Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

8 Christina Randall

Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the  Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’

On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between  her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it.  Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.

The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina]  regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.

Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation.   Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.

For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including  ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor.  The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed  between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.

On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.

Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA,  a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim

No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.

 [i]  Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying  what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.

 

2017

77 women

January – June 2017: At least 77 UK women killed by men, or where a man is the principal suspect. 77 women in 180 days is one woman dead every 2.3 days.

  1. 7 January 2017: Nicola Beck, 52, was found dead along with her husband Michael Beck, 62. Police have described their deaths as ‘domestic related murder and suicide.’
  2. 8 January 2017: Kerri McCauley, 32, was found dead. A post-mortem was inconclusive but Norfolk Police said there was evidence that Kerri was subjected to a severe blunt force assault. Her former partner, Joe Storey, 26, has been charged with her murder.
  3. 10 January 2017: Eulin Hastings, 74, was killed in a house fire. A 26-year-old man was arrested and bailed.
  4. 11 January 2017: Victoria Shorrock, 45, was found dead having suffered ‘a number of injuries’. Lee Grime, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  5. 16 January 2017: Leone Weeks, 16, was found stabbed to death on a footbath close to her home. 18-year-old Shea Heeley, has been charged with her murder.
  6. 16 January 2017: Kiran Daudia, 46, ‘s remains were found in a suitcase by a member of the public. Her 50-year-old ex-husband, Ashwin Daudia, has been charged with her murder.
  7. 18 January 2017: Kulwinder Kaur, 40, was killed by a stab wound to her neck. Her husband, Azad Singh, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  8. 19 January 2017: Anne Forneaux, 70, was found dead at home and is believed to have been killed by her husband, Edward Forneaux, 74, who is thought to have killed himself by driving in to a tree.
  9. 20 January 2017: Anita Downey, 51, is thought to have been stabbed to death. David Lymess, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  10. 28 January 2017: Chrissy Kendall, 46, was found dead with multipole stab wounds. Her husband James Neary, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  11. 30 January 2017: Gillian Zvomuya, 42, also known as Nyasha Kahari, dies from head injuries and also suffered injuries from a ‘bladed item’. Her husband Norbery Chikerema, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  12. 3 February 2017: Amandeep Kaur, 35, was found dead with significant injuries. Baldeep Singh, 38, has been charged with her murder.
  13. 6 February 2017: Tina Billingham, 54, was taken to a doctor’s surgery with stab wounds but later died in hospital. Her partner Ronald Cook, 54, has been charged with her murder.
  14. 11 February 2017: Hannah Dorans, 21, was found dead. Frazer Neil, 23, has been charged in relation to her death.
  15. 11 February 2017: Catherine Kelly, 71, was killed in a fire which was thought to have been started deliberately.
  16. 11 February 2017: Hang Yin Leung, 64, was killed when a group of men posing as cold callers entered and robbed her home.
  17. 13 February 2017: Karina Batista, 40, was found dead with multiple injuries to her upper body. Jaici Rocha, 36, has been charged with her murder.
  18. 15 February 2017: Humara Khan, 42, was found to have a serious head injury when police were called to her home. She later died in hospital. Her husband Jamal Khan, 52, has been charged with her murder.
  19. 19 February 2017: Hazel Wilson Briant, 27, was stabbed to death by her partner Olumide Orimoloye, 42, who also killed himself.
  20. 19 February 2017: Margaret Stenning, 79, was stabbed to death. Her husband, Ronald Stenning, who claimed she slit her own throat, has been charged with her murder.
  21. 22 February 2017: Avis Addison, 88, was found dead at home after police were called to the property. Her husband Douglas Addison, 88, has been charged with her murder.
  22. 26 February 2016: Julie McCash, 43, was stabbed to death at a vigil being held for her missing nephew. Robert Stratton, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  23. 26 February 2017: Sarah Pitkin, 58, is believed to have been stabbed to death by her husband Richard Pitkin, , 65, who then hanged himself.
  24. 28 February 2017: Lea Adri-Soejoko, 80, was found dead in an allotment lock-up store. She had been strangled. Rahim Mohammadi, 40, has been charged with her murder.
  25. In February 2015, Justene Reece, 46, killed herself by hanging following a period of sustained stalking and coercive control. In a landmark legal case, Nicolas Allen, who had formerly been Justene’s partner, admitted manslaughter.
