When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 1998 Homicide Data
Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/Single Offender Incidents
Introduction: Myth vs. Reality
The Myth: The Stranger Lurking in the Alley
Homicides against women are surrounded by an aura of mythology and sensationalism. These supposedly typical scenarios are familiar to us all: a woman is depicted alone and vulnerable, perhaps walking on a dark street or at home asleep. Her attacker, according to this archetype, is a depraved stranger who will rape, rob, and eventually kill her.
The gun industry is particularly enthusiastic in promulgating these images and stoking their attendant fears. After all, the firearms business has a unique stake in reinforcing women's feelings of insecurity: fear sells guns. The gun lobby focuses on the threat of attack by a stranger to promote handguns as self-defense weapons for women. As a result, images of a woman armed with a handgun fending off an attacker abound in gun publications. (For examples, please pictures below.)
These images aim to persuade women that buying a gun will protect them from murderous strangers. Yet firearms�whether in the hands of men or women�are rarely used to kill criminals.1 While stranger attack occurs all too often, it is in fact the most unlikely homicide scenario a woman can expect to face.
Efforts by the gun lobby to equate female homicide with stranger attack not only obscure the reality of violence against women, but also promote the notion that safety is a purely personal obligation. In this view, rejecting this perceived obligation is tantamount to inviting victimization. As a result of such thinking, women who are attacked are often blamed for the violence committed against them.
When Men Murder Women is an annual report prepared by the Violence Policy Center detailing the reality of murders committed against women. The study analyzes the most recent Supplementary Homicide Report data submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.2 The information used for this report is for the year 1998. Once again, it is the most recent data available. This is the first analysis of the 1998 data on female homicide victims to offer breakdowns of cases in the 15 states with the highest female victim/male offender homicide rates, and the first to rank the states by the rate of these female homicides.
This study examines only those instances involving one female homicide victim and one male offender. This is the exact scenario�the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman�that is used by the gun lobby to promote gun ownership among women.
In 1998, there were 1,932 females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents that were submitted to the FBI for its Supplementary Homicide Report.3 These highlights from the report, expanded upon in the following sections, dispel many of the myths propounded by the gun lobby:
The study also, for the first time, analyzes available information on the murders of black and Hispanic females. Not surprisingly, these homicides mirror the trends for women overall: most homicides against women are not committed by strangers, but by men known to the victims.
The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.
All contents � 2000 Violence Policy Center