Mother Killers: 30 UK men killed – or allegedly killed – their mothers between 2012-2014

This piece is about men who killed their mothers in the UK since 2012.  I will also look at men who killed their grandmothers.1

Home Office data tells us that between 2001/2 and 2011/12, 108 women were killed by their adult son/daughter;  over the 11 year period, that’s an average of almost 10 a year.  This data does not tell us the sex of the killer.  When I started recording the UK women killed though male violence in January 2012, I did not expect to find the number of women killed by their sons that I did.  According to my records, 16 women were killed by their sons in 2012,  12 in 2013,  one man has been charged with stabbing his mother in 2014 and a second recently arrested for murder.  The figure may be higher for 2013 but several cases have not yet gone to court and the details of the relationship between victim and alleged killer have not been made public in some of these cases.  The numbers of women killed by their sons alone in 2012 and 2013 are higher than the average number of women killed by an adult son/daughter over the preceding 11 years. In 2012 one woman was killed by her grandson, in 2013 two women were killed by their grandsons and a third by her step-grandson.  The details of these murders, killings and alleged killings are given at the end of this piece.

The primary methods selected by the men who killed, or allegedly killed,  their mothers have been:

  • Battered with metal fireguard & slit throat             1 man
  • Multiple injuries and decapitation                             1 man
  • Shot                                                                                          2 men
  • Blunt force trauma                                                            2 men
  • Strangled                                                                               4 men
  • Stabbed                                                                                  8 men
  • Smothered/suffocated/asphyxiated                        4 men
  • Slapped and pushed,causing death  thro’ heart condition                      1 man
  • Head injuries                                                                      5 men
  • Beaten,  dismembered and beheaded                      1 man
  • Undisclosed                                                                       3 man (cases not yet gone to trial).

Three of the men killing their grandmothers stabbed them, one killed her though blunt force trauma injuries.

The average (mean) age of women killed by their sons was 64 years, the average age of their son, their killer, was 36 years.   The youngest mother killed was Leah Whittle who was 42, the oldest were Delores Smith and Olwen Dohoney who were both 86.   The youngest son killing his mother was Keiran Smith,17  who killed Leah Whittle,42;  the oldest was Stephen Dohoney, 55 who killed Olwen Dohoney.   The average age of women killed by their grandsons was 78 years, the average age of their killer was 21 years.  The youngest grandmother killed was Janis Dundas who was 63, the oldest was Kathleen Milward aged 87.  The youngest grandson son killing his grandmother mother was Nathaniel Flynn,17 who killed Louisa Denby, 84; the oldest was Garry Kane, 40 who killed Kathleen Milward.

Where it has been possible for me to ascertain the race of the men who killed their mothers (in 25 out of the 29 cases), the distribution is similar to the UK population as stated in the 2011 census.  86.2 % of the men who killed their mothers were white; according to the census, the UK population is 87.1 % white.  The small variation is can be explained as a result of the relatively small sample size.   All four men who killed their  grandmothers were UK born white.

Mental ill-heath has been cited in the cases of 13 men who killed or allegedly killed their mother.  Drug-use (including prescribed drugs, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, ecstasy) has been noted in eight cases, alcohol in two and a combination of alcohol and drugs in two.  Drug use has been noted in all cases of the men who killed their grandmothers.   At the time of writing,  8 cases have not yet been to court and it is not unusual for such information to be withheld pre-trial.  This is not to say that mental health problems and/or substance use cause violence against women or cause men to kill their mothers.  Many people with mental health problems and/or people who use drugs/alcohol are never violent.   The Mental Health Foundation estimated that one-in-four people experience  a mental health problem in a year, clearly the vast majority do not commit violence acts including murder. However research suggests a relationship between mental illness and violence, a risk factor,  with combined problematic substance use and personality disorders being identified as a significantly increased risk.   Just as in the population who do not use substances problematically, or who do not experience mental health problems, men are more likely to kill their mothers than women are to kill either their mothers or fathers.  It is critical that health professionals take seriously threats and histories of violence against women but this does not indicate a causal relationship.  We  must question the roles of stigma and the social exclusion  on the actions of people with mental health problems and problematic substance use.  We must also remain aware that misogyny and sexism have an impact across all sections of society and therefore not lose sight of the roots of violence against women – patriarchy – on occasions when mental ill-heath is expressed through violence against women.

So called ‘mercy killing’ was used in the defences of at least four men and implied in the case of one who killed himself after killing his mother.  I feel sceptical about the veracity of such a claim in some but not all of these cases, the level of brutality used by some men to kill their mothers belies any notion of mercy.  We need to allow people the right to choose to die. Euthanasia, assisted suicide and/or the right to die should never become the duty to die for fear of being a burden on others, should never become elder abuse or  neglect.  The costs and difficulties of care cannot be permitted to become reasons to kill.  It’s clear that a rigorous ethical legal framework and guidance are necessary; but with or without recourse to assisted suicide as a legal option, it will continue to occur.

When looking at men’s violence against women – whether their mothers, partners or otherwise –   mainstream analyses infrequently ask whether perpetrators are more sexist and misogynistic than men who are not violent to women.  Problematic substance use,  mental health problems, emotional problems,  employment and economic problems,  jealousy, ‘snapping’ and ‘rows’ are routinely considered,  reinforcing the dominant agenda on – the excuses for  – what is seen as significant.  This must be recast and the role of patriarchy expressed through inequality, sexism, objectification and misogyny needs to be placed at the centre of our analysis of all forms of men’s violence against women and our efforts to end it.

1 I have found no cases of women killing their fathers in the same period.  I have found two cases of women who killed their mothers in 2013.  Kauther Silvera was found guilty of killing her mother Vittoria Baker. Emma Parr was found guilty of killing her mother Carol Parr.  Both women were convicted for manslaughter.

