Within the past decade, the use of self-defense as defined under Stand Your Ground laws has been the subject of political and legal scrutiny. According to the American Bar Association (2015), twenty-three states have passed Stand Your Ground laws that eliminate the duty to retreat prior to using force in any place that an individual has the right to be. In addition, ten states allow individuals to use or threaten to use force in public or private spaces where they have a right to be under case law (not formal statute) but maintain stricter requirements for how self-defense must be proven in criminal proceedings. Several high-profile cases have served as catalysts for human rights organizations, civil rights activists, and politicians to question the necessity of Stand Your Ground laws, and these cases have also introduced the possibility that individuals who have traditionally been disenfranchised within the criminal justice system based upon race, class, and gender continue to be limitedly protected under this more "expansive" legislation. Where the limitations of these laws are becoming increasingly evident is with cases of intimate partner violence. However, there has not been any empirical investigation regarding how Stand Your Ground laws apply to intimate partner violence, and this is the case despite critical evaluations demonstrating self-defense law to be primarily androcentric in language and intent. This bias has been codified into Stand Your Ground laws, where intimate partner violence victims are required under Castle Law to have a protection order issued by the court to prove reasonable fear against their partner who may have a moral or legal right to the same property where the violence occurs. The current study was designed to address this limitation in the research, and to provide the first known evidence of how statutory Stand Your Ground laws are being applied to cases of self-defense that involve intimate partners. Information was gathered through three key analyses: (1) a content analysis of Stand Your Ground statutes; (2) a content analysis of criminal and appellate court cases; (3) a content analysis of newspaper coverage of these criminal and appellate cases. The results of these analyses demonstrate that there are more legal restrictions than protections for intimate partner violence victims; that there are gender disparities in sentencing outcomes that do not favor women who are victims of intimate partner violence; and that the media tends to use victim blame tactics that have clear implications based upon the gender and race of intimate partner violence victims. The results of this study offer much needed evidence of fundamental problems with contemporary Stand Your Ground laws that continue to condemn intimate partner violence victims, and are also used to make recommendations for how Stand Your Ground laws can be modified to offer unbiased legal protection to victims of intimate partner violence who experience a long-term cycle of abuse.


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Graduation Date





Jasinski, Jana


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program










Release Date

May 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Sociology Commons