  26. 8 March 2017: Anne-Marie James, 33, was stabbed to death by her brother Melvin James,36, who then killed himself. He also badly injured their mother.
  27. 13 March 2017: Sabrina Mullings, 38, was stabbed to death. Her partner Ivan Griffin, 23, has been charged with her murder.
  28. 22 March 2017: Aysha Frade, 43, was killed when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London.
  29. 25 March 2017: Tracey Wilkinson, 50, and her son Pierce, 13, were stabbed to death by Aaron Bailey who was known to the family. Her husband was also badly hurt in the attack.
  30. 25 March 2017: Kanwal/Bernice Williams was last seen alive. Her body was found on 9th of April, two days after the discovery of the body of her husband Lawrence Williams, 50. He is thought to have killed himself.
  31. 6 April 2017: Andreea Christea, 31, died after falling in to the river Thames when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London on 22 March.
  32. 9 April 2017: Vicki Hull, 31, was found strangled. Mark Mahoney, 31, has been charged with her murder.
  33. 14 April 2017: Hannah Bladon, 20, a student from Derby , was stabbed to death in Jerusalem by Jamil Tamimi, 57.
  34. 17 April 2017: Carolyn Hill, 51, died of a head injury. Skye Page, 37, has been charged with her murder.
  35. 19 April 2017: Karina Evemy, 19, died in hospital of injuries sustained on 13th Her boyfriend Dylan Harries, 21, had previously been charged with attempted murder.
  36. Between 16 April and May 2017: Megan Bills, 17, was killed. She was found decomposing and wrapped in cling film in May. Ashley Foster, 24, was initially charged with preventing a proper burial and later charged with her murder.
  37. 4 May 2017: Karolina Chwiluk, 20, died after being stabbed in an incident in which two other people were injured. Grzesiek Kosiec, 23, said to have been her boyfriend, has been chared with her murder and two counts of GBH.
  38. 7 May 2017: Tracy Kearns, 43, was last seen alive. Her body was found on 11 May.  She had been strangled. Her partner Anthony Bird has been charged with her murder.
  39. 15 May 2017: Concepta Leonard, 51, was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Peadar Phair, who and killed himself and tried to kill her son.
  40. Angelica Klis, 40
  41. Georgina Callendar, 18
  42. Saffie Roussos, 8*
  43. Kelly Brewster, 32
  44. Olivia Campbell, 10
  45. Alison Howe, 45
  46. Lisa Lees, 47
  47. Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51
  48. Megan Hurley, 15
  49. Nell Jones, 14
  50. Michelle Kiss, 45
  51. Sorrell Leczkowski, 14
  52. Chloe Rutherford, 17
  53. Eilidh Macleod, 14
  54. Wendy Fawell, 50
  55. Courtney Boyle, 19
  56. Elaine McIver, 43
  57. 23 May 2017: Gemma Leeming, 30, was found strangled. Craig O’Sullivan, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  58. 25 May 2017: Emma Day, 33, was stabbed to death. Her ex-partner, Mark Morris, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  59. 26 May 2017: Mohanna Abdhua, 20, also known as Montana, was shot dead in what appears to have been crossfire of a ‘gangland shooting’. Two men have been arrested and bailed.
  60. 27 May 2017: Marjorie Cawdrey and her husband Michael, both 83, were stabbed to death. A 40-year-ond man has been charged in relation to their murders.
  61. 28 May 2017: Sobhia Khan, 37 was found dead. Her husband Ataul Mustafa, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  62. 29 May 2017: Romina Kalachi, 32, was found stabbed to death in London.
  63. 30 May 2017: Arena Saeed, 30 and her two children Shadia, 6 and Rami, 4 were killed in Liverpool. Her husband (their father) Sami Salem, 30, has been charged in relation to their deaths.
  64. 2 June 2017: Alyson Watt, 52, was stabbed to death and her 16-year-old son was also attacked. Her former partner Gary Brown, 54, has been charged.
  65. Christine Archibald, 30
  66. Kirsty Boden, 28
  67. Sara Zelenak, 21
  68. 8 June 2017: Sarah Jeffrey, 48, was strangled. Her husband Christopher Jeffrey, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  69. 10 June 2017: Corinne Hayes, 23, was found dead on 10th A 33-year-old man has been detained under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  70. 13 June 2017: Jean Chapman, 81, was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Her 71-year-old husband John Chapman, has been charged with murder.
  71. 12 June 2017: Janice Griffiths, 59, died in hospital 2 days after being subjected to a violent attack. A 22-year-old man has been held under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  72. 14 June 2017: Joanne Rand, 47, dies after sustaining chemical burns on 3 June from a substance in a bottle that was kicked during ‘an altercation’. Xeneral Webster has been charged with attempted GBH.
  73. 17 June 2017: Dionne Clark, 27, was found dead. Dominic Wallis, 28, and Elizabeth Ellis, 19, have been charged in relation to her murder.
  74. 18 June 2017: Ellen Higginbottom, 18, was killed through multiple wounds to her neck. Mark Steven Buckley, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  75. 27 June 2017: Julie Parkin, 39, was stabbed to death. Adam Parkin, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  76. 29 June 2017: Molly McLaren, 23, was killed by her throat being slit. Her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Stimpson, 25, has been charged with her murder.
  77. 29 June 2017: Joanne Hemingway, 39, died in hospital after being seriously assaulted. Glenn Foster, 42, has been charged with her murder.

