The Instigator
Con (against)
14 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

It's morally permissible to kill domestic abusers

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 10/22/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,151 times Debate No: 63725
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (36)
Votes (2)




Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence.

Since the last one I did (sadly) ended in forfeits, I decided to give it another go.

This is an old LD topic. This debate will be done as such. All types if LD cases are acceptable.

Round structure will be as such:

Round Two: Neg case/rebuttals, Aff rebuttals
Round Three: Neg Rebuttals, Aff rebuttals

Gl to my opponent!


First of all, my opponent has failed to clarify what situation the said victim of domestic violence is in. Is she able to flee? Is she forced to stay inside her house by her abusive misogynist husband? Is the person in question even the person who is a victim of domestic violence, or is it a bystander? Is it even between a husband and a wife, or is it between two siblings?
Either way, I'll begin making my case as to why using deadly force against repeated domestic abusers is justified.

There several things you can do to react to being abused. You can flee, you can try to get the abuser to stop, you can leave him, you can endure it, you can report him to the police or you can kill him.
If you flee, you must be willing to pack up and leave immediately were he to ever find out where you live, which he could do if he tried to. If you try to get the abuser to stop, you may or may not succeed. You probably wouldn't succeed, as he clearly has no problem with abusing you, and in the meantime you're still being beaten up. And what if the level of violence were to escalate until finally he killed you, intentionally or accidentally?
If you leave him, it's basically the same thing as the first option, which I've already shown to not be a particularly good idea.
If you endure it, well, you're being beaten up, and you have no hope in your current state.
Now, my opponent will probably suggest this option. Report him to the police. Good idea, right? Well, that raises the question of whether he'll be in prison his entire life. If not, then several decades later you might return from a trip to the mall to see him standing there with a machete or a mallet. And then you'd be dead.
If he were in prison for his entire life, he'd likely abuse other prisoners, just because violence is in his nature. So somebody is still suffering under this scenario.

And let's assume for a moment that in none of these scenarios would he come after you. He might still find himself a girlfriend and beat up on her.

So basically, as long as he is alive, he is a danger to either you, others, or both. The only sure way that you can be safe is for him to die, and he'll probably live several more decades if you don't give his time of death a little shove. Even if you were to spend the rest of your life in prison for it, and you'd likely receive some leniency due to the circumstances in which your crime was committed, it'd be worth it.

Of course, this entire scenario assumes that you are able to simply flee or call the police. What if he has you locked inside the house, with no way to reach the outside world? In this case, your only options are to continue to suffer or to kill him.

This concludes Round 1. Make your case, Con.
Debate Round No. 1


Ladies and gents, it's kritik time!

Links: The affirmative’s plea for self-defense as an exception to traditional moral prohibitions on violence cedes the value of a person’s life to what Roman law referred to as Homo Sacer -- a grey zone where we don’t execute someone but their killing is permissible. Agamben 1:[1]

“the sovereignty of the living man over his own life has its immediate counterpart in the determination of a threshold beyond which life ceases to have any juridical value and can, therefore, be killed without the commission of a homicide. The … category of “life devoid of value” … corresponds exactly … to the bare life of homo sacer and can easily be extended beyond the limits imagined by Binding. … every “politicization” of life … implies a new decision concerning … which life … becomes only “sacred life,” and can as such be eliminated without punishment. … Bare life is no longer confined to a particular place or a definite category. It now dwells in the biological body of every living being.”

Impacts: The aff’s return to homo sacer turns the AC both ideologically and contention-wise since they defeat the purpose of self-defense while also permitting more violations of worth. Their approach to politics creates a structure that perpetuates violence. Agamben 2:

“homo sacer is … the particular character of the double exclusion into which he is taken and the violence to which he finds himself exposed. This violence – the unsanctionable killing that, … anyone may commit … this violence opens a sphere of human action that is neither the sphere of sacrum facere nor that of profane action. … once brought back to his proper place beyond both penal law and sacrifice, homo sacer presents the originary figure of life taken into the sovereign ban and preserves the memory of the originary exclusion through which the political dimension was first constituted. The political sphere of sovereignty was thus constituted through a double exclusion, as an excrescence of the profane in the religious and of the religious in the profane, which takes the form of a zone of indistinction between sacrifice and homicide. … sacred life … is the life that has been captured in this sphere.”

This turns the AC since 1) they say we have to protect ourselves but they permit constant violations of worth by replicating bare life. 2) Homo sacer allows exclusion which permits killing within ethics and thus they allow for more domestic violence by justifying exceptions to our traditional moral framework.

