Counting Dead Women in Other Countries

Australia

Counting Dead Women – Australia  – Count by Destroy The Joint – counting every woman killed due to violence against women

Man Murders Woman 2015

Counting Dead Aboriginal Women 2015

Canada

Canada – Counting Dead Women  – Orla Hegarty

New Zealand

New Zealand – Counting Dead Women

Other femicide counts:

Spain

MUJERES ASESINADAS EN ESPAÑA POR VIOLENCIA MACHISTA en 2016

USA

Counting Dead Women USA

Please contact me if you’re aware of women in other counties who are commemorating women killed by men.

The Closure of Eaves

planet of the apes

October 30th, ten weeks after the death of its Chief Executive, Denise Marshall, Eaves closed down. In just a few weeks, the women’s sector has suffered a double loss, of Denise herself and then of Eaves, the organisation she shaped and led. 38 years of expertise in delivering services for women by women is simply gone.

I worked at Eaves from 2004 to 2009 before I  became the Chief Executive of nia.  Denise, like me, was a proudly working class feminist Chief Executive. Eaves, like nia, was a service provider with a political vision, supporting women to escape from and deal with the results of men’s violence whilst committed to policy and structural change for women. Eaves and nia were two of the few remaining women’s charities that were unashamedly feminist and unafraid to say it: feminist, secular and abolitionist. We recognise that men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men and that religion, the law and the sexual exploitation and objectification of women reflect and reinforce sex inequality and contribute to a conducive context for men’s violence.

Feminist based services recognise that the ‘them and us’ between women who use the services and women who work and volunteer can be arbitrary and being a worker, volunteer or board member in a women’s organisation and victim-survivor of men’s violence are not mutually exclusive. Survivors of men’s violence against women and girls are present at all levels of nia, board members and staff, volunteers and senior management. Of course professional standards and boundaries have to be maintained but we’re in this together. This makes a difference, we don’t see victim-survivors as other.  This means that we’re better able to avoid the language and assumptions that pathologise women’s understandable reactions to men’s violence. We don’t diminish the women we work with, we don’t infantilise, we don’t blame. It’s not ‘those women’ or ‘those communities’, it is ‘us’ and it is ‘we’.

Austerity measures have hit women and the women’s sector hard. The cuts are a tool of an ideological agenda with the gap between who ‘Politics’ are done by and for and who ‘Politics’ are done to, becoming wider; and where conservative with a lower case as well as an upper case C is disguised as progressive. Eaves and nia both lost services that had been grown and created by women survivors and activists through the creation of contracts and the spread of competitive tendering to larger organisations with multi-million pound turnovers who are not specialists in providing services to women survivors of male violence and are not interested in the bigger picture of challenging inequality between women and men.

The lack of recognition of the value of the specialist independent women’s sector reflects the lack of value of women.  Victim Support, The Salvation Army and Hestia have been winning contracts for services for women (albeit increasingly with a gender neutral clause) through bidding low and offering commissioner rather than need and experience led responses and devoid of a feminist framework; all have male CEOs, only one has a female Chair of Trustees.  Generic services led by men can do the job just as well, or so some commissioners and policy makers believe.  Independent research tells a different story. This week, the same week that Eaves closed its doors, a study by the University of Suffolk showed that survivors of childhood sexual abuse felt most believed by Independent Sexual Violence Advocates and rated the services provided by independent specialist organisations – women run organisations – highest.  Victim-survivors know when you’re in it for the contract, not for them.

