. It might be plausibly argued that the ideological basis for maintaining the continued credulity of our courts towards a BWS defence of killing has the purpose of excusing murder – based on no more than unsupported claim of past victimization.

Indeed, Elizabeth Sheehy, author of Defending Battered Woman on Trail, promotes the idea of killing in preference to simply leaving a violent relationship. On the question of why women do not leave abusive situations, Sheehy told the CBC on December 19th, 2013, that women can’t leave abusive men because, upon leaving, their risk increases “nine fold.” In January she told Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current that the risk is eight fold. Sheehy should be forgiven such gaffes; when you’re making up the numbers on the fly, they tend not to stick in the memory.

Sheehy includes in her book a case of a woman whose murder-excusing “syndrome” of being a Battered Wife stemmed from a previously exited relationship. The man who she was excused of murdering had, according to Sheehy, only been involved with her for six weeks. Too bad for him, dead after being stabbed through the heart with a kitchen knife. Donelda Kay’s syndrome as a “battered wife” was due to her violent relationship with a previous boyfriend.

Page 163 of Sheehy’s Defending Battered Women on Trial introduces Donelda Kay’s trial for the murder of Dennis Noel Gordon with a clear description of Kay initiating and escalating violence which Gordon did not participate in, and which Kay finally escalated to the point of fatally stabbing the seated man in his heart.

Prosecutor Dutka’s opening address presented the case against Kay as open-and-shut. Kay was at a party in a Regina apartment where she argued sporadically with her partner, Gordon. None of the witnesses had seen Gordon touch Kay all evening. All would testify that she had done the pushing and the hitting, escalating a silly argument into a homicide.

Dutka told jurors that they would hear that Kay has asked Rebecca Bourassa, a young witness who had retreated from the party to an apartment across the hall, Apartment 3, for a knife. Kay then grabbed the knife from Bourassa’s floor and charged into the next apartment and stabbed Gordon as he sat in a chair. “You will hear none of the Crown witnesses testify that they saw Donelda Kay being attacked by Dennis Gordon that night,” Dutka declared. You will not hear that she was being beaten… you will not hear that she seemed afraid.”

Sheehy spends the remainder of the section on Donelda Kay in post-mortem character assassination of the murder victim, Dennis Gordon. Since Gordon was dead, and unable to offer testimony in his own defence, it was a fairly straightforward matter to paint him in the colours of a violent abuser–which Kay’s defender, Edward Worme proceeded to do for the remainder of her trial. However, although the coroner’s examination of Gordon’s corpse indicates, among other things, bruised knuckles consistent with punching somebody or something, all such claims made to villainize the dead victim, amount to circumstantial demonization of a man stabbed while sitting down.

But the work of legal interveners and activists, such as Professor Elizabeth Sheehy and Dr Fred Shane through the promotion of “BWS, to legalize spousal murder, hangs directly on the book by Lenore Walker, called simply, Battered Woman. This book and its conclusions form the foundation on which the pseudo-science of “Battered Wife Syndrome,” and the legal Battered Wife Excuse for murder both rest.

A review of The Battered Woman by Robert Scheaffer introduces the book as: “…a preposterous and indefensible work of pseudo-scholarship that has nonetheless attained near-icon status within so-called ‘Women’s Studies.'”

Walker’s is the book relied on and credited by Elizabeth Sheehy in her present and ongoing activism to legalize murder (when committed by women) in the Canadian court system.

However, as rapidly as we may appear to be racing towards a culture in which killing is only murder when the corpse has breasts or ovaries, in law, what justifies a violent or deadly act for a person of one demographic, also justifies the very same for anyone of another demographic.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Feminist advocacy of legalized killing based on “Battered Wife Syndrome” not only seeks to decouple that legal excuse from any abuse committed by a man targeted for killing. It doesn’t end there: actual violence itself is no longer necessary for gender ideologues to justify killing.

Sheehy, on the first page of Defending Battered Women On Trial‘s acknowledgement section names the “ground breaking work” of Evan Stark, whose insights and analysis have –- according to Sheehy -– shaped her thinking.

Stark is the author of Coercive Control, published by Oxford University Press in 2009, which expands the definition of domestic violence to include insults, withheld affection, and denial of sex.

From the Starks article on which his 2009 book of the same title is based:

“Applying the violence model to the typical pattern has fragmented women’s experience of abuse, made the multi faceted nature of their oppression invisible, and elicited victim-blaming responses”

The victim-blaming incidentally being decried by Stark, incidentally, should not be confused with that practiced in a courtroom against the victim of a murder, as in the case of Donelda Kay’s killing of Dennis Gordon.

However, as the profiteers of the domestic violence industry abandon the need for abuse or battery, moving their rhetoric from “violence against women” to “coercive control,” they are redefining what they mean by violence. Encompassed now are a wide range of behaviours not normally considered violent. This has the consequence of not merely reclassifying many healthy relationships as abusive, a move calculated to criminalize more men, and justify their killing by female partners. The grievance industry profiteers re-classifying domestic abuse by a range of emotionally controlling and manipulative behaviours are, without apparently realizing it, putting women squarely in the crosshairs as viable targets for killing by their partners. It’s increasingly well-known that in violent relationships, women are at least as violent, or more violent than their male partners. But on top of this, women are also far more often the practitioners of the types of abuse listed, informing Stark’s model for “coercive control”.

According to Stark:
There is now compelling evidence that the combination of coercion and control is the most devastating form of abuse, as well as the most common.

Interestingly, Stark provides a number of tactics of such abuse – including “withdrawal, threatening to leave, withholding affection or sex” from a victim, curtailing association with friends, social isolation, demeaning the physical characteristics of a subject, and “saying or doing things in a public setting that insults or embarrasses them.”

In Stark’s framing, the abuser is universally male, and the abused universally female, but the tactics described are recognizable as those commonly used by women in romantic relationships not usually recognized as abusive.

And this is the justification advanced by Stark, by Walker, and by Elizabeth Sheehy, for the killing of an offending partner. Ladies, are you paying attention? The argument being advanced to justify spousal murder and intimate homicide by these people is being framed using the male pronoun as a placeholder for “offender,” but uncorrupted law does not recognize sex, and it’s women who are now being defined by feminists, based on their behavior, as the people appropriate to kill.

Is that what we want?

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