Awaiting charging information regarding the deaths of Samantha Blake-Mizen, Rosemarie Stokes and Anna Maria Pereira De Sousa Rebelo. Please let me know if you have information regarding the deaths of these women or any other women/girls (aged 13 and over)  where a man/men is/are the primary suspects in the UK or UK women killed abroad in 2017.

*Counting  Dead Women is a record of women and girls aged 13 and over. Saffie Roussos is commemorated here but not included in the count.

Last updated 4 July 2017

Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Homicides*: Sex Differences April 2012 – March 2015 (3 years)

Domestic Homicide or Intimate Partner Homicide?

The ONS defines domestic homicide as including the following: spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriends/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-co-habiting partner, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, adulterous relationship, lover’s spouse and emotional-rival as well as son/daughter, parent (including step and adopted relationships), which is broader than the generally understood partner or ex-partner to more closely align with the government definition of domestic violence.

Intimate partner homicides are a subset of this and are committed by cohabiting partner, boyfriends/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-co-habiting partner, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, adulterous relationship, lover’s spouse and/or emotional-rival.

Domestic Violence – Who gets killed?

DV who.JPG

More women than men are killed in the context of ‘domestic homicide’, 315 women in 3 years compared to 117 men. Women were 73% of all victims of domestic violence homicide, men were 27% of all victims of domestic violence homicide.

Domestic Violence – Who gets killed by whom?

DV who by whom

Women killed in the context of ‘domestic  homicide’ are more likely than men to be killed by members of the opposite sex: Of the 315 female victims of ‘domestic  homicide’, 304 (97%) were killed by men. Of the 117 male victims of ‘domestic homicide’, 37 (32%) were killed by women

Domestic Violence -Who kills?

DV who kills

Intimate Partner Violence – Who gets killed?

IPV who

More women than men are killed by a partner/ex-partner, 243 women in 3 years compared to 60 men. Women were 80% of all victims of intimate partner homicide (243/303), men were 20% of all victims of intimate partner homicide (60/303)

Intimate Partner Violence – Who kills?

IPV who kills.JPG

Intimate Partner Violence – Who gets killed by whom?

IPV who by whom.JPG

Men killed by current or ex-intimate partners  are more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex. Of the 60 male victims of intimate partner homicide, 27 (45%) were killed by men, 33 (55%) were killed by women. Of the 243 female victims of intimate partner homicide, 2 (1%) were killed by women, 241 (99%) were killed by men.

Of those killed in the context of intimate partner homicide by someone of the opposite sex, women were 88% (241/274) of victims, men were 12% (33/274), i.e. women are more than 7 times more likely to be  killed by a man, than men are by a women in the context of intimate partner homicide.

 

*Homicide  –   In England and Wales homicide is constituted of two offences: murder and manslaughter.  Murder is committed when a person (or persons) of sound mind unlawfully kills someone and had the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.  There are three exceptions which can make a killing manslaughter rather than murder: that there was intent but a partial defence applies, that there was not intent but  there was gross negligence and risk of death, or thirdly, that there was no intent but conduct that was an unlawful act which involved danger and resulted in death. 
Data from Office for National Statistics (2016) Focus on Violence Crime and Sexual Offences. London. Office for National Statistics

5 UK women killed with their daughters so far this year – I am sick of hearing about isolated incidents

The bodies of Lisa Anthony, 47 and her daughter Ava Anthony, 14 were found in their home in Surrey home, the day after a man believed to be the girl’s father was found dead in France. It is thought he died after them, the police have said that they are not looking for anyone else.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Preston has said:

 “We are in the very early stages of the investigation but we do not believe there to be any threat to the wider community. This is thought to be an isolated incident. We are not currently looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.”