Feminist informed practice looks beyond the obvious and at the bigger picture.  Feminist informed practice considers unintended consequences, looking at how what we do in the here and now relates to the structural position of women. Those of us who provide feminist informed services ask ourselves whether our actions reinforce women’s assigned sex roles or challenge them? Whether what we do diminishes women and whether women who are disadvantaged by socio-economic, racial and other inequalities are excluded or further disadvantaged. A couple of weeks ago, a male CEO of a ‘domestic abuse charity’ proudly announced that the organisation where he worked considered the employment of men working in women’s services a good thing, because they act as positive role models.  He went on the say that men don’t do any of the supporting roles in the organisation and that the two men that the organisation employs are himself, the CEO and a maintenance worker. The boss and the ‘handyman’ are men,  those caring and supporting are women. Great. As a feminist, I don’t consider those role models; I call them sex role stereotypes.

At nia, resources are scarce, budgets barely balance, services are running at capacity, though often beyond and with waiting lists; staff are stretched and much of our funding for next year is unconfirmed.Last year, we provided face-to-face support to 1,060 women and girls and delivered 1,864 hours of counselling support, plus responded to 2,145 contacts to the East London Rape Crisis Information and Support Line and delivered training to 277 professionals. Eaves will not be the last women’s organisation to fall.  I remember the scene in Planet of the Apes, the 1986 version, when Astronaut George Taylor sees the Statue of Liberty in the sand and realises he has gone in to the future.  I don’t want future generations of women to have to rebuild the women’s sector, but I’d love it if they didn’t have to because because men’s violence against women, girls and children had ended.

The sadness and loss I feel at the demise of Eaves feels like a cruel aftershock of the believing disbelief I felt on 21st August, the day Denise died. We will miss our sisters at Eaves. The fight to end men’s violence against women and support women who have suffered men’s violence continues. It will continue as long as men’s violence against women and girls continues; in our work – paid and unpaid – and our activism, wherever we are, especially when women who have experienced men’s violence say that we’re the ones who best meet their needs.

If you would like to donate to support nia’s work with women, girls and children who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, please do so here.

A Tale of Six Johns

6 Johns

(Image: Top, L to R: Mathew Cherrington, Mateusz Kosecki, Michael Wenham.

Bottom L to R: Robert Fraser, Steven Mathieson, Nicholae Patraucean)

Prostitution is not safe for women. Women who sell sex face regular physical and sexual violence. More than half of women involved in prostitution in the UK have been raped and/or sexually assaulted – the vast majority of these assaults committed by sex buyers (Hester & Westmarland, 2004). Last year, 2014, six women who sell sex were murdered in the UK: Maria Duque-Tunjano, 48; Karolina Nowikiewicz, 25; Rivka Holden, 55; Yvette Hallsworth, 36; Lidia Pascale, 26 and Luciana Maurer, 23. They were all killed by johns, that is by men who buy sex.

Prostitution is often framed in the context of women’s choices, those of us who oppose prostitution accused of denying women’s agency, their capacity to choose and their right to do so.  But a choice based on necessity, on a lack of viable alternatives isn’t really a choice.  Five of the six women above were not born in the UK, coming from Colombia, Poland, Israel and two from Romania.  The only UK born woman had a problem with substance use.  Poor women, migrant women and women with problematic substance use are disproportionately represented amongst women who sell sex.  And whilst some men sell sex, women do so disproportionately. Men are also overwhelmingly, regardless of the sex of the seller, the buyers.

Mathew Cherrington had been exercising his consumer choices.  The 26-year-old man’s phone records showed he had contacted several women who sold sex before arranging for 26-year-old Lidia Pascale to visit his flat. She suffered at least 11 blows to her head and had injuries on her hands, where she’d put them on her head trying to defend herself.  After killing her, Cherrington put Lidia in a black bin bag and into a bin. The final insult, the bin, the destination of unwanted, broken, expended consumables, rubbish.

Mateusz Kosecki chose Yvette Hallsworth because she was “slightly built.”   At 18 he was already a predator who preyed on women in prostitution.  He had attacked at least three women who sold sex before he killed Yvette Hallsworth, luring her into a secluded  alley before stabbing her 18 times using a knife that he had taken out with him.  A judge described him has having a ‘fascination, if not an obsession” with prostituted women. His attack on Yvette was described as cruel and savage.