Men who killed or have allegedly killed their mothers: UK 2012-2014

2014

On  12 February a 43-year-old woman was found with severe head injuries and a serious chest wound in the corridor outside her home in East London she  was pronounced dead at the scene.  Neighbours had called police after hearing shouting and screaming coming from the apartment.  A teenage boy, said to be her son was arrested for murder.

Lian Wild, believed to be the son of Karen Wild was charged with his mother’s murder.  Karen was found with serious stab wounds and pronounced dead on the scene on 30th January.

2013

Simon Forgie, 42 stabbed his mother Pernella Forgie, 79, to death on 7th February 2013.  She suffered more than 50 knife wounds to her head and neck, and another ten to her chest.  Forgie pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The prosecution accepted the plea after three psychiatrists agreed he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attack.

Jeffrey Ash, 50 smothered his 83-year-old mother, Ellen Ash on March 21 2013.  Firefighters responding to a call entered the house and discovered Ellen Ash’s severely burned body on the living room floor. Experts said the fire had been started deliberately and bottles of turps and white spirit were found in the house.  A court heard that Jeffrey Ash could no longer cope with Ellen Ash’s hallucinations, her failure to recognise her son and the “onerous burden” of looking after her almost single-handedly.  Jeffrey Ash was been jailed for 40 months for culpable homicide.

James Dunleavy, 40 beheaded and dismembered his mother Philomena Dunleavy, 66 before burying her in a shallow grave in April/May 2013.  Medics could not tell how she died and injuries to her head, smashed ribs and damage to small bones in her neck – often linked to strangulation – could have been sustained after her death. She may still have been alive, but unconscious, when her son began to hack off her legs with a knife and saw.

Dunleavy’s legal team arranged for his transfer from prison to the State Hospital. Dunleavy had denied murder and attempting to cover up his crime but was found guilty.  He had a history of violence against women including against a former partner.

Roland Holman, 55 suffocated his mother Myrna Holman, 76 with a pillow on 3 June 2013.  He was jailed for 18 months, having earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.  Myrna Holman was suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer and had been given 12 weeks to live, Roland Holman insisted she ‘asked him to end it’.

When police arrived at the house, they found Holman in tears, sitting beside his mother’s lifeless body clutching her ‘pale white hand’ under the covers.  He later said: ‘She told me she didn’t want to be here anymore. I did it. I did it. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – I just killed my mum. She wanted to go to the toilet and I lifted her to the commode but it was too late. There was blood and mess all over the place. She looked at me and asked me to do it for her. I lifted her back onto the bed and put the pillow over her. She didn’t even struggle.’

Roland Holman received a sentence of 18 months.  Speaking after the hearing, his brother, David Holman, said: ‘It’s disgusting that someone can make a 999 call saying they have just killed their mother and get away with it. He is a good guy and did it only to help my mum but that judge has given him a pat on the back and let him go free. I never had the chance to sit with mum and hold her hand.’

John Jenkin, 23  has been charged with the murders of his mother Alice McMeekin, 58 and his sister after their bodies were found at home along with their slaughtered pet dog on 8th June 2013, the women  had suffered head injuries.

John Jenkin, who was arrested shortly after, is also accused of animal cruelty. A neighbour said: “I heard screaming, really high-pitched screams in the early hours. Then later I heard more screaming. It sounded like someone telling a dog to shut up.”

Paul Stones, 38, strangled his mother Marianne Stones, 58, on 9 June 2013.  He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  He walked into a police station and asked to speak to a police officer.  He told the officer that he had just killed his mother by strangling her, and that her body could be found in the house.

Mark Howe, 21, admitted murdering his mother Katrina Wardle, 48 on 16th July 2013.  Police said she had been stabbed and that they followed a trail of blood from the premises to a post office cash machine and a petrol station.

Mark Howe repeatedly stabbed and slashed Katrina Wardle in the face, mouth, neck, chest and arms before leaving her to bleed to death on her bedroom floor.  She had curled up in a foetal position, trying to protect herself. Howe used a 12-inch knife, the tip of which was bent by the force used.  A judge said the assault was ‘akin to torture’.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said: “She didn’t die immediately. The totality of the wounds caused her to bleed to death. A passer-by heard her pleading with you to stop, but you didn’t and left her to die.”  ‘’You told Facebook friends you hated your mother, and became hateful towards her.”

Nigel Constable, 51 is due to stand trial charged with the murder of his mother Betty Constable, 79.  She died in hospital on September 24, 2013 where hospital and staff raised concerns about her conditions. Post-mortem tests have been carried out, but police have not yet released the results.  He has pleaded not guilty and has been remanded in custody.

Oludotun Kalejaiye, 21 was arrested on suspicion of murder after his mother 46-year-old Tolu Kalejaiye was found dead in their home on 26 September 2013.  Police discovered her lying on her back in her kitchen,  surrounded by blood and with a large laceration to the left side of her neck.

Mohammed Badvie, 42 has been charged with murdering his 69-year-old mother Badri Dabir on 5th October 2013.  After forcing entry to the house, police officers found  her body,  shortly afterwards she was pronounced dead. A post mortem gave the cause of death as head injuries.

Stephen Dohoney, 55, was found hanged and his mother 86-year-old Ethel Dohoney, was found dead in her bed on 12th November 2013. It has been stated that she had been stabbed in the chest and a knife and blood stains were discovered in their home.

Matthew Brierley, 45 was been charged with the murder of his mother Glennis Brierley on 14th December 2013.  Police received a call from a public telephone reporting that a woman had been killed.  A post mortem concluded Glennis Brierley died after being stabbed.

2012

On 4th March 2012, 24-year-old Joseph Cupori stabbed his 43-year-old mother, Anna Cuporiova, before beating her unconscious with a metal fireguard and then slitting her throat and dumping her in a wheelie bin.

