Without effective early intervention, domestic violence can escalate in severity and lead to death. When domestic violence results in homicide, it is often a reflection of the community's failure to recognize the severity and potential lethality of the problem, and to address its critical role early intervention.

When victims are killed

When victims are killed by their abusers, it frequently occurs after they have been separated from them or have taken other action to end the relationship. Since society continues to question why women remain in abusive relationships, it is essential to consider how dangerous and difficult it often is for victims to leave abusive partners. Many victims stay because of a reasonable fear that they will suffer severe injury or death if they attempt to end the relationship.

Unfortunately, when batterers murder their partners these tragedies are usually portrayed as unintentional "crimes of passion" caused by the man's intense love for the woman and inability to live without her. Murder is, however, the ultimate expression of the batterer's need to control the woman's behavior.

Available statistics present a chilling picture of the potential lethality of male violence against their female partners.

FBI data indicate that 30 percent of female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.

In-depth research on all one-on-one murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases from 1980-84 found that more than one half of female victims were killed by male partners.

Victims Who Kill

Research shows that when victims kill it is much more likely to be self-defense than when abusers perpetrate homicide. Victims who resort to homicide have often tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to obtain protection from their abusers. If the community fails to help ensure a victim's safety through law enforcement and other systems, it runs the risk that lives will be lost.

A Police Foundation study in Detroit and Kansas City found that in 85 to 90 percent of "partner" homicides, police had been called to the home at least once during the two years preceding the incident; in more than half of these cased they had been called five times or more.

A Cook County (Illinois) Dept. of Corrections study of the Chicago women's prison found that 40 percent of inmates incarcerated for murder or manslaughter had killed partners who repeatedly assaulted them. These women had sought police protection at least five times before resorting to homicide.

A California state prison study found that 93 percent of women who had killed their mates had been battered by them; 67 percent of these women indicated the homicide resulted from an attempt to protect themselves or their children.

In reality, only a very small percent of victims kill their abusers to end the violence. Most suffer in silence or are unable to leave the relationship. Several studies have attempted to learn why a small percent of battered women resort to homicide. These studies have found that battered women who kill in self-defense:

  • suffer frequent and severe abuse
  • are victims of often brutal sexual assault
  • are frequently threatened with death, especially if they attempt to leave
  • are caught and beaten if they leave the abuser
  • suffer severe psychological abuse, such as being beaten in front of others or being forced to watch the batterer kill a pet
  • are socially isolated and often imprisoned in their homes
  • Studies have found that many women have killed their abusers to protect their children from physical or sexual abuse.

Taken from akhopecenter.org Nov. 2007