Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 291-304

Battered women who kill: A comparative study of incarcerated participants with a community sample of battered women

  • Albert R. RobertsAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Rutgers University

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The present article examines demographic and background variables, psychosocial factors, critical incidents during childhood, battering incidents, and coping methods among 210 battered women. Based on in-depth interviews with a group of incarcerated battered women who had killed their batterers and a community sample of non-violent battered women, several key results were found. The vast majority of battered women who killed their abusive partners was much more likely than the community sample to: (1) have been sexually assaulted during childhood, (2) have dropped out of high school, (3) have an erratic work history of one to three unskilled jobs, (4) have cohabited with their partner, (5) experienced a drug problem, (6) have attempted suicide by drug overdosing, and (7) have access to the batterer's guns. The findings provide support for the increased probability of battered women killing their mates after they have encountered brutal and repeated assaults, death threats, failed in their attempts to escape through alcohol or drug abuse, and failed in their attempts to commit suicide.

Key Words

battered women homicide death threats substance abuse suicide attempts