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battered woman’s syndrome

I have to write about my latest attempt to be an expert witness on domestic violence. I was called by a Callaway County Public Defender and asked to serve as an expert witness in a tampering with a prescription case. It was his assertion that she was coerced into it by her longtime abusive live-together-partner. I agreed to do so as much as to get a chance to educate a court and jury about domestic violence as for anything else. For those not from Mid-Missouri Callaway is a rural county most known for being the short lived Kingdom of Callaway when they declared their independence during the Civil War. It is now known for being parochial and rumored to be severely in-bred. So I am scheduled to testify around 1:00 pm, I don’t hear anything from the PD so I call him the day before and he tells me he needs me there at 9:00 am to check in. His other expert had a death in the family and couldn’t testify and the judge denied him a continuance since I was on the witness list. I show up and wait 2 hours to talk to the PD. He tells me Judge Oxenhandler (I call this prick out by name) has disallowed a domestic violence defense because the victim was not married to her abuser. He also asks if I will stick around until the afternoon as he wanted to present my testimony to the judge while the jury is out so he can appeal that this info should have been let in. I agree, in for a penny in for a pound. So I wait until close to 3:00 to learn that the judge was disallowing my testimony because I lacked licensure and couldn’t talk about battered women’s syndrome. Now this whole medicalization of a social problem is ridiculous. Victims of domestic violence are not experiencing a syndrome like its some kind of disease they are victims of a crime. If my stereo is stolen I am not experiencing stereo theft syndrome I have been victimized. Being victimized leaves very real consequences but the court’s attempt to medicalize it shifts the focus from accountability for the offender to something being wrong with the victim. It is ridiculous, tragic, and the whole day turned out to be a fiasco. Judges do not want to really examine the real nature and dynamics of domestic violence because it would challenge the cut and dry assumptions of our unconscious patriarchy. Or perhaps conscious as the previous judge i was testifying before stated a domestic violence defense was an “attack at the very fabric of our society”. True no doubt, but an attack long overdue.

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