Family Law

Family Law News Issue 4, 2019, Volume 41, No. 4

Evolution of Self Defense

By CarolAnn Peterson, PhD

Dr. Peterson is a Full-time Lecturer at the University of Southern California, having joined its School of Social Work in January 2004, and teaches courses on domestic violence, leadership, and policy and advocacy. She is currently a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Domestic Violence Steering Committee. She is a certified National Expert Witness on Strangulation Prevention, and has been consultant for local, state and federal attorneys regarding domestic violence cases. Dr. Peterson has provided training through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (under the Department of Homeland Security). She is an author and public speaker. Dr. Peterson has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, both from Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles; and a Ph.D. from Sanctus Theological Institute. She is also a survivor of domestic violence.

Self-defense in domestic violence and the battered person syndrome have long been controversial. However, this may soon be changing. The case of Marriage of Valerie and Louis G.1 has made incredible inroads to possibly overturning this debate. Valerie G., having filed for divorce, also asked for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), claiming that her husband had been abusive. Valerie produced photographs to show a scraped knee and bruising on her arm. She alleged that she was injured during a physical encounter that she instigated, and the court erred that her injuries did not constitute abuse, since she instigated the confrontation. She was also requesting legal and physical custody of their son and child support.2

Louis G. filed for an opposite DVRO and joint legal and physical custody of their son. He testified that he never hit her and that he did not have an anger problem. He denied being a violent person and indicated that it was Valerie who was violent; in fact, he was able to recount many incidents where she was the violent party. On many occasions she would hide his phone and his laptop, both of which were necessary for his business.3

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