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Shifting the Blame: How Victimization Became a Criminal Defense

NCJ Number
Saundra Davis Westervelt
Date Published
204 pages
This book traces the development, use and expansion of the victimization defense strategy -- the “abuse excuse” -- and explains its initial success in battered women’s cases.
The book looks at the “abuse excuse” defense as an indicator of far-reaching changes in the way American culture views victimhood, responsibility and womanhood. It documents the initial development of this defense strategy in three types of cases dating from the 1970s: “rotten social background,” brainwashing and battered women’s cases. It also discusses responsibility and the culture of victimization, responsibility under the law, extralegal factors and the success of the battered woman’s self-defense strategy and moments of redefinition in law and culture. The book concludes that, although the strategy is used extensively, its success is limited to cases in which physical abuse by the offender can be proven. Notes, references, cases cited, index


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