The alternative is to adopt a non-violent embrace of the grievability of life. No life is viewed as homo sacer when life is viewed as grievable and precarious. Butler:[2]

“non-violence is … the norms that differentiate between those lives that count as livable and grievable and those that do not. Only on the condition that lives are grievable … does the call to non-violence avoid complicity with forms of epistemic inegailitarianism. The desire to commit violence is thus always attendee by the anxiety of having violence returned, since all the potential actors in the scene are equally vulnerable. Even when such an insight follows from a calculation of the consequences of a violent act, it testifies to an ontological interrelation that is prior to any calculation. … we do not need to know in advance what a life will be, but only to find and support those modes of representation and appearance that allow the claim of life to be made and heard. … It is also to struggle against those notions of the political subject that assume that permeability and injurability can be monopolized at one site and fully refused at another. …”

But then, go to his case.

To start off at the first part of his argument, it's not my job to interpret the resolution. Resolutions are made to be broad to allow both sides equal access to argumentation and topic literature. But to actual arguments now!

First, TURN THE AC – they claim deadly force can better the victim’s life but it just lands you in prison. 80% of women who kill their abusers go to jail and have no voice in the matter. Leanord 01:[3]

“ [80%] of women accused of killing their abusive partner … are convicted … and … receive long, … sentences … even when self-defense laws fit the homicide … lawyers and judges may not apply the laws properly … Battered women in prison have [also] been rendered nearly invisible … by being female in a male-dominated society; … and by the shame they feel as a result of ongoing victimization; …”

And, women’s prison abuse is worse than domestic violence. Buchanan 07:[4]

“sexual abuse by guards in women’s prisons is … widespread … [and] … institutionalized … Women … are subjected to … systematic forms of sexual abuse: … coercion of sex for drugs, favors, or protection; … Such open … abuses would seem … easy for a prison administration to detect and prevent if it chose to do so. “

Prison violence directly outweighs the harms of domestic violence:

a) Domestic violence is physical less than half the time. Milgram:[5]

"domestic violence statistics [show] … Assaults account … for 43 percent … and harassment account[s] … for 43 percent … of …reported offenses …"

b) Victims have no recourse in prisons since they can't leave and their abusers are the ones charged with protecting them, whereas they can run away or call the police outside of prison. This means even a risk of escaping domestic violence makes it preferable to prison violence.

Then, go to this idea that victims can't leave their abusers:

First, TURN: If victims can’t leave abusive situations for economic reasons, or fear, then killing won’t help. They might still feel retribution from the family, would be economically worse, and would feel regret for their crime. Thus, killing their abuser does not do anything to empower the victim, but rather leaves them in the same psychological situation.

Second, Doesn’t Matter: Even if the victim can’t leave their situation, it doesn’t justify the use of deadly force, because morality is not necessarily equated with running out of necessary options.

Now onto the idea that the police can't protect victims:

First, TURN: If the police system is truly flawed, then it might mistake a victim’s use of deadly force for something it isn’t, which would put both the victim at risk and their freedom. In other words, it is comparatively better for the victim to simply report the abuse and, even if the response might not be totally adequate, it will be better than possibly getting arrested for murder.

Second, Doesn’t Matter: Even if there are flaws in the police system, it doesn’t justify the use of deadly force because the victim can still find ways for their batterer to be arrested. Clearly, abusers are arrested frequently, so obviously the flaws in the police system are not that influential.

Third, TURN: The failures in the police system just give the state an incentive to clean up both the police and legal system, or risk protest from battered women. This outweighs on a level of masking because it actually works to solve the problem at its root.

And, on the idea that the legal system can't protect victims:

First, Protection laws don’t fail since if the perpetrator has committed repeated domestic abuse, he will be more strongly punished, which means that his protection order will be more stringently enforced.

Second, TURN: If the legal system really does view domestic abuse so loosely, then they will be less likely to justify the victim’s use of deadly force. This creates a more stringent ruling against the victim, which either means that the resolution is conceptually negated, or that the victim is punished. This outweighs because it causes more harm to the actual victim. If the goal of the deadly force is to ensure that the victim has agency, then throwing them in jail leads to less agency.

Third, TURN: If protection laws aren’t enforceable, then this gives government more incentive to make laws more stringent to protect women and to avoid protest. If there really is a clear cut failure in the system, killing the abusers won’t do a thing; rather, we need to fix the system, not just get the victims in more trouble. This outweighs on a level of masking because while killing the perpetrator simply covers up the problem, rectifying the problems in the system allows for a better solution.