Habitual sex-buyer and frequent consumer of pornography Michael Wenham had spent £15,000 on trying to enlarge his penis but instead lost two inches.  He had been married eight years and had three children.  He phoned in sick to work and bought a Stanley knife, gloves and plastic sacks.  He contacted Karolina Nowikiewicz after the first woman he called wasn’t available. After asking Karolina to undress and get on all fours, he attacked her from behind, slashing her throat, cutting through her major arteries and spinal cord and almost decapitating her. In court, the attack was described as “premeditated, planned and clinically executed.” Karolina was a student, selling sex to fund her studies.

40-year-old ex-banker Robert Fraser was deemed an “ongoing and very real danger to women” by Judge John Bevan.  Diagnosed as suffering from paranoid-schizophrenia he is said to have believed that god represented men and the devil represented women.  He attacked a 27-year-old prostituted woman in January last year, convincing her that he was going to kill her, shoving her underwear in to her mouth before twisting her head as if he was going to break her neck. 10 days later he bludgeoned Maria Durque-Tunjano to death, she was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.  Colombian born British national Maria had been financially supporting her family in Colombia through prostitution.  She was still wearing a black corset and high-heeled shoes when her body was found.

Father of two, Steven Mathieson, was in debt due to the extent of his use of phone sex lines. His partner, who knew of neither the phone sex or the debt, was out for the evening and he made arrangements for three women to come to his home. Luciana Maurer was the first to arrive.  With his four-year-old son asleep in the house he stabbed her 44 times and cut her throat in an upstairs bedroom. When the other women arrived, he took them in to the room where they immediately saw her dead on the bed. He forced them to strip and to dance for him and raped them both.  The naked women were able to escape when Mathieson thought he heard his partner returning.  Mathieson dialled 999 and said “I’ve been high on drugs and killed a prostitute.” According to his legal advocate, before that evening, Mathieson had been of “impeccable character.”

Nicolae Patraucean, 21, like Michael Wenham, chose to use a Stanley knife to slit the throat of and dismember Rivka Holden after strangling her following his celebrations at having obtained a national insurance number.  Patrucean’s attitude to women in prostitution was illustrated in his statement to a friend “I killed a person … not a person, a whore.”

All women should be safe from men’s violence. With the exception of those whose misogyny infused denial runs so deep that their immediate reaction to that statement is anything on the continuum of ‘what about the men’ responses, there are few who would disagree.  Similarly, I don’t know any feminist with an opinion on prostitution that believes women who sell sex should face or fear violence. If abolitionists, harm-reducers and free-choice free-market celebrants of prostitution agree on one thing, surely it is this.

Having a market of women – whether we are selling sex or whether our modified and culturally idealised images are used to adorn adverts  of other products – commodifies women. It makes us into objects.  As objects we become ‘less than’, less than fully human, not equal. Our value is set by our worth as products on the scale of marketability. This affects all women, whether or not we are those for sale or those used to boost sales. It’s no coincidence that we talk about purchasing power.  Regulating the sale of sex doesn’t empower women, it further endorses men’s power over the women by giving them consumer status, rights and choices.  Women, on the other hand, become  commodities, interchangeable and disposable.

We need to change men’s attitudes to women, we need to eradicate the misogyny and entitlement that fuels men’s violence against women.  Inequality between women and men is a cause and a consequence of men’s violence against women. We simply cannot achieve equality between the sexes, let alone the liberation of women from men’s oppression, whilst one sex is for sale, the consumable, and one sex is the buyer, the consumer. Women’s rights to safety must always be greater than men’s rights as consumers.

Six men: A Nick, a Mick, a Steve, a Bob and two Matts. All Johns.  Six women: Maria, Karolina, Rivka, Yvette, Lidia and Luciana.  All dead. Women should not be for sale.

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.

