One day, people might stop asking me ‘What about the men?’ but that day isn’t here yet. This is the third time I’ve written a blog comparing sex differences in intimate partner homicide but it’s five years since the last time and so it’s time for an update.
This information is about people aged over 16 in England and Wales who have been identified as having been killed by current or former partners by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) for the 11 years ending March 2020. I’ve used ONS data because – although the Femicide Census data for women killed by men is much richer, we do not collect data on male victims or on women killed by women – it’s important to use consistent ways of collecting information for everyone. The ONS data doesn’t break down the data for victims of intimate partner homicide by the sex of the perpetrator so I requested this from them.
In the 11 years from April 2009 to March 2020, 1,027 people were killed by a current or former partner, defined by the ONS as when the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator falls into one of the following categories: spouse, common-law spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-spouse, ex-cohabiting partner or ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or adulterous relationship. 890 (86.7%) of the victims were female, 137 (13.3%) were male. So, for every 2 men killed, there were thirteen women.
But there are differences in who is doing the killing too. Of 137 male victims, 109 were killed by women. Of 890 female victims, 884 (99%) were killed by men. There were 912 men who killed a current or former partner and 115 women. So, one in five men (20.4%) killed by a current or former partner were killed by a man; for women, approximately one in 147 women killed by a current or former partner were killed by a woman. Men who are killed by a current or former partner are 29 times more likely to be killed by someone of the same sex than women are.
There is a further important difference too, but this can’t be found in the ONS data. When the Femicide Census published our 10-year report on women killed by men in the UK between 2009 and 2018, we found evidence in 59% of cases that the man who killed them had been violent and/or abusive to them in the past. We think this is highly likely to be an undercount since it is not unusual for women to tell no-one that they are being abused, and also in many cases, this might not have been reported in publicly available information even if someone did know about it. The Centre for Women’s Justice looked at women who have killed current or former male partners. They found a very different picture, that in 77% of cases, it was the man who had been killed who had been abusing the woman who killed him.
So, in answer to that question: yes, sometimes women kill male current/former partners but there are four critical sex differences:
- 87% of people killed by current or former partners are women
- 89% of people who killed a current or former partner are men
- Men who are killed by a partner or ex are more likely to be killed by someone of the same sex (29 times more likely)
Women are likely to have been abused by the man who killed them in the years (or sometimes months) before their deaths, men who are killed by female partners are very likely to have been abusing the women who killed them in the years of months before their deaths