Armed Intimate Partners, Not Strangers, Present the Greatest Threat to Women’s Safety

Published: Oct 11, 2017 | Author: Katie Ziomek, J.D.

A woman’s intimate partner with a gun is statistically a much greater threat to her than is a total stranger. A recent report from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) analyzed national and state-by-state statistics from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reports and Supplementary Homicide Report on homicides committed against women by a single male offender. In 2015, there were only 328 justifiable homicides committed by private citizens and only 23 involved women killing men. Of those, 14 involved handguns and two involved other firearms. While firearms may have buttressed these 16 women’s abilities to protect themselves, the instances of justifiable homicides committed by women against male offenders are exceedingly limited. Rather, the VPC report highlights the risk the presence of a firearm in the house can present to women, particularly in a domestic violence context.

According to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report, there were 1,686 women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents in 2015. The average age of female homicide victims was 41 years old. Eighty-six percent of the homicides in which the race of the female victim and male offender were known were intra-racial, and the rate of black women murdered by men was more than twice as high as the rate for white females. For the 1,551 homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 101 women were murdered by male strangers and 1,450 women were murdered by a man they knew. Simply put, 93 percent of female victims were murdered by men they knew.

For the female victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of their killers. Finally, in incidents where the circumstances of the homicide could be determined, 84 percent of homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery. Rather, of the homicides not related to the commission of another felony, 688 out of 1,079 (64 percent) involved arguments between the female victim and male offender. Further, 49 percent of the homicides stemming from an argument were committed with firearms, with 266 women shot and killed by their husbands or intimate partners during an argument. The concept of a violent stranger being the greatest threat to a woman’s safety collapses under the evidence and speaks to the chilling connection between gun possession, domestic violence, and female homicide.

While progress has been made to disarm dangerous intimate partners – from 1996 to 2015, the rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents decreased by 29 percent - the VPC report identifies areas in which current laws and systems could be improved to further reduce the number of women killed via firearm by their intimate partners. Gaps in state reporting of domestic violence protective orders and misdemeanors to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the computer system used to conduct background checks and flag prohibited purchases, allows individuals who would be prohibited from purchasing firearms due to domestic violence protective orders or misdemeanors to slip through the system. Finally, enhancing the enforcement of laws that require the surrender and removal of firearms from abusers could further reduce the number of women killed by male intimate partners.

To view the report, click here.

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