Fourth, Even if the protection orders aren’t sufficient, there are always other avenues to pursue; if the victim has gotten far enough out of the situation to actually get a court order, then they can push for an arrest or a stronger punishment.

So in conclusion, there are plenty of alternatives for victims to go down that don't require deadly force, and even if these alts aren't actually there, the harms are greater in killing still than in not killing. The resolution is negated.

[1] Giorgio Agamben. HOMO SACER: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press 1995.

[2] Judith Butler, PhD, Yale, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, “Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?”, Verso, 2009,

[3] Elizabeth Leonard 2001 Convicted Survivors: Comparing and Describing California's Battered Women Inmates

[4] Kim Shayo Buchanan [JSD Candidate, Columbia Law School; Sessional Assistant Professor, Criminology/Law and Society, York University], “Impunity: Sexual Abuse in Women’s Prisons,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol 42, 2007

[5] Anne Milgram [Attorney General, State of New Jersey], Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes [Superintendent, New Jersey State Police], Major James S. Beshada [Commanding Officer, Identification and Information Technology Section, New Jersey State Police], Chief Robert Coulton [Ewing Township Police Department, President, New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police], “Twenty-Sixth Annual Domestic Violence Offense Report,” Domestic Violence in New Jersey, December 2008.



Okay. It's time for me to get serious. I thank my opponent for (presumably) giving it his all and holding nothing back.

1. Right to Life
My opponent has first of all cited the right of human beings to life, the "sovereignty of the living man over his own life" to say that outside of "grey zone" cases of self-defense their killing is not permissible.
However, fundamental rights are often denied someone whenever they deny the rights of others. Murderers, while still living human beings, have denied the rights of another human being to live, and it is often considered acceptable to put them to death. As the abuser's actions are a violation of the victim's rights, why should his right to life be respected?
In this case, an abuser does not kill his wife. Usually. But, allow me to use this link which provides some facts and statistics on domestic violence.

"Battering tends to increase and become more violent over time."

Here's another link.
In the year 2000, more than 1200 women were killed by their spouses. I am certain that many of these deaths are a result of domestic violence which has escalated.
The fact is, every time that somebody who is physically stronger than you are beats you, your life is in danger. You could be killed. Or receive a serious injury. Therefore, killing your abusive spouse during abuse is permissible as self-defense. My opponent cannot deny that killing in the name of self-defense is excusable.
There is little reason for them to refrain from killing you, because "The average prison sentence of men for murdering their women partners is 2 to 6 years." (See first link)

6. Years. For. Beating. Your. Wife. The system is a mess! He'll be out of prison in 6 years and he'll beat you again. There is NO escape as long as he is alive. He will find you, and he will beat you, probably out of revenge. Will he obey a restraining order? Probably not, as he is determined to take his vengeance out on you. Or, he may kill you, as this piece of scum did.

There is literally no other solution, except to go on the run for your entire life, which is why you should just take 15 years of jail time, which is about what women typically serve for killing their husbands (see link 1). People I'm Western nations live long lives these days, so you'll still have plenty of time to enjoy your life before you die.

Then, my opponent mentioned sexual abuse in prisons. But:
1. It is not guaranteed that a female inmate will be raped, so she at least has a chance of not being molested or battered...something she didn't have in the outside world.
2. If if she is being raped, if at some point the guard responsible is caught, is testified against, laid off, fired, or quits, the abuse will end.
3. After a certain number of years you will be released, and no one will abuse you any more.

As I have shown that the abuser's mere existence is a very real threat to your life, killing him is self-defense, which is justified. And frankly, he deserves to die. You are protecting yourself from abuse so you do not deserve to die, even if the courts pronounce you guilty.

Oh yes, I've got another reason:

Whenever women who are being beaten kill their abusive partners, it spreads a message. It is a message of "We will not allow you to beat us" and abusive husbands will realize that if they abuse their wives, there's a chance that their wives may kill them. Somewhere in the world some man will decide not to beat up his wife because he realizes this. Somebody will not have to suffer because one victim, then another, and another, and then another, fought back and killed their abusers.

That'll be all for this round. Back to you Con.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent misinterprets Agamben. Extend Agamben 1 which is talking about how the affirmative's plea for self-defense turns the value of life to homo sacer, which is a zone void of any meaning and only perpetuates the violence and harms that the affirmative is trying to solve back for. The return to homo sacer blurs the lines between self-defense and murder and makes both permissible while stripping life of any meaning and value.

