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

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

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.

Stacey Hyde: A frightened 17-year-old

Stacey Hyde

In April this year, John Butler, 62, went to the flat of his former partner, Pauline Butler, 61, and stabbed her.  In his trial, Butler told the court that he couldn’t remember how the knife had ended up in his hand and that he had fallen after she had pushed him, causing him to accidentally injure her. The court heard that Pauline Butler had previously threatened him with a knife.  Of course, being dead, she wasn’t able to challenge his version of events.   Pauline had been found with a number of knife wounds to her neck, chest and back.  As judge, Mr Justice Edis pointed out, had Butler not wanted Pauline to die, he would have called an ambulance, rather than remove and wash the knife, take her dog to his home, drink a beer and smoke a cigar. Butler was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, due to loss of control, and sentenced to jail for seven years in jail.

Sybil Sibthorpe was 80 years-old in May, 2012, when she was found in her garden with “significant” head injuries after being beaten by her former tenant Lee Grainger, 41.  Grainger pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to 12 and-a-half years. According to the judge, Grainger was “a significant danger to the public”.

Adrian Muir, 51, killed Pamela Jackson, 55, by beating or kicking her head with such force that she suffered fractures to her skull and bleeding to her brain. He then drove over 120 miles before digging a grave in moorland and burying her with a bunch of flowers in a Tesco carrier bag. Muir initially denied murder and claimed he had been framed.  He posted fake entries from her Facebook page suggesting she was still alive. It took police more than two months before they found Pamela’s body in May 2013.  Muir’s fingerprint was found on the carrier bag inside her grave, and a CCTV camera caught him cleaning the back of his car in a supermarket car park.  He later claimed that she had attacked him, “like a bloody devil”.  Muir was jailed for 18 years, not for murder, but manslaughter.

Felipe Lopes, 26, had a six-year police history of violent assaults on women before being jailed for 12 weeks in 2012 after tracking down and assaulting an ex-girlfriend whom he had previously stabbed. Within two weeks of his release, in January 2013, he had beaten 23-year-old Anastasia Voykina to death with a hockey stick. Before he killed her, neighbours had called the police to her flat on two occasions, because, they said, his attacks on her were so severe, the building was vibrating. Judge Richard Marks said to Lopes: “There is no doubt in my mind you intended to kill her. You are and will remain for an indefinite time a significantly dangerous man, particularly to women.” Lopes pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not murder, on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of his mental health problems.  He was jailed for a minimum term of seven years and three months.

Like Filipe Lopes, Vincent Francis had a history of violence against women.  In court it was alleged that he had assaulted his girlfriend, Holly Banwell, at least 27 times. Some of the assaults had been overhead by neighbours; it was also alleged that he had attacked a previous partner.  On 4 September, 2009, Holly  had been out with her 17-year-old friend Stacey Hyde, they  had then gone back to the flat that Holly and Vince Francis shared.  Stacey remembers waking up to hear Holly screaming but not what happened next.  A 72-year-old neighbour told police that she saw Francis trying to swing Stacey  around by her pony tail while her friend Holly looked on, screaming.  Holly Banwell called the police, telling them “…my boyfriend is beating my friend… I need the police ASAP”.  On the recorded call she is then heard saying “they are fighting”, before screaming “Stacey has a knife and has stabbed him”.  Stacey was sobbing when the police arrived, she told them “he tried to kill me…I had to help Holly…he was going to kill her…I thought he would kill me…”.

In March 2010, at the age of 18, Stacey Hyde was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  While awaiting trial she had been given well-intentioned but misguided advice from other prisoners affecting her responses in court and possibly, consequently, how she was viewed by the jury. The law has been changed since then too, so that loss of control caused by fear of serious violence can now be taken into account, but this wasn’t an option at the time Stacey was convicted.

