72 Am. U. L. Rev. F. 93 (2023).

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Samantha Delcamp’s abusive boyfriend killed her three-year-old daughter Arabella. Even though Samantha never laid a hand on her daughter, she was charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to protect her from her abusive boyfriend. During her trial, Samantha’s lawyer was barred from introducing evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome to help explain to the jury why Samantha didn’t stop her boyfriend from hurting Arabella. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Numerous women have been charged with failing to protect their child from harm at the hands of their common abuser and have not been able to introduce evidence on Battered Woman Syndrome to aid the jury in understanding what happened.

This Comment argues that there must be a widespread standard within our court system where judges always allow abused mothers charged with failing to protect their children to provide evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome to aid their defense. Currently, there is a growing number of appellate courts that allow evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome to be introduced in cases involving duress. In these decisions, courts have explained that evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome can help the jury understand the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions under the circumstances. This reasoning and analysis can be applied to a failure to protect context because reasonableness is a necessary element of both defenses. Furthermore, this Comment examines how battered women who fail to come to the aid of their child when the child is being abused are often acting reasonably under the circumstances when considering the effects of Battered Woman Syndrome. Allowing the admission of evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome in cases involving child neglect or endangerment promotes justice in the American legal system by enabling juries to more fully assess a woman’s reasonableness.

* Junior Staff Member, American University Law Review, Volume 72; J.D. Candidate, May 2024, American University Washington College of Law; B.A. Women’s Studies and Psychology, May 2018, The University of Michigan. Thank you to the Law Review staff for their thoughtful work editing this piece, especially to my Note and Comment Editor, Erin Hoff, and my Final Editor, Luke Hancox. I would also like to thank Professor Andrew Ferguson for his invaluable advice and generous assistance with the Comment process.

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