Femicide census reveals nature of male violence against women

By agency reporter
December 19, 2018

The newly published Femicide Census report reveals that at least 139 women were killed by men in the UK between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017, including 21 women who were killed in terrorist attacks.

For the first time, the Femicide Census (developed by Women’s Aid Federation of England and Karen Ingala Smith) has collected data on incidents of 'overkilling', where the force and/or methods used by the perpetrator was greater than that required to kill the victim.

Overkilling was evident in 58 cases where women were killed by men in 2017, according to data collected by the latest Femicide Census report from court and media reports.

One report stated that a victim had been stabbed 175 times, while several victims were described in reports as being “hit 40 times with an axe”, “bludgeoned repeatedly” and “battered virtually beyond all recognition”.

Seventy six per cent of women killed by men were killed by someone they knew; 30 women were killed by a stranger, of whom 21 were killed in a terrorist attack. Sixty four women were killed by their current or former intimate partner, 24 women were killed by a man known to them such as a work colleague, neighbour or friend, while 17 women were killed by a male family member of whom 10 were killed by their son.

The collation of femicides shows that these killings are not isolated incidents, too many of them follow a repeated pattern. Many were committed in similar locations (82 women were killed at their home or the home they shared with the perpetrator), a sharp instrument was used as a weapon in 66 cases, and nearly half of women killed by men were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

Over half (55 per cent) of women killed by a former intimate partner were killed within the first month of separation while almost nine in ten (87 per cent) women killed by a former intimate partner were killed within the first year of separation. 

By viewing these cases of femicide together, is it possible to learnwhat needs to be done to reduce, and ultimately prevent, the killing of women by men. The Femicide Census report recommends that: 

  • The Westminster government must ensure that the proposed domestic abuse bill and wider violence against women and girls strategy incorporates the findings and learnings from the Femicide Census
  • The Westminster government and devolved institutions must work with specialist organisations to develop a long term, sustainable funding model with national oversight for specialist domestic abuse and violence against women and girls services.
  • Public services, including police, social services, health, housing and other relevant agencies, must review and implement learnings from the Femicide Census, domestic homicide reviews, serious case reviews, fatal accident inquiries and coroners’ notices following the death or suicide of a woman after experiencing male violence.

 Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Time and time again, we hear of cases where a woman has been killed by a man as an “isolated incident”; yet the latest Femicide Census report shows yet again that this is not the case. The majority of these cases are not isolated incidents, there are too many similarities in the circumstances where women are killed by men.

“In four in ten cases, there was evidence that the perpetrator used excessive violence, more than was necessary, to kill the victim. Despite the extreme level of fatal male violence being used against women, it is clear that not enough is being done to protect women from men’s violence and prevent more women’s lives being taken. Yet another 139 women’s lives were lost to fatal male violence in 2017. We call for the government to urgently put the prevention of femicide at the centre of its work and domestic abuse bill to combat fatal male violence against women once and for all.

“The government’s domestic abuse bill must deliver both the legislation and the resources needed to transform the response to domestic abuse. Our network of life-saving specialist services is not an optional extra but an essential piece of the jigsaw in our response to domestic abuse and femicide. They not only provide survivors with the support they need to escape abuse but they are also often the key to survivors having the confidence to report the abuse to the police in the first place. The domestic abuse bill must protect specialist services from closure, only then can we ensure that every survivor can safely escape and rebuild her life free from fear and abuse.”

Karen Ingala Smith, Chief Executive of nia, said: “The Femicide Census challenges widely held assumptions about the nature of violence in our society. For example, the dominant perception of knife crime is one of young men and street violence yet the Femicide Census tells us that 47 per cent women were killed by knives or sharp objects, in fact this is the most common method used by men to kill women.  It may also surprise some to learn that 40 per cent of women killed by men were aged over 45 and 14 per cent were over the age of 66.  Where analyses of violent crime do not look at sex disaggregated data, violence against women continues to be overlooked and made invisible.

“Most people when thinking about men’s fatal violence against women, if they think of it at all, think of intimate partner violence. Whilst the Femicide Census affirms that 46 per cent of women killed by men in 2017 were killed by current or former partners, this means that 54 per cent of women were killed by men in other circumstances. There is something specific and different about being hurt by a person who is supposed to love you or to have loved you once, the person who is or was supposed to be your safe place.  Some of women’s support needs can be different depending on how they were abused and by whom and we need a range of specialist domestic and sexual violence services to meet women’s needs. But one of the central premises of the Femicide Census is to look at what connects different forms of men’s violence against women and we believe this is essential to take the necessary steps to significantly reduce men’s violence against women.”

“The use of excessive violence or desecration after death challenges narratives of momentary loss of control that are especially prevalent in relation to domestic violence. Instead it highlights the brutality and misogyny that men bring to their violence against women whether dead or alive and challenges benign rationales given by men which are often accepted and repeated in media coverage of the killings of women.”

Karen Ingala Smith has been recording and commemorating UK women killed by men since January 2012 in a campaign called Counting Dead Women. Karen is Chief Executive of nia, a London based charity championing an integrated approach to addressing all forms of men’s violence against women and girls.

Femicide is generally defined as the killing of women because they are women, though some definitions include any killing of women or girls by men. The Global Study on Homicide in 2011 indicated that whilst there had been a decrease in the number of homicides worldwide, there had been an increase in the number of femicides. A recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (SRVAW) noted that the UN and its Member States have repeatedly concluded that the comparability and availability of data is key to defining and understanding femicide, and its manifestations, causes and consequences. The SRVAW described the Femicide Census as an example of good practice in data collection.

The Femicide Census has the most up-to-date information on femicide in the UK, currently containing information on over one thousand women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009, Northern Ireland as of 2015 and Scotland as of 2017. At the point of the publication of this report, a number of cases of femicide from 2017 could not be included. These cases are still under investigation and information was exempt from disclosure via police Freedom of Information requests. It is therefore believed that 139 is not the total number of cases of femicide for 2017.

If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247

* Read The Femicide Census: 2017 findings here

* nia delivers services to women and children who have experienced domestic and sexual violence http://www.niaendingviolence.org.uk/

* Women's Aid https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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