The 'Pitiless Double Abuse' of Battered Mothers

9 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2014

See all articles by Justine A. Dunlap

Justine A. Dunlap

University of Massachusetts School of Law

Date Written: June 17, 2014


Mothers are expected to do and be all for their children, and those who fall short are criticized. Elizabeth Schneider makes this unassailable assertion in her book "Battered Women and Feminist Lawmaking." In the chapter entitled Motherhood and Battering, Schneider argues that society reserves its greatest opprobrium for mothers who harm their children or who are perceived to stand idly by while other harm their children. As Schneider demonstrates, women who fail to protect their children, even if they attempt to do so, can be legally liable and soundly condemned. This ill-conceived accountability is most likely to occur when the mother is herself a victim of violence. Thus the dangerous confluence of two powerful archetypes -- being a mother and being battered -- inflicts double injury on women who wear both mantles. They not only bear the scars of their abuser, but they also shoulder the blame for the harms others cause to their children.

Suggested Citation

Dunlap, Justine A., The 'Pitiless Double Abuse' of Battered Mothers (June 17, 2014). American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2003, Available at SSRN: or

Justine A. Dunlap (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law ( email )

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