The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women was founded in 1987 to work for justice for battered women charged with crimes where a history of abuse is relevant to the woman’s legal claim or defense. A nonprofit organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the National Clearinghouse provides technical assistance and other resources to battered women defendants, defense attorneys, battered women’s advocates, and expert witnesses across the nation. Most frequently, the organization assists battered women who have defended themselves and/or their children against their batterer’s violence and who have been charged with assault or homicide. The National Clearinghouse works with battered women who have been coerced into criminal activity, women charged with a crime for allegedly “failing to protect” their children from their batterer’s violence, and women charged with kidnapping or custodial interference for fleeing to protect themselves and/or their children.
The first and only national organization to focus exclusively on battered women defendants, the National Clearinghouse maintains a comprehensive resource bank of information regarding battered women’s legal defense issues, provides direct support to battered women in prison, coordinates a national network of advocates working with battered women defendants, and provides education and information regarding the unique experiences of battered women defendants to members of the criminal justice and advocacy communities and to the general public.
In all of its activities, the National Clearinghouse strives to change the attitudes and institutions that create and support the extreme levels of oppression battered women experience when they find themselves in conflict with the law. The organization’s educational and policy efforts are designed to change beliefs and behaviors of individuals, increase positive outcomes in individual cases, and facilitate short and long-term changes at the institutional level. Because these activities cannot be done by one organization alone, the National Clearinghouse has organized an ever-growing network of people and organizations committed to justice for battered women who end up in conflict with the law.
Recognized for its quality services and national leadership role, the National Clearinghouse was one of five organizations chosen in 1993 to receive funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as part of the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP). Through a number of continuation grants from DHHS, the National Clearinghouse continues to be an active partner in BWJP and in the Domestic Violence Resource Network, a coalition of the DHHS-funded special resource centers on domestic violence.
The National Clearinghouse remains committed to its organizational mission “to secure justice for battered women charged with crimes related to their battering and prevent further victimization of arrested, convicted, or incarcerated battered women.” Since it opened its doors nearly 20 years ago, the National Clearinghouse has brought hope to hundreds of battered women and their families by providing them and their defense teams with direct assistance, information, and support; by helping their voices and stories be heard; and by advocating steadfastly on their behalf when they cannot take a seat at the table.
- Dutton, M. A. (1996). Impact of evidence concerning battering and its effects in criminal trials involving battered women. In The validity and use of evidence concerning battering and its effects in criminal trials (section 1). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, & National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/batter.pdf
- Maguigan, H. (1991). Battered women and self-defense: Myths and misconceptions in current reform proposals. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 140, 379–486.
- National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. (2006). Our mission. Retrieved from http://www.ncdbw.org/mission.htm
- Osthoff, S. (2001). When victims become defendants: Battered women charged with crimes. In C. M. Renzetti& L. Goodstein (Eds.), Women, crime and criminal justice(pp. 232–242). Los Angeles: Roxbury.
- Osthoff, S., & Maguigan, H. (2004). Explaining without pathologizing: Testimony on battering and its effects. In D. R. Loseke, R. J. Gelles, & M. M. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Current controversies on family violence (2nd ed.,pp. 225–240). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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