Joseph Cupori  had been inhaling butane gas at the time and since has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was convicted of murder, despite a denial on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Daniel Corriat, 43 killed his 76-year-old mother Elizabeth Coriat on 24th March 2012.  She was found on her bed, fully clothed, decapitated and mutilated with various weapons embedded in her head and body, the injuries to the wrists and ankles, suggesting 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.

Daniel Corriat  had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 18 and had a history of violence.

34-year-old Ian Blakey told his mother Jean Blakey,55 he wanted to take her shopping but instead, on 29 April 2012, drove to a secluded woodland and shot her, killed his dog and then shot himself because – according to a note he left for his ex-partner – he ‘didn’t fancy doing life’ for her murder and claimed he could not watch his mother live with multiple sclerosis

Jean’s partner of 26 years, Harry Mawson, said Blakey would visit his mother once or twice a week but would often only stay for a short while. He also said it was unusual for him to take her out and the last time he had done so was for her 50th birthday, five years earlier.  Mawson told the coroner that Jean had been looking forward to the trip and she had no wish to die.  He said:  “She was not bad as he (Ian) made out. She was a happy woman who woke up every morning with a smile on her face. She never once complained about her illness. She always greeted her carers with a smile and enjoyed outings with them.”

A post-mortem showed that Blakey had had taken cocaine and an ecstasy-type drug.

Paul Sturt, 30 killed his mother Annette Sturt, 49, at her home in May 2012.  She had been struck with a blunt instrument before being strangled and was found in a shed.  Judge Adele Williams ruled that heavy cannabis user Sturt was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when he killed Annette and  ordered that Sturt be detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.  Sturt pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Mark Stones, 38, told Manchester Crown Court that he tucked her his mother Marian Stones, 58, in to bed and told her he was sorry after he strangled her on 10 June 2012. Stones told the jury: ‘I sat on the bed and talked to her for a while. I said how sorry I was and I didn’t know why I did it and how much I loved her.’

Stones denied murder but was convicted by a jury after a medical expert said it was ‘extremely unlikely’ that the anti-depressant drug Sertraline prescribed to Stones would have driven him to kill.

He had a history of violence against women including against his ex-wife and another former partner.

Paul Heiss was wanted for questioning over the murder of his mother, Margaret Sheehy when he allegedly stabbed a woman to death in the street in Barcelona.  After his arrest Spanish detectives discovered that he was wanted for extradition to the UK on suspicion of strangling his mother to death in June 2012.

Kaysley Smithen, 21 has been given an indefinite hospital order after being found guilty of killing his mother Janice Smithen, 46 with a weights bar in the home they shared on 2 July, 2012.  A post mortem found Janice Smithen had died from blunt force head injuries.

Police said Smithen had “a severe mental health problem”  and had been ruled unfit to plead on a murder charge earlier in the trial.

Andrew Cane, 30 strangled his mother Linda Sheard, 63 on 11 July 2012.  She suffered black eyes, broken ribs and bruises all over her body, including where he held her down as he strangled her from behind.  Cane stole her wallet, texted a dealer and took a taxi to a cashpoint where he took out £200 which he spent on cocaine.

Cane pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to the more serious charge of murder when he appeared in court but the plea was not accepted and he was tried and found guilty of murder.

Kieren Smith, 17 stabbed his mother Leah Whittle, 42 on 21st July 2012.  Smith had  severed her spinal cord rendering her unconscious and immobilising her early on in the killing, so there were no defence injuries on her arms or hands.  Smith denied the killing,  claiming that men came down from Yorkshire to execute his mother because his brother had got into trouble over a drug debt.  He was found guilty of murder.

Robert Archbold, 49, said he ‘got into a row’ with his mother Jane Archbold, 77, and put his hand over her mouth “to shut her up” on 21 August 2012. He admitted unlawful killing on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denied murder.  A post-mortem examination showed that Jane Archbold had 15 abrasions to her head and face, which were consistent with being smothered and strangled.

Mark Tyler, 37 shot his mother Maureen Tyler, 79, before shooting himself on 3rd September 2012.  Maureen Tyler was shot face-on by her son as she sat in a living room sofa. Forensic evidence suggested four days passed before Mark Tyler killed himself.  Both died of single shots from a sawn-off shotgun.

MarkTyler had been for a psychiatric consultation in July, but “no diagnosis” was made. He had previously been identified as  “dangerous” by mental health experts and had a history of drug use.

Graeme Morris, 38 killed his mother, Ann Morris, 63 and battered his father on 5th October 2012. The couple were sitting in their conservatory when Morris began to shout abuse, grabbed his mother by her hair before punching his father to the floor, stripping him to his socks and kicking him. Ann Morris had a heart condition, which had been diagnosed in 1996 and was known to her family, meaning that strenuous physical activity or stressful situations had the potential to be life-threatening. His father spent seven days in hospital following the attack, receiving treatment for injuries including a fractured eye socket.  Morris admitted culpable homicide and assault. He will only be released with the approval of Scottish ministers.

Ian Woolley, 44  admitted killing his mother Pauline Gillen, 69, and Jason Duffield, the neighbour who went to investigate the sound of disturbance, by stabbing them with a screwdriver on 6th October 2012. Woolley, killed Pauline Gillen as she lay in bed before stabbing her and Jason Duffied to death and throwing him over a fifth floor balcony.  Woolley pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to be detained in a secure mental facility indefinitely, he cannot be released without the authority of the secretary of state.

Kazik Pasierbek, 39, hit his mother, Margaret Krawcewicz, 72, over the head “six or seven” times on 12 October 2012 causing bleeding and swelling to her brain. He was found guilty of murder.  His trial heard that Pasierbek had a history of hitting Mrs Krawcewicz when she refused to give him money.