The only way to solve back for Homo sacer is to affirm that all life is inherently greivable, regardless of what the abuser has done, which means that regardless of anything killing is inherently wrong. This negates the resolution straight out.

He tries to answer back for this by saying that the abuser loses his right to life the moment he threatens the victims but go to that.

First, there’s no warrant as to why the right to life is transferable; most philosophers would argue that the right to life is absolute, and even if there is a decrease in this right, the abuser still has some basic claim to life.

Second, TURN: If people forfeit the right to life by attempting to kill others, then the victim, by exercising deadly force, would also be giving up their right to life. This means we would be able to justify it if the abuser or the abuser’s family turned around and killed the victim. This principle could then be applied to a myriad of situations, all of which would then justify “double jeopardy” which is not the moral precedent we want to set, especially if the point of deadly force is for the victim to regain agency.

Third, Abusers don’t forfeit their right to life by abuse, but rather by killing their victim. Since the victim is considering whether or not to kill someone, they are obviously still alive and thus, haven’t forfeited their rights.

Fourth, Even if this argument is true, we don’t know if it applies in this case. The abuser could simply be exercising different types of abuse, and it’s unclear as to what means the abuser forfeits his rights.

Fifth, TURN: Establishing the precedent of “killing people who forfeit their rights” is dangerous because then any murder can be justified except against the most innocent. For example, a person could justify murdering a sex offender because they harmed another person. Additionally, we could kill robbers because they harmed another’s property, etc. This argument has very little brightline and means we can argue that agency is forfeited essentially whenever someone violates another’s agency—which can happen in very small and miniscule ways.

Sixth, he's not responding to Butler that is explaining how all life is inherently grievable and precarious, which means that regardless of any actions taken their life still has value, which means that regardless of what the abuser does his life still has value.
But then, go to the whole emotional appeal of physical violence increasing over time therefore self-defense.

First, by making this argument, he concedes the link to the K, which means that he's allowing the return of homo sacer. And since he's not doing nearly enough to win on the K, you can negate straight away off of the K without even having to read the rest of the debate.

Second, Not True: Self-defense can’t justify the use of deadly force because then every murderer could claim that they acted out of self-defense, relying on complex psychological analysis as to whether or not they actually felt threatened—analysis that is in no way falsifiable.

Third, Doesn’t Matter: Even if self-defense does justify the use of deadly force, we can’t ascertain whether or not self-defense was necessary in this situation. Since every situation is distinct, prescribing a generic moral rule is unacceptable. Thus, the argument is at best a wash without specific context.

Fourth, TURN: If this principle is true, then the batterer would be justified in killing his victim when she tries to kill him. In other words, the batterer could also claim self-defense against the victim and kill that victim. This outweighs because it fails to protect the lives of those who are actually being abused.

And then, go to the whole you only get in 6 years for beating your wife and the legal system can't protect you.

He hasn't responded to a single one of the four responses to this I made last round. Extend them.

And then, off of his responses to the prison disad:

He's making the argument that it's not guaranteed that you're going to get abused in prison, yet provides no warrant for this so extend the Buchanan '07 evidence which is talking about how abuse in the prison system is a widespread, instititutionalized activity. This is saying that if you're a woman going to prison, there's a massive probability that you're going to be abused and molested.

And, his argument that the guards abusing people can be punished ignores the buchanan '07 evidence, which is talking about how institutionalized the practice is meaning that guards aren't getting punished, the Leonard '01 evidence which is saying how invisible women are in the patriarchical prison system, meaning that there's no possible way to seek recourse.

And, his dismissal of all the harms of prison violence by him just saying "You'll get out eventually, suck it up" concedes the severity of the problem in the prison system explained in Leonard. The women suffering in here are absolutely invisible to society as a whole and no one is caring about their suffering, meaning that just tossing more of them in there isn't going to help anything.

And, you can extend the harms of prison violence (buchanan) and the reasons why they outweigh domestic violence, as none of them were responded to.

And then, go to his new argument of deterrence.

First, Not True: There are always other options for the victim to take before resorting to deadly force; this means that deterrents can always come from other areas.

Second, TURN: Deadly force doesn’t actually deter future violence but rather feeds into the cycle of violence by choosing the same path as the abuser took. This influences the victim and abuser’s children, relatives, etc. this just allows the cycle to continue and justifies the abuse and killing of even more people. Essentially, the affirmative needs to justify why the way to deter future violence is through the use of violence; the very statement seems rather contradictory, and that’s because it most certainly is.

