When Women Kill Their Partners - Spousal Murder Defendants, Factors That Influence The Murder Of Husbands By Wives, Legal Issues Surrounding Battered Women Who Kill
intimate homicide rates victims
Women do not kill their intimate partners nearly as often as men do. The National Crime Victimization Surveys estimate that intimate partner homicide accounts for just 4% of murders of men but about one-third of the murders of women.
However, when women do kill, they are most likely to kill an intimate partner or other family member. In Women Offenders, a special report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs, NCJ 175688, 1999), researchers stated that of the sixty thousand slayings committed by women between 1976 and 1997, just over 60% were committed against a nonstranger.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Report, in 2002, 7% of all known murder offenders were female. Their victims were often their spouses or intimate partners. A 1994 Department of Justice study on "murder in families" analyzed ten thousand cases and determined that women made up more 41% of those charged in familial murders, but only 10.5% of those charged with murder overall.
In 2002, 388 male homicide victims (3.1%) and 1,202 female homicide victims (31.9%) were killed by an intimate partner. There are regional variations in the rates of intimate partner homicide. When the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) analyzed Federal Bureau of Investigation data, southern and western states were found to have the highest rates of intimate partner homicide. Figure 9.1 shows the geographic variation of intimate partner homicide among white females by state, and Figure 9.2 displays the rates of intimate partner homicide by state for black females. Centers for Disease Control researchers also reported in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries (vol. 50, no. SS03, October 12, 2001) that the risk of intimate partner homicide increases with population size—rates in metropolitan areas with more than 250,000 persons are two to three times higher than rates in cities with fewer than ten thousand residents.
Figure 9.3 shows that the number of males killed by intimate partners dropped by 71.4% between 1976 and 2002. Researchers and advocates for battered women attribute this dramatic decline to the widespread availability of support services for women, including shelters, crisis counseling, hotlines, and legal measures such as protection and restraining orders. These services offer abused women options for escaping violence and abuse other than taking their partners' lives. Other factors that may have contributed to the decline are the increased ease of obtaining divorce and the generally improved economic conditions for women.