Jurors in the trial were played a recording of a call made from lifeline equipment in Margaret Krawcewicz’s flat which she activated in the early hours of that morning.  In it, she can be heard retching and saying: “Oh god, what did you do to my head Kazik, you beat me up so badly, don’t do it.  Oh god, I am so sick, release me from this earth. Release me god. My father in heaven, I can’t stand the pain. Let me die, let me die, release me from this earth.”

Peter Dickson, 37 smothered his mother, Carol Cooper, 66 to death by holding a pillow over her head on 2 November 2012.  He was found guilty of murder and jailed for a minimum of 18 years. Passing sentence, Judge Charles Gratwicke said: ”This was a brutal and vicious attack on your own mother, a lady who had no cause to fear you and who was in poor health.  She doted on you and provided for your every whim, putting you on a pedestal and your response to that love, affection and care was to smother her to death.

William Smith, 49 killed his mother Delores Smith, 86, on 27th December 2012.  A post-mortem examination gave the cause of her death as head injuries. William Smith had beaten her with two frying pans before cutting her throat.  He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after psychiatrists agreed he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.  When asked why he had killed her, Smith said: “Because she is my mother and I love her.”

Men who killed or have allegedly killed their grandmothers: UK 2012-2014

Gary Kane, 40 murdered his grandmother Kathleen Millward, 87  on 3rd January 2012, inflicting 31 separate injuries including 15 head and neck injuries caused by “blunt force trauma”.  He then left her dead or dying on the kitchen floor.  He had a history of violence including a four month jail term for assault in 1997.

Jack Huxley, 20,  sexually assaulted and murdered his step-grandmother 62-year-old Janis Dundas.  She was found by police officers’ face down in a pool of blood in her bedroom with three knives protruding from her back. She had been mutilated, stabbed and slashed 28 times and had suffered a sexual assault.  The court heard how Huxley accessed pornography showing sex between young men and mature women in the hours before and after the murder.

Lewis Dale, 17 has been charged with the murder of his grandmother Irene Dale, 78 on 27 April 2013.  His grandfather, Allan Dale, who was also stabbed in the attack described how his grandson “lunged” at him with a kitchen knife as he was lying in bed, stabbing him in the chest.  When Allan got up, Dale stabbed him again in the abdomen and then turned on Irene, his wife of more than 50 years, repeatedly stabbing her as she cowered under the duvet. She died at the scene.  Lewis Dale admits he stabbed his grandparents, but denies murder and attempted murder, claiming he was in a “drug-induced psychosis” brought on by using M-Cat.

Nathaniel Flynn murdered his grandmother, Louisa Denby, 84 by stabbing her 50 times as she lay in bed and then attempted to kill a nine-year-old boy on 1 July 2013.  At his trial, the judge heard that three psychiatrists found Flynn had no diagnosable mental illness but said he had been influenced by his heavy, “entrenched” use of cannabis and other drugs.  Flynn ordered an SAS survival guide, two knives, tarpaulin and rope from the internet in the days before he killed his grandmother.  Police believe one of the knives he ordered was used in the attacks, although the weapon has never been recovered.

Sorry, I can’t join your campaign to end male primogeniture, I’m washing my hair

Liza Campbell is campaigning to end male primogeniture – the practice of inheritance of estate and title by the eldest male child.  She explains why she believes it is a feminist issue here.  I’ve already written about becoming class conscious before sex-class conscious and self-identifying as a feminist here.  It didn’t take me long to work out how to reconcile class and sex oppression but I will never  forget that feeling of alienation, difference and being “less than”, when I first experienced ‘posh girls’  en masse (and yes, that’s exactly how I saw them and also exactly what I called them) at ‘A’ level college in Yorkshire in the mid-1980s.  So Campbell’s sentence: “ “Why the hell should we care about posh girls?” I hear you say.” gave me a good dose of ear steam.

Of course male primogeniture is wrong.  Of course.  Of course anything that privileges men over women is wrong.  But that doesn’t mean that ending the sex inequality is more important than ending the inequality.  Campbell ends her piece by saying that if we wish to sneer, then we must also sneer at Brahmin women and Senate Masupha too.  She’s right and I will.  I’d also ask her whether she is using cultural liberalism and the fear of appearing racist to bolster her argument in favour of maintaining inherited class privilege.  Indeed, she uses the practice of female genital mutilation, a form of abuse that for years many white liberals squirmed to condemn because of the fear of condemning a harmful practice in a culture subjugated in the UK, to illustrate the problem of female doorkeepers of patriarchy and the difficulty of dissent for a culture’s daughters.  Please don’t compare a girl’s right to survive with her genitals intact to another’s to be called Lady Blah-di-blah and inherit the family mansion.

Campbell describes the dilemma of being someone who “by accident of birth, finds herself the daughter of an earl.” She says that she doesn’t use her title and is deracinated from that life.  She says that refusal to help her struck her as the worst sort of inverted snobbery.  I might just probably be too busy to help her ‘cos I am too busy googling ‘deracinated’ because my life chances haven’t brought that word in to my vocabulary just yet. Though seriously, I am not going to help her because the answer to one form of inequality of accidental birth (male primogeniture and indeed maleness per se) is not to overlook and ignore other forms of inherited privilege.

I do agree with Campbell that everything is connected.  Though where she argues that “every struggle for women’s rights should be supported; every infringement resisted” I cannot agree. No-one should inherit titles. No-one should inherit wealth, privilege and status over others. No-one should inherit a free-pass to a privileged education that will set that person up for privilege for life. No-one should inherit poverty under the benefits-cap, insecure housing, being born in a war zone.  Food, shelter, safety, education  – and world equality in our right to access these – are surely our goals.  I wish I believed that I’ll see a world in which inequality between people has been erased before I die, but I don’t.  However this will not stop me trying to contribute to creating that world.  In my vision of an equal world, women will be liberated from patriarchal oppression,  male primogeniture will not exist, but I am not interested in ending it for the benefit of privileged women.