Not only is Lisa Anthony likely to be at least the 60th UK woman killed by a man or men this year, she the fifth to be killed along with her daughter:

  1. Bernadette Fox, 57, was asphyxiated and her daughter Sarah Fox, 27, was stabbed on 16 April. Bernadette’s son, Sarah’s brother, Peter Fox, has been detained under the Mental Health Act in relation to their deaths.
  2. Shighi Kotuvala/Rethishkumar, 35, was found strangled with her twin daughters Niya and Naya.  Her husband, their father, Pullarkattil Rethishkumar, 44, is believed to have killed them before killing himself.
  3. Jan Jordon, 48, her partner and her six-year-old daughter Derin, were found stabbed to death on 23 May. Jan’s son Jed Allen is thought to have killed them all before killing himself.
  4. Amy Smith, 17, her baby daughter Ruby-Grace and friend Edward Greeen, 17, died in a fire. Peter Eyre, 44 and his sons Anthony, 21 and Simon, 24 have been charged with murder.

I am sick of hearing that there is no threat to the wider community.  At least 60 UK women have been killed by men this year. I am sick of hearing about isolated incidents. 60 women dead at the hands of men in 6 months is a pattern, not an isolated incident and women are my community, don’t tell me that we are not at risk.

Femicide – Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence

I wrote this piece for Women’s Aid’s magazine Safe:

The Office for National Statistics released findings from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales on 12 February. Men continue to be more likely to be killed than women, there were 343 male victims compared to 183 female victims (of all ages including children and babies). Court proceedings had concluded for 355 (55%) of 649 suspects relating to 536 homicides.  For those suspects where proceedings had concluded, 90% (338 suspects) were male and 10% were female (38 suspects). Men are more likely to be killed, but their killers are overwhelmingly men. Women are less likely to be killed, when they are, they are overwhelmingly killed by a man.  When we’re talking about fatal violence, we are almost always talking about men’s violence.

The words homicide, from homo “man” and cidium “act of killing”, and manslaughter “ma” and “slæht or slieht” “the act of killing”  are identical etymologically but have developed different legal meanings.  Like the word “murder” both could be described as being ‘gender neutral’, but they are not, both render the killing of women invisible.  The word femicide seeks to address this.  The first modern and feminist definition of ‘Femicide’ is attributed to Jill Radford and Diana Russell (1991). They used it in the context of feminist analysis of men’s violence against women to address the sex-specific killings of women. Whilst some contentions remain over a definition, the definition ‘the killings of women because they are women’ is most frequently used. As well as women killed through intimate partner violence, femicide includes (but is not limited to): women killed by other family members, the torture and misogynist slaying of women including serial killings, the killing of women and girls in the name of “ honour”, targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict, dowry-related killings of women, female infanticide and gender-based sex selection feticide, killings of women due to accusations of sorcery and/or witchcraft, the deaths of women associated with gangs, organiSed crime, drug dealers, human trafficking and the proliferation of small arms, the killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and FGM related deaths. Femicide can include women killed by women if the motive is associated with sexist or misogynistic patriarchal values, but is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.

Femicide is a global issue.  About 66,000 women and girls are violently killed every year, according to a 2012 report by the Small Arms Survey.1 But comparing county-by-county data is challenging, partly because there isn’t a globally accepted definition, or even a globally agreed need for a definition, but also because most countries’ data-collection systems do not record the necessary information, whether that is the sex of the victim and perpetrator, their relationship or any known motives for the killing.  The data that is available suggests that countries with the highest femicide levels correspond to those with the highest rates of fatal violence. El Salvador has the highest femicide rate (12.0 per 100,000 female population), followed by Jamaica (10.9), Guatemala (9.7), and South Africa (9.6). Half of the countries with the top highest estimated femicide rates are in Latin America, with South Africa and Russian and Eastern European countries having disproportionately high rates.  It should be noted that high rates of female infanticide, sex-selective and forced abortion challenge the absence of countries including India and China  from this data. England and Wales’ femicide rate, by comparison, was 0.66 per 100,000 female population for 2013/14.

