The limits to self-defense claims in case of domestic violence homicides

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution



Domestic violence is a serious social concern, cross-sectional to social classes and countries. It is mostly a gender inspired issue and the victims are in the most part women. Domestic violence develops in cycles: it starts with the building of tension, then takes place the incident of abuse and last happens the reconciliation, or honeymoon. As time goes by, the shorter these phases become and the greater and more severe are the attacks. Death is not rarely the outcome to the victim of abuse. But in some cases, the victim stops the abuse by killing the aggressor. The victim commits a homicide, but usually, after the aggression has taken place. This poses a question: should this victim be punished by the crime of homicide or is it thinkable that she may claim she acted in self-defense? To answer this question, we must revisit the requirements demanded by the law so that the self-defense claim is admissible as exemption of criminal responsibility – as a justification of the fact and exclusion of its unlawfulness. The main problem with self-defense claims in such cases is that the law requires the act of aggression to be present or imminent so that it is permitted to the victim to take her defense into her own hands. If the episode of aggression as already taken place, we fail to fulfill this requirement, unless me interpret the concept of actuality of the aggression broadly, as follows: domestic violence is a permanent offense, so, for as long as the victim stays under the domain of the aggressor, the aggression will remain present and allow self-defense claims to be admissible. It will only be left to answer whether the victim acted within the legal requirement of the necessity of the means used in her self-defense.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Conference on Domestic Violence
Subtitle of host publicationabstract book
PublisherHáskóli Islands
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9789935468277
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
EventEuropean Conference on Domestic Violence (ECDV) - Reykjavík, Iceland
Duration: 11 Sept 202313 Sept 2023


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Domestic Violence (ECDV)


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