Is it so shocking to believe that women should be able to get blind drunk without being raped?

Offensive? The poster warning against binge drinking

In December, I spoke to the Yorkshire Post about the above poster produced by Calderdale Council.  Anti sexual-violence posters are regularly produced by police forces to celebrate Christmas, a collection of which are reviewed in this piece by Ending Victimisation and Blame.  Campaign messages are not neutral.  They can either reinforce or challenge accepted narratives.  Calderdale’s poster, like too many others, reinforces the message that women should be held responsible for what happens to them.

Though the poster doesn’t explicitly mention rape,  the lines “when you drink too much you lose control and put yourself at risk” together with an image of a dishevelled young woman in a short dress, make clear that the risk is that of sexual violence. The article was picked up widely re-reported including in The Independent and Daily Mail and eventually discussed in a piece by Sarah Vine under the title “Sorry sisters, but girls who get blind drunk ARE risking rape” in which she stated her  refusal to join “the chorus of feminist disapproval” and argued that women need to take responsibility for their own safety, going on to mention “one or two nasty brushes” that made her realise how important it was to not willingly put herself in the path of danger and “stupidly” becoming a victim.

The concept of a victim of violence ‘willingly and stupidly putting themselves in the path of danger’ is judgemental victim blaming.  Whether though an act of choosing  or not choosing to do something, a victim of sexual violence is never responsible for what is done to them. Rapists and abusers are the only ones responsible for rape and abuse.

Rapists and abusers use excuses to justify their actions,  to discredit their victims and to shift responsibility for their choices away from themselves and on to their victims.  They use exactly the kind of excuses encapsulated in the Calderdale poster and Vine’s piece, in short: “She didn’t take care. “ or “She was asking for it.”

The government estimates that there are around 78,000 rapes in the UK every year, that’s 214 every day. On top of this, there are an estimated 476,000 other sexual offences. Women and girls make up the vast majority of victims and 95% of those who experience serious sexual assault identify the offender as male. Most – but not all –  victims of sexual violence and abuse are stone cold sober when they are abused.  Those who are drunk or intoxicated through drug use are no more deserving of abuse. Most (an estimated 91%) victims of rape and sexual violence know their attacker before they are abused.  45% of rape victim/survivors identifying a current partner   as the rapist, a further 11% identifying a date and yet a further 11% identifying a former partner.  It’s hard to see how Christmas and New Year sobriety would make any difference to these women.

Sex with a person whose judgement is impaired – for example through alcohol or drugs – means they are legally unable to consent.  Non-consensual sex is rape.  If Calderdale Council want to run a useful campaign related to increased alcohol consumption around Christmas and New Year, they might consider  addressing this issue instead. It’s hard for me to imagine that their poster would prevent any woman from drinking.  Perhaps I’m naive to the powers of persuasion of a public awareness campaign. It isn’t so difficult to imagine a victim of rape who had been drunk, who had been partying, who had been wearing a short sequined dress seeing the poster and questioning her own responsibility.  Self-blame, shame, fearing that she will not be believed and questioning whether what happened was rape are  all reasons that contribute to an estimated 79-85% of rapes not being reported. If rapes are not reported, who benefits? Rapists whose behaviour goes unpunished and who are free to rape again.  That’s why I said the only ones who are helped by the Calderdale posters are rapists.  They’re provided with victim blaming excuses and are less likely to be held to account when victim/survivors are deterred from reporting

Calderdale’s poster will not reduce sexual violence, neither will it assist victims.  If Calderdale Council want to reduce sexual violence, then they need to focus on men and boys.  The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioners’ September 2013 Quarterly Performance Report details that reports of sexual offences increased by 51.1% in the 12 months to June 2013. The report identifies that this is the largest increase across all police forces and compares to a national average increase of 8.9%.  . Men, boys, women, girls, policy makers, support providers need to understand the concepts of consent and coercion.  Consent alone is not enough, but must always be understood in the context of coercion at both the individual and societal level.   Clearly there is much to be done.

If Calderdale Council want to better support victims of sexual violence, then they might want to consider funding local specialist women’s support services.  It is interesting that on the council’s web-page for information and support on rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse the services listed are in Manchester, Huddersfield and Wakefield – none of which are in Calderdale. Does the council  provide or fund any specialist services for victims of sexual violence?  Calderdale Council may also like to consider whether future campaigns support victims and ensure that they challenge not reinforce self-blame, shame and victim blaming.  At the same time as Calderdale Council ran their victim-blaming campaign, the police force responsible for Calderdale, West Yorkshire Police, were running an appeal to increase reporting of sexual violence.  I’d happily raise my glass to the Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee, who, taking quite a different approach to that of the council , is quoted as saying :

 “Sadly society at times has negative perceptions about sexual offending and these perceptions allow sexual crime to go unreported and offenders to go unpunished, we need to change those perceptions by providing people with information that enables them to understand better the nature of the problem and what it is that constitutes rape or other sexual violence.

“And that is why my commitment is to the victims of this dreadful crime that, if they come forward and tell us what has happened, we will not only do all we can to bring the offender to justice but also with our partners provide support and counsel to help them through what is a very difficult and distressing time.

Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Restricting women’s movement and choices and putting responsibility for men’s violence against women and girls on to women and girls will never reduce men’s violence.

Thanks and all, but no thanks: I don’t want men in my feminism

Yes, I’m one of those feminists who doesn’t want men in feminism, the type who doesn’t think men can be feminists.  I’m quite happy to talk with you, work in partnership with or alongside you, even count a select bunch of you amongst my friends, but call you feminists: “Nah.”

