Is Jodi Arias A Battered Woman?

Jodi Arias's latest defense: She was an abused and battered woman.

Posted Apr 30, 2013

As the Jodi Arias trial begins to wind down, discussions have emerged in and out of the courtroom as to whether Arias suffered from “Battered Woman Syndrome” before she murdered Travis Alexander. The definition of a battered person is: "A pattern of signs and symptoms, such as fear and a perceived inability to escape, appearing in women who are physically and mentally abused over an extended period, by a husband or other dominant individual." The answer is extremely important because it could literally mean the difference between life and death.

If Arias was a battered woman who killed in self-defense, that completely changes the dynamics of the case and most certainly the death penalty would be taken off the table. And a conviction for anything less than first degree murder means Arias will eventually be released back into society, even if it’s after a long prison term.

There is no DSM-IV diagnosis for ‘battered woman’. It falls vaguely under the PTSD classification. The International Classification of Diseases 9th edition (ICD 9) is more specific with a ‘battered person’ diagnosis. Below are the symptoms and how they pertain to Jodi: 

• Re-experiencing the battering as though it's recurring, even though it is not: This can be through dreams, thoughts and perceptions which trigger flashbacks. As of yet, no one -- not a family member, not one single friend, not one coworker has EVER said Arias reported abuse, complained of Alexander's behavior or witnessed a flashback. Not one.

Not only that, every friend, be it male, female or former girlfriend, has nothing negative to say about Alexander. In fact, they all claim he was good natured, respectful and the kind of friend everyone wanted. There is not one single case of him abusing anyone- ever.

• Avoiding the abuser: Did Arias avoid Alexander? Not on your life. She made it a point to not only keep him, but keep him close. When he would try to pull away, she'd come up with another sexual adventure. It is thought by most that she recorded their sexual conversations in order to blackmail him if he tried to leave. Avoid him? Never. Stalk him? You bet.

• Hyperarousal or Hypervigilance: Before the murder, her friends say she was normal, and did nothing out of the ordinary. Was she afraid or cautious or high strung? Perhaps. She planned for a long road trip and she turned her phone off so there would be no pings on her cell phone to place her at the murder scene. But, none of this points to her being afraid or hyper-alert because she feared Alexander.

• Disrupted interpersonal relationships: Arias had trouble with interpersonal relationships with boyfriends in the past but nothing like this. Once she killed Alexander, she was already calling another guy. Not only that, but after Alexander's memorial, she was calling yet another potential love interest. Yes, Arias does have this symptom. 

• Negative body image: I challenge anyone to argue Arias had a low view of her looks or her self-esteem. If anything, she was extremely high on the narcissistic continuum. Alexander's friends unanimously claim she was very sexual, and used her sexuality and body to lure men into her personal space and keep them there. She had an exaggerated sense of her body and her image. Clearly she does not meet this criterion.

• Sexuality and intimacy problems: Arias seemed to have zero sexuality issues. However, she may have distorted her perception of love and intimacy through sex. She kept the sex alive with Alexander by coming up with ever more outrageous fantasies she knew he would like. But keep in mind, SHE was the driving force, not him.

Finally and most importantly, to receive a battered person diagnosis, there MUST be a history of being battered. All of the symptoms above don't mean a thing without a history of abuse. Arias has no 911 calls, no injuries, no ER visits, hospital reports, bruises, broken bones or injuries noted by family or friends. Before the trial, Arias never claimed Alexander broke her finger and she never visited a doctor or hospital. Now, she claims Alexander broke her finger- but there are many other possibly explanations for that.

It is true that many, many domestic violence victims keep their secrets... well, secret. They're ashamed about what is happening and scared the perpetrator will carry out threats of harm if they go public. And yes, rarely some victims do kill their batterers. If you listen to the defense attorneys, they would have you believe Arias is a victim who fought for her life when she killed Alexander. So, the killing is theoretically possible as a self-defense act. But….

There are countless reasons I do not believe Arias' claims of being a battered woman, even more than listed above. Arias claims self-defense, but when does stabbing someone 29 times, (many of those wounds in the back), practically decapitating him and shooting him in the head constitute self-defense? She had no defense wounds, plus she tried to clean up the murder scene, didn’t report it and then changed her story over and over and over. Using self-defense is laughable. Using the battered person syndrome is a slap in the face to the real victims and survivors of domestic violence.

If Arias were truly a battered woman, would she move to California, only to secretly travel back to Arizona to see her batterer, to have sex with him and ultimately kill him? No. Would a battered Arias write in her journal "Travis is awesome, no doubt" when she believed that only her eyes would see the journal? No.

Alexander wanted to break up, and Arias began stalking him. Does a battered woman stalk her abuser? No. Remember, Arias traveled through two states to kill Alexander. Battered women try their best to leave an abusive environment. Arias chose to return to Alexander on her own and not because, like a typical abuser, Alexander demanded she return.

After the murder, Arias traveled to Utah, where she spent the night with a once-budding love interest, Ryan Burns. Burns, for his part, says Arias acted calm and normal, and her behavior never raised a red flag. Then, when she flew to Arizona to attend a memorial for Alexander, Arias met another potential love interest on the flight home. They exchanged phone numbers and Arias called him that night. Do either of these events sound like a battered woman who had recently killed her abuser? No.

Dr. Lenore Walker, author of "The Battered Woman Syndrome" and executive director of the Domestic Violence Institute, admits battered women lie, because lying is a means of survival. She weighed in on her thoughts regarding this trial. "It doesn't give them a free pass just because they're a battered woman. It's really used only to help us understand whether or not they were in fear of what was happening, that they would be seriously harmed or killed at the time that they commit a homicide. That's what we have to look at, and that's not what I've heard yet in this trial."

Just last week, the defense has thrown up yet another excuse for the murder -- Manslaughter by Sudden Quarrel or Heat of Passion. Every other excuse has been full of holes, so why not try one more?.

Wednesday will be the last day of testimony, with closing arguments coming Thursday and ending Friday. This trial turned into a circus long ago, and has stretched the bounds of believability more so than even Casey Anthony. The jury will have the case -- and Arias' life -- in their hands by Friday evening. Until then we are all wondering, will justice be served?