Stacey is due in court to appeal her conviction on Thursday and Friday this week, the 13th and 14th November, 2014.  Since her conviction, new evidence has emerged about her mental health, for example that she had ADHD at the time of her offence, and in addition, other psychiatric diagnoses resulting from a difficult childhood.  If Stacey’s appeal is accepted, her conviction for murder will be overturned for one of manslaughter.  She has already served five years and it is possible that she will be released from custody.

Trials for murder and manslaughter are complex. Each with their own particular circumstances and it is right that those circumstances are taken into account.  I’m sure there are many reasons why Stacey’s case can’t be directly compared to those of the men I’ve mentioned above, and yet: Unlike 62-year-old John Butler who claimed he’d been attacked by Pauline Butler before he stabbed her, or 51-year-old Adrian Muir, who claimed Pamela Jackson attacked him before he beat her head and fractured her skull, a 72-year-old neighbour had witnessed Francis attacking Stacey, and Holly Banwell called the police telling them that he was beating her.  Also, unlike Muir, she didn’t lie her way through a two-month police investigation.  Like 41-year-old Lee Granger, who killed 80-year-old Sybil Sibthorpe, at 17, she was half the age of the man she killed.  But a 17-year-old young woman – in fear of her life and that of her friend –  killing a 34 year-old-man, cannot really be compared to a 41-year-old man,  described by a judge as a risk to the public,  bearing a grudge against and beating to death his 80-year-old former landlord.

Stacey was 17, legally a child, a child with a history of mental health problems and experience of sexual violence, when she killed 34-year-old Vincent Francis, a man with a history of perpetrating violence. Her claims of being assaulted by the man she killed are not unverified. She is not a risk to the public. She did not lie and deny her actions though the investigation.  She did not try to hide a body. Unlike John Butler, Lee Grainger, Adrian Muir, Filipe Lopes and many men who have killed women since she killed Vincent Francis, Stacey Hyde was found guilty of murder, not manslaughter. Stacey has never denied that she killed Vincent Francis, but she wasn’t a murderer, she was a child, a frightened child.

 Please support Justice for Women in their fight for justice for Stacey Hyde.

Why the hierarchy of dead women and girls?

Like anyone else, I was saddened to wake up to the news that a body has been found in the search for 14-year-old Alice Gross, and that her disappearance has now become a murder inquiry; similarly, I felt sickened to hear about the rape and  murder of 23-year old Hannah Witheridge, just two weeks ago.

But since Alice went missing – and in addition to Hannah – at least ten other UK women have been killed through suspected male violence.  Why don’t we all know the name of Leighann Duffy, 26, stabbed to death in Walthamstow? What about Glynis Bensley, 48, who witnesses said was pursued by two masked men on bikes before she was killed? Perhaps some people will recall the name of Pennie Davis, 47, found dead in a field, stabbed as she tended her horse.  What about Serena Hickey, Dorothy Brown, 66; Nicola Mckenzie, 37; Davinia Loynton, 59; or Lorna McCarthy, 50?

The murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva who was beheaded in London was also front page news this month, but few were aware that she was the third woman to have been beheaded in London in less than six months, after  Tahira Ahmed, 38, in June and  Judith Nibbs, 60, in April. Was this simply because beheading is big news at the moment due to the murders of David Haines,  James Foley and Steven Sotloff?

The killer of 15-year-old Shereka Marsh, shot in Hackney earlier this year, was found guilty of manslaughter this week.  Did we all mourn the 15-year-old school-girl, described by teachers as one of their “shining stars”, on course to sit 10 GCSEs this summer?  Wasn’t being accidentally shot by your boyfriend also big news, also international news, this month?

Men’s violence against women and girls, systemic, connected, has killed at least 11 dead UK women this month.  At least 111 UK women have been killed through suspected male violence so far this year, 111 women in 272 days is one dead woman every 2.45 days.