Men – you’ve had since time immemorial to get your shit together.  For the sake of argument, let’s start from the assumption that as a species we’ve been around for about 200,000 years.  Evidence suggests that early societies were egalitarian but that with the development of agriculture and domestication around 11,700 years ago, came the emergence of patriarchy, of men’s domination of women.  What we refer to as first wave feminism gained prominence from the late 19th and early twentieth centuries, though this is western-centric and writes out women’s earlier struggles in Europe from the 15th century.  Even if we take  Mary Wollstonecraft’s  A Vindication of the Rights of Woman published in 1792 as the start of women’s fight for our rights, men had eleven and a half thousand years to do something about sex inequality – if only a) you had wanted to and b) you weren’t too busy enjoying the benefits.  What’s suddenly happened for you to want to get in on the act?

Feminism is more than the demand for rights for women or equality between women and men. For me, feminism is the fight for the liberation of all women as a class from subjugation under patriarchy.  Loose the structural analysis and feminism gets lost in the rights of the individual, in identity led politics and notions of choice and agency fail to take sufficient account of context and impact.  Get men in and feminism is almost inevitably reduced to the problem of inequality and usually it isn’t so long before the ‘men suffer under patriarchy too’ line is trotted out.

Men, revolutionaries,  when you fight for equality you’re too quick betray your sisters.  Women were fighting for the rights of women as a class, as well as the overthrow of totalitarian regimes in the Arab Spring, but women’s status has been seriously threated in the countries that achieved changes of government.  The end of communism in Eastern Europe, and with it the rise of choice and consumerism furthered the commodification of women and men’s right’s to choose to profit and purchase. In the UK,  the Socialist Workers Party handling of rape shows that misogyny, sexism and sexual violence were seen as equality issues of lesser importance.

Men, you take up too much public space.  This post by End Victimisation and Blaming cites Dale Spender:

“Present at the discussion, which was a workshop on sexism and education in London, were thirty-two women and five men. Apart from the fact that the tape revealed that the men talked for over 50 per cent of the time, it also revealed that what the men wanted to talk about – and the way in which they wanted to talk – was given precedence.”     […]

“There is no doubt in my mind that in this context at least (and I do not think it was an atypical one) it was the five males and not the thirty-two females who were defining the parameters of the talk. I suspect that neither the women nor the men were conscious of this. There was no overt hostility displayed towards the females who ‘strayed from the point’, but considerable pressure was applied by the males – and accepted without comment from the females – to confine the discussion to the male definition of the topic.”

Spender is absolutely right if my experience is anything to go by, the situation she described was not atypical. In the media men dominate, they take up disproportionate space. In politics men dominate, they take up disproportionate space.  Even on public transport men dominate, you take up disproportionate space as illustrated by this blog and this.  Seriously fellas, we know that your balls aren’t that big.

This piece by Glosswitch on the vitriol directed towards a twitter hashtag #sharedgirlhood and its protagonist Victoria Brownworth (@VABOX) explores the importance of a collective approach to women’s oppression.   Too few women get to know the joy of mass women-only spaces. It’s increasingly rare to find even a feminist event that is women only, and those that seek to provide this, increasingly face challenges.  Bullying from men’s rights extremists led to the London Irish Centre cancelling a booking for the women-only radical feminist conference Rad Fem 2013 for safeguarding reasons and because the venue could not handle the volume of complaints, though the conference went ahead peacefully elsewhere.  What’s the big threat?  Are you afraid that we’re plotting to overthrow male privilege or something?

Men, how about you prioritise taking responsibility for your violence above asking ‘What about the men?’  Services for women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence are increasingly required by commissioners to offer services to men too, despite evidence that this is not what women want, despite women being overwhelmingly the victims and men being overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence. Despite even the recognition of this by the government in its strategy to end (male) violence against women and girls. Incidentally men, if you focussed on ending male violence, you’d be helping a whole lot more men – and women – than you are by overstating your victimisation by women.

Men, how about you challenge the pornography tastes of some of your brethren?  Other men and boys listen to you, use their sexism for the greater good.  How about you challenge the sexual objectification of women without needing to call yourselves feminists to do so. Just do it because you recognise that objectification is damaging to women, a cause and consequence of inequality that upholds patriarchy.

Men, how about you sort out the rest of society – that in which you dominate – and make that more equitable and safer for women before you insist on occupying our space?  There is a role for you, plenty that you can do,  and I really hope that you will be influenced by feminism but in my experience, it is the men who exclude themselves from identifying as a feminist, who instead see themselves as allies, supporters or pro-feminist who have the more sophisticated analysis.  Men who realise that feminism is not about or for them, not about what they think.

The silencing of women by men in the public sphere is deafening; the habit of overlooking and failing to respond to women’s subordination is entrenched, structural and serves men as a class. By insist on inclusion in feminism, once again, men’s wants and needs are prioritised over women’s and women’s subordination is reinforced.

25th November – What’s In A Name?

Mirabel sisters

In July 1981, at the first Feminist Conference  for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Bogota, Colombia, 25th November was declared an annual day of protest, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, in memory of three sisters who had been murdered.  Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel were assassinated in a ’car accident’ in the Dominican Republic in 1960. They were political activists, killed for their involvement in efforts to overthrow the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo.  At that first conference, women linked and denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.

On 6th December 1989,  Marc Lépine shot 14 female  students  dead and injured another 10 at the University of Montreal, Canada claiming he was ‘fighting feminism’.  This led to  a group of men in Canada launched the first White Ribbon Campaign in 1991.  The White Ribbon Campaign has become a global campaign to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women.  I support men’s acknowledgement of their role in ending violence against women, it is essential for this to happen if we are going to end men’s violence against women and girls.

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN invited governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designated to raise public awareness of violence against women on this day.