The ONS findings for 2013/14, consistent with previous years, found that women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners than men.  84 women, around 53% of female homicide victims (over 16) had been killed by their current or a former partner, compared to 23 men (7% of male victims over 16).  The ONS definition of partner/ex-partner homicide includes  killings by a “spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-cohabiting partner/ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and adulterous relationship” but also “lover’s spouse and emotional rival”.  Combining data for 2011/12 and 2013/14, the ONS tell us that of 57 men killed in partner/ex-partner homicides, 21 of them, over a third, were killed by a man.  Of these 21 men killed by men in the context of partner/ex-partner homicides, 14 of them were killed by a lover’s spouse/love rival.  Of 249 women killed in partner/ex-partner homicides over the same 3 years, 247 were killed by a man, one by a woman (in one case the primary suspect is listed as unknown).  None of the female victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by the spouse of their lover or an emotional rival. Similarly, no male victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by a female spouse of their lover or a female emotional rival. Not only are men killed in the context of an intimate relationship less likely to be killed by their actual partner or ex-partner, they are much more likely than women to be killed by someone of the same sex.

Another important difference between women and men killed in the context of intimate partner violence is the history of the relationship.  When men kill women partners or ex-partners, this usually follows months or years of them abusing her, when women kill male partners or ex-partners, it is usually after months or years of having been abused by the man they have killed.2 So, there are four important differences when we compare women and men killed in the context of a current or previous intimate partnership (figures from the ONS 2011/12 to 2013/14 data):

  • Far fewer men than women are killed in the context of intimate partner violence (57 v. 249)
  • Men are much more likely to be killed by the spouse of a partner or a love rival (14/57 v 0/249)
  • Men are much more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex (21/57 v 1/249)
  • Men are more likely to have been killed by someone they were abusing, women are more likely to have been killed by someone they were being abused by.

If we look at men who kill women (who are not current or ex- intimate partners), it is clear that they have more in common with men who kill female current or former  partners, than the much smaller number of  women who kill male former partners. The concept of femicide, making connections between all forms of men’s fatal violence against women provides a more useful theoretical framework than comparing people killed in the context of intimate partner relationships across the sexes. Sex inequality in patriarchal society cannot be ignored.

Since January 2012, I’ve been recording and commemorating UK women killed by men in a project called Counting Dead Women.  Looking at my own records for the same year as the ONS data, the next biggest group of women killed by men was women killed by their sons.3 Between April 2013 and March 2014, at least 12 women were killed by their sons, two more by their son-in-laws, three by their grandsons and one by her step-grandson. These patterns are not replicated in rates of women killing older male relatives: fathers, fathers-in-law or grandfathers. A further three women were killed by their fathers, and one more by her step-father.

Male entitlement is a deadly seam running through male violence against women, whether coercive control, rape, prostitution, trafficking or femicide.  Prostitution, pornography and trafficking are forms of violence against women, reducing women to commodities, possessions and objects for market exchange. Men are the purchasers, controllers and profit-makers, this market of women cannot be extricated from a context of inequality between women and men. At least 5 women killed last year (the same year as the ONS data) were women exploited through pornography and/or prostitution. There were over 64,000 sexual offences recorded by police last year, overwhelmingly committed by men, with young women those most likely to have experienced sexual assault. 1.4 million domestic violence assaults against women were recorded. When men kill women, regardless of their relationship or lack of it, they are doing so in the context of a society in which men’s violence against women is entrenched and systemic. When misogyny, sexism and the objectification of women are so pervasive that they are all but inescapable, can a man killing a women ever not be a sexist act?

In addition to the women killed in partner/ex-partner homicide and those killed by sons or other family members:

