The failure of all mothers or the mother of all failures?: mock juror perceptions of failure to protect laws

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University of Alabama Libraries

Failure to protect laws have been a hot topic amongst legal scholars, child and domestic violence advocates, and the social work and psychology fields with varying focuses on the societal underpinnings of the laws themselves and their application. Despite the pervasive legal literature on “mother blaming” and the revictimization of battered women that these laws engender, few studies have empirically examined if “mother blaming” occurs in these cases, or if battered women are treated more harshly. The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of defendant sex and presence of domestic violence on mock juror decision making in a failure to protect case. Juror attitudes towards gender roles and the influence of these beliefs on decision making were also examined. Mock jurors read a summary of a case in which the defendant was charged with failing to protect their child from a third party abuser. Participants then rendered a verdict, provided sentencing recommendations and responded to attitudinal questions about the defendant and perpetrator. Mock jurors were more likely to find the defendant guilty and view the defendant more negatively when the defendant had been the victim of domestic violence. Neither defendant gender nor gender role attitudes impacted outcome measures. Results are discussed in terms of “victim blaming” and labeling theory of intimate partner violence.

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