Increasing though, the 25th November is referred to as White Ribbon Day by the majority of the minority of people actively interested in ending men’s violence against women and girls.  The campaign by men overshadowing, not complementing, the International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women.  Based on a huge assumption about the founders of White Ribbon Day,  one  might be tempted to question the race and sex dynamics at play when a campaign founded by white men eclipses a campaign founded by women of colour.

Sadly, many even fail to take the time to understand even the central them of ‘White Ribbon Day’ as illustrated by an email a colleague of mine received from an organiser of a ‘white ribbon event’ who told her that their day would be ‘for all victims of domestic violence, because men can be victims too’, simultaneously erasing the linking of the different forms of men’s violence against women and the campaign for men to take responsibility for their violence against women.

Men’s violence against women is endemic:

  • globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence (World Health Organisation)
  • In Japan 15% of women reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; in Ethiopia it is 71%
  • 17%of women in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh reported their first sexual experience as forced
  • 66,000 women are killed through men’s violence every year, in the USA four women are killed though men’s violence every day
  • In the UK, 120 women were killed by men in 2012, so far in 2013, more than 100 have been killed; the Home Office estimates that  69,000, women are raped every year.

UK media reports of violence against women and girls disproportionately cover violence against white and middle-class women in comparison to those of women of colour and working class women (unless they are sensationalising race and/or other oppressions, such as murders of prostituted women) and I do not want to contribute to this generally or specifically in relation to the erasure of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel from the history of femicide:  men’s fatal violence against women.

Women’s activists have marked November 25 as a day to fight violence against women since 1981.  For me the 25th November is The International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women.  It is about recognising the global nature of men’s violence against women. It is about standing side by side with my sisters.

On The International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women this year, I’ll be commemorating the UK women killed through suspected male violence this year on the twitter account @countdeadwomen.  I will start with the 2nd January when Janelle Duncan Bailey, 25 was strangled by ex-boyfriend Jerome McDonald.  Every 10 minutes, I will move on and tweet the next date on which a woman was killed and the name of the women and the man convicted or primary suspect for her killing.  If I start at 6.00 am, and name a women every 10 minutes, I’ll still be naming women at midnight, 18 hours later.

Don’t these feminists just need to lighten up and have some Halloween fun?

Artist Emma Bolland took and shared on twitter a photo of a mannequin in the window of the Amazing Party Company fancy dress shop in Leeds.  After seeing the photo, I called the shop to complain, by this time they had removed the knife from her chest, they told me “It isn’t a woman who has been stabbed.  It’s a zombie nurse.  Zombie’s don’t really exist. It’s just a bit of fun”

The stereotype of the ‘sexy nurse’ isn’t fun, it is objectification, 90% of nurses are women, it is reducing the role of a nurse to a woman’s sexual agency. It is pure and simple sexism. A UK poll found that for men a nurse was the most sexually-fantasized-about job. Reducing nurses to sex objects is an insult to the hard work and professionalism of the thousands of women in nursing and contributes to the devaluing of the role and towards sexual harassment of nurses in their place of work.

As the Amazing Party Company – who describe themselves as a family run retail business –said “Zombie nurses don’t exit.”  Zombie nurses don’t exist, but stabbed women do, stabbed nurses do. I’d like to see them explain the fun of stabbed nurses to Penny and John Clough, whose daughter, 26 year old nurse Jane Clough, was stabbed 71 times by her former boyfriend Jonathan Vass before he slit her throat in the hospital car park.  Or the family and friends of 25 year-old estate agent Nicole Waterhouse from York or 28 year-old Gabrielle Stanley from Doncaster, both of whom were stabbed to death this month.  From my records of women killed through suspected male violence I know that 33 UK women were stabbed to death by violent men in 2012.  At least a further 11 women have been killed though stabbing so far this year, probably more – if 2012 was typical, stabbing seems to be the most frequently used form of murder. Stabbed nurses, stabbed women, I’m failing to see the fun side.

Those stabbings take place within a wider context of fatal male violence against women.  In total, I know of 120 women killed though male violence in 2012 and a further 100 already suspected so far this year. Not fun.

Jane Clough  had written in her diary that she thought Jonathan Vass would try to kill her after she ended their relationship.  In the December before he murdered her, Vass was charged with 9 counts of rape and 4 of assault against Jane. Against the reported wishes of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, Judge Simon Newel granted him bail.  Making male violence against women fun contributes to a society that doesn’t take the threat of male violence against women seriously. A society that doesn’t taken male violence against women seriously is one in which bail can be  granted to men with a history of violence against women.

I’m still not finding this fun.  Happy Halloween Amazing Party Company.  Did you make  a good profit out of the fun that is fatal male violence against women?

Image

Who gets to define femicide?

I’ve been undecided about the use of the term ‘femicide’  to describe the list of names of the UK  women killed through suspected1 male violence.  The term is useful because it takes the concept of fatal male violence against women beyond domestic violence and that’s important, many people’s understanding of the concept of fatal male violence against women stops and ends at women killed through domestic violence.  However, that the term ‘femicide’ in itself fails to name the male as the agent is problematic.  An early definition of femicide as “the killing of females by males because they are females” dealt with this, though there is a convincing argument for the inclusion of women killed by women because of the influence of patriarchal values.

In 2012, the participants of the Vienna Symposium on Femicide agreed the following:

Femicide is the killing of women and girls because of their gender, which can take the form of, inter alia: 1) the murder of women as a result of intimate partner violence; 2) the torture and misogynist slaying of women 3) killing of women and girls in the name of “ honour”; 4) targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict; 5) dowry-related killings of women; 6) killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; 7) the killing of aboriginal and indigenous women and girls because of their gender; 8) female infanticide and gender-based sex selection foeticide; 9) genital mutilation related femicide; 10) accusations of witchcraft and 11) other femicides connected with gangs, organized crime, drug dealers, human trafficking, and the proliferation of small arms.