  • One woman was found dead, hanging with a tow rope belonging to the man accused of killing her around her neck. She had more than 30 injuries to her face and arms. He was found sleeping on a blood-stained bed beneath her dead naked body by police who had been called by a neighbour who found water dripping through her ceiling.  The man, who had been in a relationship with her,  claimed not to remember anything that had happened for five hours before police woke him up in bed.  In the weeks before her death, he had sent her a text which read “You’re getting tied up, I will treat you like a random victim, gonna do you Manchester style.”  He claimed she had died during a consensual sex-game and was found not guilty of murder and not guilty of manslaughter. He walked free. The influence of eroticised violence against women cannot be disregarded in this woman’s death.
  • Glen Nelson murdered Krishnamaya Mabo, the court where he was convicted heard that he had gone out seeking a woman to rape. The sentencing judge commented “He killed her deliberately to prevent her testifying about the attempted rape. The violence and sexual assault were inextricably interwoven.”
  • 23-year-old Jamie Reynolds murdered 17-year-old Georgia Williams. During his trial Prosector David Crigman said Reynolds carried out a ‘scripted, sadistic and sexually-motivated murder’ and described him as ‘a sexual deviant’ who has had ‘a morbid fascination in pornography depicting violence towards young women in a sexual context since at least 2008’.  When arrested he had 16,800 images and 72 videos of extreme pornography including digitally modified  images of up to eight other women he personally knew in which ropes had been added around their necks.  Georgia Williams and Jamie Reynolds were ‘friends’, they had not been partners.

Sexual violence runs through these murders and many others that are not men murdering partners or ex-partners. Gender, the social constructs of masculinity and femininity are also integral.  One of the significant achievements of feminism is getting male violence against women into the mainstream and onto the policy agenda.  One of the threats against this achievement is that those with power take the concepts and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them.  It is important that we do not allow the connection between the different forms of men’s violence against women to be lost. We need to name the problem as men’s violence against women and we cannot allow a ‘gender’-neutral approach to domestic violence intimate-partner to obscure this.

On the same day that the ONS released their data from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales, Women’s Aid and myself launched The Femicide Census. The Femicide Census was built with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP and for the first time will allow detailed tracking and analysis of fatal male violence against women in England. So far data of 694 women killed by men in the years 2009 to 2013 has been collected.

It is self-evident that each woman killed by a man is a unique individual, as is each man who kills a woman or women. The circumstances around each killing are never identical.   But that doesn’t make them isolated incidents.  By refusing to see a pattern we are refusing to see the myriad connections between incidents of men’s fatal violence against women; and by refusing to see the connections we are closing our eyes to the commonalities in the causes. When we link the killings of women by men and stop thinking about isolated incidents, we begin to see the real scale of the problem. The Femicide Census will contribute to increasing awareness of men’s violence and to greater knowledge and analysis of men’s violence against women and girls, it is a crucial step towards prevention.  We also want The Femicide Census to commemorate women, to remember the women and girls who have been killed and the friends and families that mourn them.

To reduce femicide we need to protect the network of specialist services dealing with all forms of men’s violence against women. Refuges in particular can provide a crucial place to escape, though given that women killed years after the end of a violent relationship are not rare, it cannot be assumed that women will be safe after leaving a refuge and this may be particularly important in the context of on-going child contact.  In addition, community based support, ‘Healthy relationships’ education, policing,  prosecutions,  and work with perpetrators are all vitally important, but none of this will tackle the root cause of men’s violence against women.

Men’s violence against women is not natural and it is not inevitable, but it is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men and underpinned by other manifestations of that inequality: gender and/or sex roles, sexism, misogyny, and the commodification and objectification of women. We need to name men’s violence. We need to keep the connections between the different forms of men’s violence at the forefront of our analysis. We need to say that all the women killed by men were important. If we don’t make the connections and look for the true root causes, we will not reduce the numbers of women being killed by men.  By enabling us to record and analyse comprehensive data on women killed by men, the Femicide Census can be a step towards the change that we want to create.

1 Small Arms Survey, Femicide: A Global Problem

2 Browne et al., 1998; Websdale, 1999; Dugan et al., 2003.

3 Karen Ingala Smith, Killed by their Sons, 2015

Another Isolated Incident

23-year old Zaneta Balazova was found dead by her children on 2nd April 2015 in Benwell, Newcastle. Pavel Cina, 25, has been charged with her murder.

Newcastle City Councillor, Dipu Ahmed, commented:

 “People need to understand this is an isolated incident. Police reacted very quickly and made an arrest.”

“Let’s not raise tensions. We have to grieve for the person who is dead.”

“The people here have always been strong when things like this have happened in the past. No matter what community they are from we need to come together.”

Perhaps Dipu Ahmed would like to define what he means by isolated.

Zaneta Balazova is at least the 26th woman suspected to have been killed by a man in the UK in 2015.

Zaneta Balazova is at least the fifth woman suspected to have been killed by a man in Tyne and Wear in the last year.

