Battered Woman Defense Doesn’t Work for Man

W.F. Price
September 17, 2012

There’s a reason the “battered woman defense” is sex-specific. Apparently men do not have the right to use it, even in circumstances where homicide would appear more justified than it was in the cases where wives have had success arguing that committing spousal murder was justified, or at least ameliorated, in their cases.

In the following case, a man, just over 18 at the time, killed two men who had molested him while he was underage, and was then sentenced to death:

Pennsylvania is preparing to execute Terrance Williams. Mr. Williams, known to his friends and family as “Terry,” is on death row for a crime he committed three and one-half months after his 18th birthday. On that tragic day, Terry and another teenager killed a man. As the sentencing jury heard, Terry also committed another killing five months earlier at the age of 17. What the jury did not hear was that both of the men had sexually abused Terry, and both crimes directly related to Terry’s history of sexual abuse by older males, which began when he was six years old.

Terry’s abuse continued throughout his adolescence. One of his abusers was his former public schoolteacher. That abuse caused Terry such intense pain and confusion that he began cutting himself and engaging in other acts of self-mutilation…

Over the years, I’ve heard of a few of these kinds of killings locally, but none of them ever made national news. In one case, a young man ambushed a teacher who had molested him as a boy, killing him as he arrived at work. In another, a mentally-ill young man murdered a local liberal talk radio host who had been keeping him as a concubine of sorts. Both got about twenty years, which suggests that there was some lenience in the sentencing, but as far as I know no specific defense along the lines of “battered woman syndrome” was mounted. Men simply don’t get a free pass – or much sympathy – even if they are bona fide rape victims.

If a woman murdered a man who had actually raped her, it’s hard to imagine she would get more than a few years. If she were sentenced to death, there would be an international outcry.