As a list of some of the forms that femicide can take, this is helpful and aids the understanding of femicide as something much wider than domestic violence.  The use of the term ‘inter alia’ meaning ‘among other things’ indicates that even they were not convinced that this included everything.  They’re right, it certainly doesn’t include everything.  The definition fascinates me.  It is 123 words long.  123 words and the words man, men or male do not appear once. The full declaration is over 800 words long.  It mentions men and boys once, in reference to ‘sensitising education programmes’. The argument that femicide can also include the killings of women by women because of the influence of patriarchal values is not so convincing that it warrants the absence of the identification of men as perpetrators in a declaration to take action to end femicide that spans over 800 words. The vast majority of women who are killed, are killed by men, whilst it is also true that the vast majority of killers of men are also men, this cannot warrant the failure to name men as the killers of women.  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.  The exclusion of male violence from the declaration on femicide is inexcusable.  Inexcusable because failing to name the agent will not help us to end, or even reduce, fatal male violence against women.  Could failing to name men as the agents of femicide be a patriarchal political act?

I’ve written about the murders of 18 year-old Samantha Sykes and 17 year-old Kimberley Frank in other pieces.  It was their murders by Ahmad Otak that convinced me that a list of women killed by men through domestic violence, simply was not enough. Otak wasn’t the boyfriend of either of them, but of Elisa Frank, Kimberley’s sister.  The murders of Samantha and Kimberley don’t fit the definition of domestic violence, but they’re absolutely about a man trying to exert power, control and coercion in his relationship, reports of their murders have stated that he was attempting to show Elisa that he would allow no-one to stand in the way of them being together. The murders of Kimberley and Samantha were every bit about male violence against women, control and coercion through the display of the power to kill.  I doubt anyone would try to say that the murders of Samantha and Kimberley weren’t femicide.

I’ve been challenged about the inclusion of older women killed in the process of robberies and muggings in my work naming the women killed through male violence.  In 2012, six older women, aged between 75 and 88 were killed by much younger men, aged between 15 and 43 as they were robbed or mugged:

Irene Lawless, 68 who was raped, beaten and strangled by 26 year old Darren Martin. Pornography depicting rape and featuring older women was found on his home computer.

Margaret Biddolph, 78 and Annie Leyland, 88 were strangled and robbed by Andrew Flood, 43, who knew them through his job as a taxi driver. He’d also robbed a third woman elderly woman and threatened to kill her cat.  He was clearly targeting women.

Delia Hughes was 85 when she was killed by 25 year-old Jamie Boult. He struck her repeatedly about the head with a hammer, a hammer he was carrying specifically because he intended to kill.  When Boult was sentenced, Delia’s daughter, Beryl said

“I’ve never seen a dead body before. Seeing my mum her head battered, covered in blood, black and blue with bruises, sitting in a pool of blood, blood splattered on the walls, this is a sight that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The murder of Delia Hughes was not simply a robbery gone wrong.

Similarly, Jean Farrar, 77, was kicked and stamped on by Daniel Barnett, 20, until she was her virtually unrecognisable.  Her  son Jamie was absolutely right when he said 2Daniel Barnett did not need to enter my mother’s house that night. He chose to. Upon finding my mum at home, he easily could have left.  Instead he chose to beat her and throw her against the wall. And when she screamed in pain, he chose to kick her, stamp on her, and jump on her head until she was unable to scream any more.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Jamie Boult and Daniel Barnett’s choices to carry out robberies, that these choices also included choices to inflict fatal violence was not inevitable.

Paula Castle was 85 when she was knocked to the ground when she was mugged by Jiervon Bartlett and Nayed Hoque who were both 15.  They may not have intended to kill her, but they also mugged another woman the next day.  They were clearly targeting women.  

I’ve been told that the killing of elderly women as part of a robbery or mugging is “not femicide”.  I disagree.  These women were killed because they were women.  And if their killings are not femicide, then it is because the term femicide is being misused

Epistemology questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. The acquisition and identification of what constitutes knowledge does not escape structural inequalities of sex, class and race.  Dr Maddy Coy of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University calls for the recognition of practice-based evidence, for example from specialist women’s organisations, to be considered as expertise as worthy as that of academics.  It’s ‘participant observation’ when it’s produced by an academic, it’s ‘anecdotal’ when it comes from a women’s services provider.  Does the objectification of women and the valuing of us on our merits based on the patriarchal fuckability test mean that it is the murders of elderly women that are those most likely to be excluded from the term femicide?  Women talk about the mixed blessing of becoming invisible as we grow older, is that what has happened with the term femicide?  Has sex inequality, particularly in patriarchally infected academia and state bureaucracies, depoliticised them term ‘femicide’ to the point that male violence has been erased from the concept?  Until the hierarchies of knowledge  are eradicated, then the role of anything considered knowledge in upholding structural inequality, is open to question.

How easy is it to escape socially constructed gender? How many of us, if our values were assessed and measured, would be found not to be influenced – at all – by sexism and sexist stereotypes?  Do we know that the population of men who kill women are not more sexist and misogynistic than a control group? When misogyny and sexism are so pervasive, are all but inescapable, can a man killing a women ever not be a sexist act?  A fatal enactment of patriarchy?

If an 800 word declaration on  femicide is the best that policy makers and ‘experts’ can come up with and yet it does not mention the words ‘male violence’ ,  if it does not name men as the agents and beneficiaries of fatal male violence against women, it is time for feminists to take back the term and make sure that the definition is ours.

Footnotes

 1 I have to say ‘suspected’ until a trial has been held or an inquest in the case of a man who has also killed himself.

2 Credited to   Diana E. H. Russell