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Perceptions Of Gender In Domestic Violence Cases


In early November 2020, a Manatee County woman was arrested and charged with killing her husband, though she alleged that she did so in self-defense. As of this writing, law enforcement has found no evidence of self-defense, though the ultimate outcome of her case remains to be seen. Historically, when one thinks of domestic violence, they imagine a husband assaulting his wife for some perceived wrong or slight, but it is important to be aware of the male and nonbinary victims of this behavior as well, and to understand that if you are female or nonbinary, you are just as capable of committing domestic violence as men are.

Data May Not Be Complete

Statistics from the National Council Against Domestic Violence estimate that roughly 1 in 9 men have experienced severe intimate partner violence – that is, violence severe enough to leave someone with results like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or injuries severe enough to require long-term care. While this is lower than the number for women (roughly 1 in 4), this still adds up to a significant amount of male victims among those who actually report abuse (many do not).

While more women have experienced severe intimate partner violence (roughly 1 in 4), it is still important to understand that many men do not report domestic abuse, especially those who are heterosexual, for a variety of reasons. Social stigma is very common, often insinuating that a man who is “weak” enough to be abused by a woman may deserve it, or doubts may be cast on a victim’s sexuality for failing to fight back (which can be a very offensive assumption for many men). If the deceased husband in Manatee County did experience any prior domestic violence, he appears not to have reported it at any point (though his wife did file two petitions against him).

Gender Should Be Irrelevant

Nothing in Florida’s domestic violence laws indicates that the gender of the alleged perpetrator or victim is relevant – it merely defines domestic violence as the commission of any criminal offense (though some, like assault, battery, or sexual assault, are specified) by any family or household member against another family or household member. This means, at least in theory, that neither your gender nor the gender of your alleged victim should be relevant at trial or sentencing.

In short, if you are a woman and have been arrested and charged with domestic violence, it is important to keep in mind that merely being female is not enough to prove your innocence. There are certain defenses to domestic violence that are historically used by women – for example, self-defense may be one (more specifically, battered women’s syndrome) – but they still must be proven in court, usually with expert evidence that must be disclosed to the other side before it is deployed.

Call A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

While it is becoming increasingly common to see instances of female perpetrators of domestic violence, gender should play no role in determining guilt or innocence, or any sentencing that might come afterward. If you are female and have been charged with domestic violence, calling the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can ensure you have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side to protect your rights in court. Call our offices today to speak to an attorney.



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