Third, Doesn’t Matter: The link between justice and deterrence is only tenable if we actually know about the victim’s intensions for killing their husband, but we certainly don’t know if this is true.

Fourth, TURN: If we are trying to deter future violence, the better way to do it is to actually solve the ROOT problem of domestic violence, rather than using the band-aid solution of deadly force; solving the root problem can deter violence among the children, the spouse, and others. Thus, I would outweigh because by solving the root of domestic violence, I can at least deter violence on a greater SCALE (outweighing on scope) than the affirmative can by simply killing one person.

And this impact is even more important because he's conceding the arguments I'm making on his side of the debate about how the best way to solve the root problems of domestic violence is by negating and fixing the problems in the legal system to provide better alternatives for victims rather than just giving them the green light to kill everyone.

To summarize:

My opponent barely responded to the K, and his only response was a misinterpretation of what Agamben was saying. He concedes the link to self defense in his last round, meaning that he's linking into the harms of Homo sacer. This means that you're negating right off the K, before you even have to think about the myriad of dropped arguments I made on the aff case.

Moreover, he's not doing a sufficient job responding to the prison disad which is saying that if they kill their abusers, they just get thrown in prison and the prison violence and abuse there is far worse than the domestic violence. It's far better for their sake to not kill their abusers and seek other alternatives than get thrown into a place where the only people you can possibly go to for protection are the ones who are beating you and raping you. I'm extending clear and unresponded to analysis as to why prison violence outweighs domestic violence, therefore giving us a more important reason to avoid it and the only way to do that is by negating.

Furthermore, he's dropped so many turns I made against his case that I would have to spend days covering them all. Extend out the refutations I made against the legal system not working as well as the refutations I made against the police system not working. All of these were dropped. This means that I'm showing two good alternatives to using deadly force straight off the bat. Then extend the turn I made that says that if victims really can't leave their abusers because they're afraid, that killing only worsens the problem. This goes dropped as well. And extend the argument I make that even if there aren't any alternatives that it doesn't justify the use of deadly force since morality isn't necessarily equated with running out of options.

Also, don't let him make new arguments in the next round or go back to the arguments he dropped since I won't be able to make any kind of reply and he had his chance to respond to the dropped arguments and chose not to.

So, tl;dr negate off the K that he doen't really respond to, negate off of the disad that he responds to really poorly, and negate off of the myriad of turns I made against his case that went unresponded to.


I said I had no intention of forfeiting, but...
I forfeit. My opponent wins.
Debate Round No. 3
36 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Zaradi 3 years ago
Too much political BS to cut through.

Short of it though is that I said I intended to debate this like a LD debate, much as I would IRL. This means jargan is inevitable. You should've realized this before accepting that I would be using specific terminology, and if you didn't like that you shouldn't have rushed to accept it. Don't blame me for you being dumb.
Posted by Vox_Veritas 3 years ago
How would you like to debate Charleslb?
Posted by Zaradi 3 years ago
You do realize that there are free thesauruses on the internet right?
Posted by Vox_Veritas 3 years ago
I asked for his best arguments. However, I did not ask for him to use the most fancy words in his vocabulary to describe things which could be explained in simpler language. I am sure that Zaradi could've said it in simpler terms while overall having said the exact same thing.
Posted by Adam_Godzilla 3 years ago
So I don't know. Intellectual or not, Zaradi knew the debate level Vox was and yet he unrelentlessly tortured him. But oh well, Pro asked for it and he got what he wanted.
Posted by Adam_Godzilla 3 years ago
Actually Berend. Even the great RoyLatham said to avoid using debate jargon.
Posted by Berend 3 years ago
Vox if you are going to complain because one person has a higher vocabulary then you, then you should go read books. He doesn't need to make it simple because some people do not know big words. It's called being an intellectual. In fact, it challenges you to learn new words.
Posted by Vox_Veritas 3 years ago
Con used a lot of fancy words which made his actual argument very difficult to translate. To be honest, he could've talked normal while using the same arguments.
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
Pro I'm not quite sure why you forfeited. I personally don't give K's much weight and I thought you had good arguments.

I'm not sure who would've won because analyzing that now is unnecessary. I don't determine the winner until considerable thought is given to the arguments. I did enjoy rreading this and am somewhat relieved I don't need to spend a lot of time analyzing it.
Posted by Wylted 3 years ago
I am pro this but am interested in reading the arguments. I know the pro position has to be tough to argue.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: pro concedes.
Vote Placed by Wylted 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeits in final round