When Women Kill Their Partners - Factors That Influence The Murder Of Husbands By Wives

killed browne compared abusive

In one of the first studies of wives who murdered their abusive partners, When Battered Women Kill (New York:


The Free Press, 1987), Angela Browne of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire compared forty-two women charged with murdering or seriously injuring their spouses with 205 abused women who had not killed their husbands. Wondering why some women were unable to see that their partners were dangerously violent, she found that some of the personal characteristics of men inclined to violent, abusive behavior were the same qualities that initially attracted the women to them. For example, a woman might initially perceive a man who always wanted to know where she had been as intensely romantic. Only later, when she was unable to act or move without her partner's supervision, might she realize that she had become a virtual prisoner of her controlling mate.

Browne asserted that the intensity of these early relationships further serves to isolate the women. Women may be denied contact with family and friends to the extent that a casual conversation with a neighbor may provoke abuse. A woman may come to see her partner's behavior as extremely jealous and possessive. This pathological protectiveness is communicated by an abuser's belief that his partner belongs exclusively to him and is a possession to be used as he pleases. Browne found that many abusive husbands feared or believed their wives were sexually promiscuous. These mistaken beliefs frequently prompted extreme sexual assault.


Browne's findings suggest a link between the frequency of marital rape and homicide potential. More than 75% of women who had committed homicide claimed they were forced to have sexual intercourse with their husbands, compared to 59% in the group of women who had not killed their husbands. Some 39% of the former group had been raped more than twenty times, compared to 13% of the latter group. One woman Browne interviewed said, "It was as though he wanted to annihilate me…; as though he wanted to tear me apart from the inside out and simply leave nothing there."

According to Raquel Kennedy Bergin in Wife Rape (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996), about 60% of the women who are raped in their marriages report that their husbands have threatened to kill them. Three of the women in her study reported that they were finally able to break free of their abusive relationships when they realized that they would kill their husbands if they did not leave. About half the sample confessed to thinking about killing their partners but did not believe they could actually follow through with their murderous plans.

Murder and Suicide Threats

Men murdered by their spouses had often threatened to kill their partners. In Browne's study, 83% of the men killed by their wives had threatened to kill someone, compared to 59% of the men whose wives did not kill them. Men killed by their wives had used guns to frighten their spouses and were sometimes killed with their own weapons. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of this group also threatened to kill themselves. Many of the threats were made when women tried to leave the relationship or when the men were depressed. Browne questioned whether the suicide threats were genuine expressions of wishes to die or whether they were used to manipulate the women in efforts to make them feel guilty and prevent them from leaving.

Studies have found that battered women often contemplate suicide because they see no other escape from the cycle of abuse, and that as many as a third of women who do commit suicide each year have been abused by a male partner. Neil Websdale explored the subject in "Reviewing Domestic Violence Deaths" (National Institute of Justice Journal, no. 250, November 2003). One woman in Browne's study expressed her wish to escape abuse when she decided not to seek help after a severe beating because she thought "[death] might not be so bad; like passing out only you never get beaten again."

Drug Use and Physical Abuse

When Browne compared abused women who had murdered their spouses and women who had not, she found that in the homicide group, 29% of the men had used drugs daily or almost daily versus only 7.5% of the men in the other group. There were even sharper differences in reported alcohol use. Twice as many (80%) of the men killed by their wives were reportedly drunk every day, compared with 40% of the abusive men not killed by their spouses.

Lenore Walker, a renowned expert in domestic violence who is often hired as an expert witness in homicide cases, researches and testifies in cases where women have killed their husbands after they pass out from drinking. She argued that women, convinced the beatings will resume when the men awake, take the opportunity to murder their abusers. Autopsies show that these victims had blood alcohol levels of up to three times greater than the measure normally defined as intoxicated.

In addition, 92% of the men killed by their wives had been arrested for crimes ranging from drunk driving to murder, compared with 77% of the abusive men not killed by their wives. A common feature of the marriages where the wife killed her spouse was that the wife did not know anything about her husband's criminal past, including his arrest records.

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over 6 years ago

i feel what gives anybody the right to oppress another person then when that person fights back it's a problem.ANY man who puts his hands on a female is a wimp because you know your stronger than her. A man suppose to protect his woman not put her in fear of him.Some women have no way out and are in fear of their lives its a shame how some so call man can do this and think its o.k. for whatever reason and i dont care what all he been though in his pass it's never o.k. to abuse a woman and make her feel like she is less than dirt and afraid to go anywhere and not be free.GOD loves us all and wants the best for us so we have to reach out to him in good and bad times but if we do like he requested which is to put him first and love one another and we all know the rest but we pick and choose what to believe and do.Ladies STOP getting with men without asking GOD first is this the one we go off of emotions alot of times and men go off of lust some times but we really need to focus on what is our true calling and invest our time in that and then when we are true to ourselves and focused on GOD he will give us all we want and need we have yo ask and most importantly be obediant to his word. It took me 40yrs to finally get this cuz i was looking for love in all the wrong places and i had knew of GOD like so many other Christains but was still trying to do things my way instead of his way and one day i WOKE UP!!and realized doing it on my own brought temporary satisfaction but when you do it GODs way it's having joy in your heart knowing GOD got you as long as you do his will.So to all of you out there in an abusive relationship make a plan, pray to GOD for help and if you can please do not kill unless you feel your life is in jepordy.There is hope and life is good when we except what GOD has laid before us.So LADIES keep your head up there is light at the end of the tunnel stay strong and for you men please get help and stop putting your hands on women and stop tearing them down thats no way to live life being bitter and angry for whatever has heppened to you forgive let go and GOD will bless you.It's said that forgiveness is the gift we give oursleves so it's not so much for that person but for you so you can move forward with your life.take a deep look in your life and discover why you are so angry and abusive. alot of times we have been hurt in different areas of our lives and act out in certain ways and have no clue why we do the things we do or think that we do the things we do because of a particular issue at the momment but it stems from something else and that particular issue just spark something.Let's look deep within and make changes in our lives for the better.Why not live in peace and harmony.

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over 6 years ago

This is seriously messed up. It reads like Charles Darwin talking about black people.

I can't believe this person is implying that men get murdered because they are abusive.

How can you, or anyone else, seriously believe that people get murdered because it's their fault? Why don't I write a book about women being killed, and talk about why they supposedly deserve it. It would put me in the same boat as this author.

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about 5 years ago

What a thoroughly sexist exercise in rationalizing female on male violence,e.g., you neglected to cite women murdering for financial gain. Type feminist propaganda.

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about 8 years ago

women are much more innovative in killing their husbands. I've read many bazarr and sometimes humorous cases.