Older, black, usually but not all, killed by men they had known and loved – their husbands, boyfriends, ex’s and sons (8 women have been killed by their sons this year, 13 last year, 16 the year before) – why don’t we care so much about these women? Young, white and blond, killed by a stranger, hold the front pages – but don’t bother to make the connections with other women killed by men; talk about anything, immigration, terrorism, tourism, guns and gangs – talk about anything except male violence against women and girls.

Who Counts?

Just women killed by men: shifting definitions and learning though Counting Dead Women

It’s over two and a half years since I unintentionally started counting dead women back in January 2012 when the year began with report after report of women killed through domestic violence. I know now, but I didn’t then, that in the first three days of 2012, eight women in the UK were killed through male violence. Three days, eight dead women: three shot, two stabbed, one strangled,  one smothered and one beaten to death through 15 blunt force trauma injuries

Eight women aged between 20 and 87, their killers aged between 19 and 48 were husbands, partners, boyfriends or ex’s; , sister’s partner, aunt’s partner, robber and grandson.  I remember the feeling of incredulity that connections weren’t being made, that dots weren’t being joined, that no-one was talking about a pattern, or at least a series of related events.

At first, I counted women killed through domestic violence, then, on March 9th 2012, Ahmad Otak stabbed and killed Samantha Sykes, 18 and Kimberley Frank, 17. Otak wasn’t the boyfriend of either of them, but of Elisa Frank, Kimberley’s sister.  After killing Kimberly and Samantha in front of Eliza, he abducted Eliza and drove to Dover in an attempt to escape to France. The murders of Samantha and Kimberley didn’t strictly fit the definition of domestic violence, but they’re absolutely about a man trying to exert power, control and coercion in his relationship. The murders of Kimberley and Samantha were no less about male violence against women that they would have been if he had been the boyfriend of one of them.

I’d never planned to start counting and I think I’d imagined that I’d stop at the end of 2012.  At the end of the year, I tried to define who I was counting and who I wasn’t using the term ‘gender related murder’.  With the start of 2013, I started a new list and kept on counting.  Slowly finding a voice through social media, particularly twitter, I started blogging early in 2013. I wrote my first piece about how I started counting and some of the things I’d learned and called it Counting Dead Women. With the term ‘gender related murder’ I was trying to express that fatal male violence against women went beyond ‘domestic violence’; that there was more to men’s sexist misogynistic murders of women than the widely used ‘Two women a week killed by partners or ex-partners’, that socially constructed gender has an influence beyond domestic violence .  I had a notion, that I now reject, that I wasn’t talking about all instances where men had killed women; and I didn’t want to be accused of exaggerating and adding women just to make the numbers higher.

So, there were some women who had been killed by men that I didn’t add to the list, for example where she’d been killed but so had a man  – my thinking ‘So, this wasn’t just sexism/misogyny’ – or one case  where the killer was an employee of the woman he murdered, ‘maybe he’d have killed his employer even if he had been a man?’  I had more questions:  Who counts as a ‘UK woman’? What about women from the UK murdered on holiday? If I counted UK women murdered overseas, should I therefore not count women who were not from the UK if they were murdered here?  What about so-called mercy killings? In a country where assisted dying is not legal, surely some people might make the choice through lack of choice.  What about girls?  When does the killing of a child become sexist?

I started thinking about and using the term Femicide ‘the killing of women because they are women’ and wrote about it here in October 2013.  But it still didn’t feel right, the term  ‘femicide’ itself doesn’t name the agent, neither does the short definition above, purportedly because women can kill women as a result of patriarchal values. Of course that’s true, yet the 123-word definition of femicide agreed at the Vienna Symposium on Femicide whilst giving some useful examples of forms that fatal violence against women can take, still didn’t name ‘male violence’ and it excluded a group of women that I’d begun to identify through my counting: older women killed by younger men in what were sometimes described as ’botched robberies’ or muggings. The level of brutality that some men used against these women, the way some targeted women and the use of sexual violence, meant to me that their murders could not be excluded. I posed that question, that in a world where sexism and misogyny are so pervasive, are all but inescapable, can a man killing a woman ever not be a sexist act?  A fatal enactment of patriarchy?