Zaneta Balazova was part of a community called ‘women’. Women, my community, are being killed by men. Like Dipu Ahmed I want us to grieve for the woman who is dead. Unlike Dipu Ahmed, I believe that we need to raise tensions.  We need to be angry about yet another murder of one of our community. If members of any other ‘community’ than women, were being killed by members of another ‘community’, other than men, we would not be talking about isolated incidents.

Sex-differences and ‘domestic violence murders’*

*intimate partner homicides
What could we do if we wanted to hide the reality of men’s violence against women?

Firstly, we might have  a ‘gender neutral’ definition of domestic violence.  Maybe like the UK government which uses the following definition:

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial [and] emotional.”

Not only treating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as the same thing, this definition erases sex differences.  It includes the phrase ‘regardless of gender’ when in reality men – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and women – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelming the victims of ‘domestic violence’ (more on the differences between male and female victims of intimate partner violence here).  It is also broad, including violence  and abuse committed between any family members.  Whilst this can be useful, for example allowing service provision to be made available for those experiencing violence and abuse from any  family member, sometimes it is important to focus on ‘intimate-partner violence’, including that committed by former intimate partners.

Secondly, we might present official data in a way that hides the extent of differences between women killed by men and men killed by women

The Office of National Statistics (ONS)  definition of partner/ex-partner homicide includes  killings by a “spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-cohabiting partner/ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and adulterous relationship” but also “lover’s spouse and emotional rival”.  Data from the ONS found that in 2013/14, consistent with previous years, women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners than men.  84 women, around 53% of female homicide victims (over 16) had been killed by their current or a former partner, compared to 23 men (7% of male victims over 16).  So, we could say that government data tells us that one-in-five of those killed though ‘partner  violence’ is male.  Except this creates a false picture of what is really happening.

Combining data for the three years from 2011/12 to 2013/14, the ONS tell us that of 57 men killed in partner/ex-partner homicides, 21 of them, over a third, were killed by a man.  Of these 21 men killed by men in the context of partner/ex-partner homicides, 14 of them were killed by a lover’s spouse/love rival.  Of 249 women killed in partner/ex-partner homicides over the same 3 years, 247 were killed by a man, one by a woman (in one case the primary suspect is listed as unknown).  None of the female victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by the spouse of their lover or an emotional rival. Similarly, no male victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by a female spouse of their lover or a female emotional rival. Not only are men killed in the context of an intimate relationship less likely to be killed by their actual partner or ex-partner, they are much more likely than women to be killed by someone of the same sex.

sex differences and domestic violence snip

Another important difference between women and men killed in the context of intimate partner violence is the history of the relationship.  When men kill women partners or ex-partners, this usually follows months or years of them abusing her, when women kill male partners or ex-partners, it is usually after months or years of having been abused by the man they have killed. (Browne et al., 1998; Websdale, 1999; Dugan et al., 2003.)

So, there are four important differences when we compare women and men killed in the context of a current or previous intimate partnership (figures from the ONS 2011/12 to 2013/14 data):

  • Far fewer men than women are killed in the context of intimate partner violence (57 men in 3 years compared to 249 women)
  • Men are much more likely to be killed by the spouse of a partner or a love rival (14 out of 57 men, compared to none of the 249 women killed)
  • Men are much more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex (21 of 57 male homicide victims were killed by a man, compared to one out or 249 women)
  • Men are more likely to have been killed by someone they were abusing, women are more likely to have been killed by someone they were being abused by.

Finally, we could look at ‘domestic violence’ or violence between current and former partners rather than male violence against women and girls

The government has a ‘strategy to end violence against women and girls’, whilst this pitifully fails to name ‘male violence’ it does at least acknowledge that the issue is broader than domestic violence and it does indicate that women and girls are disproportionately victimised.

If we look at men who kill women (who are not current or ex- intimate partners), it is clear that they have more in common with men who kill female current or former  partners, than the much smaller number of  women who kill male former partners. When men kill women, regardless of their relationship or lack of it, they are doing so in the context of a society in which men’s violence against women is entrenched and systemic. Sexual violence runs through the murders of women by men who are not partners or ex-partners. Gender, the social constructs of masculinity and femininity are also integral.

What could we do if we wanted to hide the reality of men’s violence against women?  We could ensure that our social and  political agenda setters of mainly men –  whose self-interest and privilege allowed them to consciously or unconsciously ignore, deny or dismiss the reality of men’s violence against women –  not only hid the reality of men’s violence against women but also created the illusion that they’re dealing with the problem.