Provocation was only abolished as a homicide defence in Victoria in 2005 but the idea of women ‘asking for it’ comes up again and again in murder trials, particularly intimate partner homicide cases.
By Chloe Schneider
Dr Danielle Tyson from Monash University’s Department of Criminology has just published a book titled, Sex, Culpability and the Defence of Provocation. This provocative new book is the first to systematically analyse and document the debates about provocation cases and attempts to understand the characters and the stories that seem to recur in intimate partner homicide cases.
Dr Tyson says, ““In provocation cases, the accused is in a particular position where he is able to shift partial blame to the victim by constructing her as having had provoked her own demise. His defence will portray her in one of a variety of stock stories, as the nagging woman, an unfaithful or departing wife, or a woman who impugns his masculinity. Through these stories, the defence narrative blackens the character of the deceased.”
It almost goes without saying that these stories are severely out-dated – coming from an era when women were at risk of public punishment by their husbands should they step outside the traditional roles of wife and mother. Dr Tyson says, ““In contemporary cases we don’t see or read of the nagging woman per se, and women aren’t called scolds anymore, but through their narratives, defence attorneys continue to evoke these stereotypes.”
Dr Tyson has also identified several reoccurring key ‘plots’ that seem to pop up again and again, including romance-gone-wrong, love-hate relationships, and the love-triangle.
Provocation as a defence is problematic because, as Dr Tyson identifies, the law, “claims to be immune from the influence of external factors, yet we actually find that law draws on stock stories in broader culture.”