It’s September 2014 now.  Last week, on Thursday, 82-year-old Palmira Silva became at least the 100th woman in the UK to be killed through male violence this year. I say at least the 100th because I have a list of more than 10 women’s names where the circumstances of their deaths has not been made publicly available.  In the same way that the list of 107 women’s names that I’d gathered by the end of 2012 is now a list of 126 women, I expect that time will reveal women who have been killed this year, women I haven’t heard about or who I haven’t yet been able to include because information about their deaths has not been released .

Because I’m counting dead women, keeping this list, I was able to make connections that others simply wouldn’t know about.  On Thursday evening, a tweet I wrote, identifying Palmira Silva as the third women to have been beheaded in London in less than six months was trending in London. My blog had more hits in one day than it usually has in a month.  Some people heard about my list for the first time and asked questions, making me realise it was perhaps time to revisit and update my explanation of what I’m doing and why.

Why am I counting women killed through male violence? Because if we don’t name the agent, we can’t hope to identify the causes.  If we don’t reveal the extent of men’s fatal violence against women and the various forms it can take, we will never be capable of a thorough enough analysis to reduce or end it.  If the bigger picture is revealed, people can begin to see the connections.  That’s why I know that I need to keep counting dead women and campaigning for this to be done officially.

My thinking has developed and changed since January 2012.  There’s no reason that it won’t continue to do so. Not everyone likes what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. Not everyone agrees with my analysis.  Not everyone thinks women killed by men are worth of counting.

So, who counts?  Women.  Women, aged 14 years and over, women killed by men in the UK and UK women killed overseas.  Regardless of the relationship between the woman and the man who killed her; regardless of how he killed her and who else he killed at the same time; regardless of the verdict reached when the case gets to court in our patriarchally constructed justice system created by men and continually delivering anything but justice to women; regardless of what is known and not known of his motive.  Just women killed by men.

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh, eh?  Adding, according to Dunlop, “a little humour to your game” or “the perfect gift for someone who takes the sport a little too seriously.”  Bend down and stick the nice bit of pink plastic tits and arse in the ground, balance your golf ball head, swing and “thwack”. Hilarious.

But what about those of us who aren’t laughing?

I grew up in a village in Yorkshire with a pub called The Silent Woman.  The pub sign was a picture of a woman carrying her head in her hands.  To be silent a woman had to be headless.  A misogynistic leap of association, dragging in the nagging wife, the fishwife, the gossip: to be silent a woman must be headless. Is there a feminist on social media who hasn’t experienced attempts at silencing when she expresses her opinions?  I’ve lost count of the number of men who have told me “Don’t start with ….”, “Shut up,” or called me variations of screeching, bleating feminazi.  The Silent Woman in Slaithwaite did not have a unique pub name, there are several across the UK, with The Headless Woman as a variation.  Sometimes the  name appears with the couplet: “Here is a woman who has lost her head,  She’s quiet now—you see she’s dead” (Author unknown) just in case the inference from name alone isn’t clear enough.  Carl Jung talked about cultural archetypes. Cross cultural , universal concepts that he believed indicated a collective unconscious.  Unconscious forces that are expressed in images, religion, stories and mythology as they enter consciousness and shape our interactions in society.  The silent woman, synonymous with headless woman is a patriarchal archetype. It reflects sexist misogynistic cultural values.  Not convinced about the concept of patriarchy?  Remember Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”

The objectification of women, reducing us to hilarious little objects that exist to titillate men, to give them a giggle, is another means of keeping us unequal.  Reducing us to hilarious little objects towards which to swing a golf club makes hitting us fun.  Making a joke out of the objectification of women and male violence against women is another way of normalising and reducing our ability to stop and stand back, to confront the horrible reality of what is happening.

