A common trope perpetuated through pop culture murder mysteries is that women are killed by strangers, usually when walking home alone at night or in shadowy alleyways. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report signifying that, if the nation is going to be effective at targeting violence against women, communities must begin at home.
Over half of all murdered women are killed in acts of intimate partner violence, and most of these deaths are caused by a current romantic partner, according to an analysis of the report by The Atlantic.
"More than 3,500 girls and women died by homicide in the U.S. in 2015 alone," Emiko Petrosky, MD, of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control explained to MedPage Today. "Homicide was the fifth leading cause of death for women between the ages of 18 and 44."
The CDC investigated female homicides across 18 states from the years 2003 to 2014, revealing a tragic 10,018 deaths in total. Of those murdered women, 55 percent were killed in an incident related to intimate partner violence. In 79.2 percent of those cases, the victim was slain by a current romantic partner, and in 14.3 percent by a former lover. Less than 16 percent of women in the cases studied were killed by strangers, suggesting that a frequent assumption about what constitutes danger for a woman is dangerously skewed.
Most of the victims were under 40 years old, and a heartbreaking 15 percent of them were pregnant at the time of their murders. The report also shows that black women had the highest rate of death by any homicide, with 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Indigenous women followed at 4.3 out of 100,000, Hispanic women at 1.8, white women at 1.5, and Asian and Pacific Islander women at 1.2.
It's not a revelation, but the study did find that guns are the most common weapon used in intimate partner murders. Approximately 54 percent of the victims were killed by a firearm, which is concerning considering the lengths conservative lawmakers will go to preserve an extreme interpretation of American's Second Amendment rights.
Past studies have clearly shown the correlation between female homicide and lax gun control laws and how, with a gun in the house, the chances of a woman being killed by an angry lover increase dramatically. In fact, in about a third of the female homicide cases the CDC studied, the couple had argued shortly before the murder.
Outside of gun policy reform on a state and national level, the CDC advocates training first responders on how to evaluate a domestic abuse situation for indicators the relationship might escalate to homicide. Their assessment can help guide the woman to a safety net of advocacy groups and intervention organizations before it is too late.
Bystander intervention programs are another tool to help train concerned family members, friends, and acquaintances on how to identify causes for alarm and how to respond most effectively. The CDC has found that in many cases intimate partner violence is a matter of life or death, and in that regard, prevention is key.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr user Tafari Anthony