Achieving Peace of Mind: The Benefits of Neurobiology Evidence for Battered Women Defendants

62 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2010 Last revised: 28 Jul 2011

Date Written: July 23, 2011


Despite its potential to diminish the culpability of battered women accused of crimes, neurobiology evidence has yet to be meaningfully deployed in the interest of these defendants. This article describes how neurobiology evidence can provide insights into the effects of battering, at both an individual and ecological level. Domestic violence advocates and medical professionals are becoming increasingly conscious of the neurobiological consequences of battering, producing a wellspring of evidence with potential relevance to the battered woman’s case. By distilling this evidence into tangible assertions admissible in myriad legal settings, this article lays a foundation for the integration of neurobiological evidence into the defense of battered women.

Breaking rank with contemporary literature on the subject, this article adopts a position of pragmatic acquiescence to the continued use of the embattled battered woman’s syndrome. Unlike previous reforms advanced, neurobiology evidence does not necessitate the creation of new law nor does it entail the recognition of an archetypal battered woman. The evidence works cooperatively with existing defense strategies to provide a holistic account of battering for the purposes of reducing the battered woman defendant’s culpability.

Scholarship is sharply divided about the role of neuroscience in the criminal law. Skepticism abounds about the philosophical relevance of neuroscience evidence to the law. The delicate balancing of legal norms reflected in criminal law’s current use of neuroscience is placed in a distinctly new light when viewed from the perspective of a battered woman’s legal defense.

Keywords: Domestic Violence, Battered Women, Neuroscience, Law, Society, Fmri, Cortisol, Neuropeptides, Traumatic Brain Injury, Intoxication, Lenore Walker, Battered Woman Syndrome, Neurobiology, TBI

Suggested Citation

Meszaros, Jozsef, Achieving Peace of Mind: The Benefits of Neurobiology Evidence for Battered Women Defendants (July 23, 2011). Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 23, p. 117. Available at SSRN:

Jozsef Meszaros (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views