For Release: Wednesday, April 30, 1997
Victims Knew Their Attacker in 90 Percent of Cases
Attack Was Not Crime Related in 94 Percent of Cases
Two Thirds of Victims Killed with Guns
A new analysis of unpublished Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data of female homicide victims in Florida released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reveals that women in Florida are most often killed by people they know, usually an intimate, in a non-felony situation. The VPC analysis reviewed all 250  cases of female homicide in Florida for 1995 using unpublished data from the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report. In cases where the relationship between victim and offender could be determined , nine out of 10 female victims were killed by an attacker they knew. In only 10 percent of cases where the attacker was identified were the victims killed by strangers. Nearly all of the female homicides were not felony-related (94 percent). Female victims were most often killed by their husbands (33 percent). Husbands used guns to kill their wives in seven out of every 10 homicides (72 percent).
Sue Glick, VPC health policy analyst states, “Women are most often murdered by people they know armed with guns. Recognizing the documented role firearms play in escalating domestic violence to homicide, these numbers are just the latest proof that guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix for women.” Research on domestic violence has consistently revealed that a gun in the home is a key contributor to the escalation of nonfatal spouse abuse to homicide. A 1992 study in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) revealed that domestic assaults involving firearms are 12 times more likely to result in death than domestic assaults involving knives, physical force, or any other means.
Key findings of the new VPC analysis are:
- Almost all females were killed by someone they knew. In cases where the attacker was identified (138 of 250 cases), 90 percent involved victims who knew their attacker (124 of 138 cases). Victims were most often killed by their husbands (46 of 138 cases or 33 percent), who most often used guns (33 of 46 cases or 72 percent). In only 10 percent of cases where the attacker was identified (14 of 138 cases), were the victims killed by strangers.
- Female homicides were rarely felony-related. In cases where circumstances of the homicide could be determined (217 of 250 cases), 94 percent (203 of 217 cases) were not felony-related (the killing did not occur in conjunction with the commission of another crime such as robbery or rape). Of the 203 homicide cases that were not felony-related, nearly a quarter (48 of 203 cases or 24 percent) involved lover’s triangles that escalated to murder.
- Most females were murdered with guns. Of the victims killed with weapons that could be identified (184 of 259 victims), two thirds (121 victims or 66 percent) were killed with guns. Female victims of firearms homicide were most often killed with handguns (83 of 121 females or 69 percent). Like overall homicide, in cases where the attacker could be identified (87 of 118 cases), most firearms-related homicide against females occurred among people who knew each other (80 of 87 cases or 92 percent). Female victims of firearm homicides were most often killed by their husbands (33 of 118 cases or 28 percent). Almost all firearm-related female homicide cases were not felony-related (113 of 118 cases or 96 percent).
- Most female intimates were shot and killed in lover’s triangles. In 1995 there were 74 females identified as related to their assailants as wives, ex-wives, common-law wives, and girlfriends murdered in Florida. Most of these women were shot and killed (53 of 74 victims or 72 percent). Of the women who were killed with guns (53 victims), 38 victims (72 percent) were killed with handguns. Slightly more than half of wives, ex-wives, common-law wives, and girlfriends who were shot and killed (53 victims) died in lover’s triangles that escalated to murder (27 of 53 victims or 51 percent).
Additional information on women and firearms violence as well as other firearm issues can be obtained from the Violence Policy Center’s OnLine Resource Center located at http://vpc.org.
- Seven of the 250 homicide cases involved at least two victims making the total number of victims 259
- The FBI female homicide data from Florida reported that the relationship of victim to offender could be determined in 138 of 250 cases. According to the July 1992 Journal of Trauma study, “Men, Women, and Murder: Gender Specific Differences in Rates of Fatal Violence and Victimization,” local law enforcement agencies generally submit case reports early in the course of their investigation, sometimes before the identity of the offender is known. Although one might assume that most initially unsolved homicides would eventually be determined to have been committed by a stranger, follow-up data from one large metropolitan police jurisdiction (Los Angeles, California) suggests that a substantial number turn out to involve an acquaintance or relative of the victim.