Providing Legal Options for the Battered Women Who Choose to Stay: A Feminist Perspective

The decision to leave a batterer must remain with the battered woman. Her autonomy and assessment of her relationship with her batterer should be held in highest regard by the legal system. Further, “the power to decide whether to stay or leave is particularly central to establishing a battered woman’s autonomy. If the law denies women the power to make that decision, it replicates the domination exercised by the abuser.”

Feminism has often been credited with advancing the cause of the battered woman, in society and in the courtroom. For the battered woman to be empowered, it is essential for the legal system to provide her with options whether she chooses to leave her batterer or to stay in the relationship. Feminism is defined as “the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of the women’s rights and interests.” A central ideal to the promotion of the rights of women, in general, and of the battered woman, in particular, is empowerment and autonomy. To exercise self-determination, the voice of the battered woman must be heard and her choices should be respected.