If we’re serious about ending men’s violence against women and girls, we need to listen to feminists

The UK’s lack of “a consistent and coherent approach to tackling violence against women”  has been criticised in an official report  by the UN special rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo .  In addition, last week Professor Sylvia Walby, UNESCO chair of gender research at Lancaster University, criticised official statistics for drastically under-representing the scale of  violent crime against women.

Whilst the UN report commends the  “excellent policy framework” created by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, in the Government’s Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls, it notes that “isolated pockets of good practice” are compromised by the “lack of a consistent and coherent human-rights based approach in the government’s response to violence against women and girls”.

Walby explained, at a meeting at the UK Statistics Agency, that the Crime Survey of England and Wales fails to account for nearly half the attacks on women as it caps the number of separate crimes that can be reported by a single respondent at five.  She found that if the cap is removed violent crime against women by partners and acquaintances, rise by 70% and 100% respectively, in other words men’s violence against women is massively understated in official statistics. (I’ve also looked at the reality of sex differences in domestic violence before,  here, and specifically in relation to fatal intimate partner violence here.)

The government doggedly hangs on to its ‘gender neutral’ definition of domestic violence:  “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.”  The definition treats ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as the same thing, it erases sex differences and it obscures the differences between intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic/family violence (the latter also repeated in the UN report).

The UN report also expresses concern about the shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality in our definitions of intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual violence (also with regards to service provision) which it refers to as a regressive measure .  The  fear of naming the agent of violence, men, is one of the most significant failings of the government’s definition and has repercussions in national and local policy and ultimately in the lives – and deaths – of women. Of  the 249 women, who according to government statistics were killed in partner/ex-partner over the last 3 years, 247 were killed by a man, one by a woman (in one case the primary suspect is listed as unknown). Of 57 men killed in partner/ex-partner homicides, 21 of them, over a third, were killed by a man.  The numbers aren’t the only difference, 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. The relationship between abuse of women and abused women killing men is such that the development of refuges has led to a greater decrease in men being killed by partners than women.

Yes, men can experience violence too and yes, men can experience violence perpetrated by women but most violence – whether against women or men is perpetrated by men; and when we talk about intimate-partner violence and sexual violence, it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men upon women and girls Intimate partner violence and wider domestic violence certainly do not occur “regardless of gender”.

Coercive control has been included in the government’s definition of domestic violence, but as Liz Kelly and Nicole Westmarland explain, intimate partner violence doesn’t just include coercive control, “it is a pattern of coercive control.” Men’s violence against their partners and ex-partners isn’t a series of isolated and unlinked incidents.  This is true on a societal level as well as within individuals’ relationships.  Not all men are violent and violent men are not violent all the time; but all women are affected by men’s violence and women  who are in relationships with violent men are affected even when they’re not being violent. Inequality between women and men is a cause and consequence of men’s violence against women. Men’s violence against women isn’t just a problem in some relationships,  it is a social problem.

An international study of the issues that relate to the different  rates of intimate partner violence in 44 different countries and including 481,205 women found that the most significant factors are those which have been long identified by feminists: socially constructed gender-related norms that normalise men’s violence against and control of women partners and inequality between women and men. Last year Britain fell to 26th place on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index – lower than most of the rest of Europe. It was the UK’s lowest overall score since 2008.

Until we understand the differences and overlaps between intimate partner violence, domestic and sexual violence and the huge sex differences therein, until the majority of us openly decry men’s rights activists who try to deny reality, we will not be taking one of the most fundamental steps necessary to solving any problem: namely defining the nature of that problem.   If the government is serious about ending men’s  violence against women it needs to look at the causes: sex inequality, the objectification of women  and socially constructed gender roles that create toxic norms of masculinity and femininity.

Isn’t it time for us to get over the reluctance to actually name and condemn men’s violence? Isn’t it time that we worked with the causes of men’s violence and not just the results?  Isn’t it time that we listened to feminists? Because feminists have been saying this for decades.

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.