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Physical abuse of a spouse, child or elderly person, usually by a ‘significant other’
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Jurisdictions that allow laypersons to testify prior to experts give the expert the ability to expand on the meaning of battered spouse syndrome, setting a framework that the jury could use to find that the relationship in question was one typical of battering relationships.
First, experts should be allowed to describe battered spouse syndrome generally to provide a psychological context, dispel myths about women in battering relationships regarding why women stay or may fail to recall details of the incident, and provide a new framework through which the jury views the case.
In short, although the term battered woman syndrome offers a convenient "label" that may ease communication, the disadvantage is that the "syndrome has become a stereotype that often does not fit the current state of knowledge concerning battering and its effects.
80) She further asserts that in order to provide a full explanation of the woman's response to the violence, it is essential that the scope of the testimony extend beyond the psychological effects of the battering and include consideration of the overall social context in which the battering occurs (for example, the batterer's domination and control, economic factors, the woman's prior traumatic experiences, the response of the police and other institutions).
It widens the frame of the admissible narrative in a case of a battered woman who kills her abuser and allows more of the story of the battering relationship to be told.
Essentially, though, Downs proposes modifying the law of self-defense, maintaining its requirements of imminence, retreat, and proportionality, but injecting these requirements with the realities of the battering relationship.
Unless some type of professional intervention occurs at this point, the second phase of the cycle - acute battering - becomes all but inevitable.