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 Featured Title
Defending Battered Women on Trial
Lessons from the Transcripts
Elizabeth A. Sheehy  

$34.95 Paperback
Release Date: 2/25/2014
ISBN: 9780774826525    

492 Pages

Law and Society series


About the Book

Elizabeth Sheehy is the recipient of the 2014 David Walter Mundell Medal for Legal Writing, awarded by the Government of Ontario

Finalist, 2015 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

This title is also available as an e-book from Google Play.

In the landmark Lavallee decision of 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that evidence of "battered woman syndrome" was admissible in establishing self-defence for women accused of killing their abusive partners. This book looks at the legal response to battered women who killed their partners in the fifteen years since Lavallee.

Elizabeth Sheehy uses trial transcripts and a detailed case study approach to tell, for the first time, the stories of eleven women, ten of whom killed their partners and one who did not. She looks at the barriers women face to "just leaving," how self-defence was argued in these cases, and which form of expert testimony was used to frame womenís experience of battering. Drawing upon a rich expanse of research from many disciplines, including law, psychology, history, sociology, womenís studies, and social work, she highlights the limitations of the law of self-defence, the successful strategies of defence lawyers, the costs to women undergoing a murder trial, and the serious difficulties of credibility that they face when testifying. In a final chapter, she proposes numerous reforms.

In Canada, a woman is killed every six days by her male partner, and about twelve women per year kill their male partners. By illuminating the cases of eleven women, this book highlights the barriers to leaving violent men and the practical and legal dilemmas that face battered women on trial for murder.


Do Abused Women Have the Right to Kill their Partners? Anna Maria Tremonti speaks with Elizabeth Sheehy on CBC's The Current.

Meghan Murphy interviews Elizabeth Sheehy about her book at

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth A. Sheehy is Shirley Greenberg Professor of Women and the Legal Profession in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She is a leading scholar on the legal systemís treatment of battered women in Canada. In 2013, she was awarded the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law by the Canadian Bar Association, an annual award that recognizes outstanding contributions to law in Canada.

Table of Contents


1 Angelique Lyn Lavallee
2 Bonnie Mooney
3 Kimberley Kondejewski
4 Gladys Heavenfire and Doreen Sorenson
5 Donelda Kay, Denise Robin Rain, and Jamie Gladue
6 Lilian Getkate
7 Margaret Ann Malott and Rita Graveline


Select Bibliography


"A landmark achievement ... This book moves beyond traditional debates in the field to show the complex interactions of institutional actors and legal processes with legal doctrine. It will quickly become a classic work on abused women and the criminal justice system in Canada."
-- Janine Benedet, Faculty of Law, UBC

"Using in-depth, case-based analyses, Elizabeth Sheehy takes a long overdue look at whether or not criminal justice outcomes for battered women are just, answering this question in wonderfully clear language and making a complex topic accessible. Through skillful weaving of social science research and legal analysis, this book makes an exciting, original, and significant contribution that will have an important impact in law and the social sciences."
-- Myrna Dawson, Department of Sociology and Anthropoglogy, University of Guelph

"A powerful examination of cases involving battered women who kill their male partners. Shooting an abuser in the back of the head as he is leaving the room is self-defence even if the battered victim had the chance to leave and didnít. This volume is a must-read not only for battered women and their advocates but for all vulnerable persons."
-- Greg Brodsky, QC, Brodsky & Company

Sample Chapter

Sample Chapter [PDF]

Related Topics

Women's Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Defending Battered Women on Trial from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
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M3H 5T8

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Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

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