Male violence against women does not exist in a social vacuum, it simultaneous reinforces and is reinforced by inequality between woman and men, given more than a helping hand by the objectification of women. Two and a half years ago, I started counting UK women killed through male violence.  Since I started counting in January 2012 and the end of May 2014, 333 UK women had been killed; amongst them, I am aware of six women who were decapitated.  Anyone still laughing at Dunlop’s golf tees?

Is it funny if I remind you of 29-year-old Gemma McCluskie?  She was actor living in London. In March 2012, her brother Tony McCluskie, 36, killed her by hitting her head and then chopped her up with a cleaver and a knife.  The next day, he took a cab carrying a heavy suitcase.  A week later, her torso was found in the suitcase in the canal close to where he was dropped off.  A week later her arms and legs were found in black bags.  It was another six months before her head was found.

Will you laugh if I tell you about Elizabeth Coriat? In March 2012, Daniel Coriat, 43, killed his 76-year-old mother Elizabeth Coriat in their shared home in London.  She was found on her bed, fully clothed, decapitated and mutilated with various weapons embedded in her head and body, injuries to the wrists and ankles in a ‘crucifixion-like’ pattern. She had suffered almost 50 separate injuries inflicted by weapons including carving knives, secateurs, a chef’s steel and a pruning saw.  Her head had been cut off completely off, rotated 180 degrees, and placed back on her body.

Will your golfer stop talking the sport so seriously if we think about Catherine Gowing, a 39-year-old vet who was murdered by a serial rapist Clive Sharp, 47, in October 2012? He raped her for 4 hours before killing her. The next day he bought bleach, petrol, a hacksaw and spare blades, and a Halloween mask.  He dismembered Catherine’s remains in open ground before disposing of her body in various locations in North Wales.  Only her torso, right hand and foot have been recovered; her head and remaining body parts were never found.

Will the story of Reema Ramzan bring back the missing humour to your game? 18-year-old Reema from Sheffield was murdered by her boyfriend Aras Hussain, 21,  in June 2013. According to forensic evidence although he had stabbed her in the chest,  Reema was likely to be alive while her head was being cut off, though would of course have lost consciousness at some point.  A post mortem showed Reema had also been stabbed in her shoulder and leg.  Injuries on her hands were consistent with self-defence.  Judge Mrs Justice Cox told Hussain  “”The pain, terror, anguish and desperation she would therefore have suffered, as you inflicted these appalling injuries upon her and ended her life, is truly horrifying to contemplate.”

Finally, if your sense of humour needs a final nudge there’s 60-year-old Judith Nibbs  who lived in Hackney, London. Judith had been active in the local community for many years and had worked delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly for the last 6 years.  She also cared for her disabled daughter. In April 2014, police responding to a call found her decapitated body in her blood-splattered flat. Her estranged husband, Dempsey Nibbs, 67, was also there.  It is believed he had stabbed and seriously injured himself after killing Judith.  Police are not looking for anyone else.

Those golf club thwacks to the head have a broader context beyond beheaded women.  There are numerous women  murdered through blows to the head: garden ornaments, kitchen implements, hammers, feet, fists, blunt force trauma, fractured skull, brain injury. There’s also 68-year-old Sally Hingston, murdered by 25-year old and 6ft 10 Benjamin Radojezic: Sally survived a brutal beating – with a golf club – only to be dumped half naked in a ditch where she took 17 hours to die in Buckinghamshire in 2009.

Off with her head.  Oh, such a laugh. The naked headless woman – a little bit of humour for your game of golf.  I’m not laughing. After reading this, could anyone be?

 

Jo Sharpen has stated a petition to Dunlop to remove the naked woman golf tees from sale.  You can sign it here https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dunlop-sport-remove-the-misogynistic-nudie-tee-product-which-features-a-decapitated-woman-s-body# %85naked woman golf tees picture