When Men Murder Women offers both national and state-by-state statistics from FBI Supplemental Homicide Report data including charts listing the number and rate of female homicides by state and a chart ranking the states by rate. Data on each state are broken out by: age and race of victim, the type of weapon used, the relationship of victim to offender, and the circumstances of the murder. General findings of the research are summarized below; more details on methodology can be found in the section entitled “Understanding the Statistics” and in the Appendix.
The homicide rate among female victims murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in the U.S. was 1.57 per 100,000. Nevada ranked as the state with the highest homicide rate among female victims by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents (3.44 per 100,000) – more than twice the national average. Nevada was followed by Delaware (3.23 per 100,000) and South Carolina (3.03 per 100,000). There were no female homicides by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents reported in Kansas or Montana in 1996.
Age and Race of Female Homicide Victims
In single female victim/single male offender homicides reported for 1996, 13 percent of the victims were less than 18 years old (283 victims) and eight percent were 65 years of age or older (178 victims). Female murder victims in which race was identified (2,113 victims) included: 1,278 white females, 777 black females, 47 Asian or Pacific Islanders, and 11 American Indian or Alaskan natives. Young women aged 15 to 44 had the highest rates of homicide among all females. Overall, black women were victimized at a rate nearly four times greater than that of white women.
Victim to Offender Relationship
The relationship of victim to offender differs significantly between male and female victims of homicide. Compared to a man, a woman is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member than she is to be murdered by a stranger. More than 12 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,866 victims) than were killed by male strangers (151 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 1996.1 Of victims who knew their offenders (1,866 victims), more than half (1,051 victims or 56 percent) were wives, common law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders.
Female Homicide Victims and Weapons
Firearms – especially handguns – were the most common weapons used by males to murder females in 1996. In cases in which the weapon used in the homicide could be identified (2,023 cases), more than half of all female homicide victims (1,139 victims or 56 percent) were shot and killed with guns – nearly 60 percent by male intimates. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance (669 victims) was more than four times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all other weapons combined (151 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 1996.
In cases where males used firearms to kill females, handguns were clearly the weapon of choice over rifles and shotguns. In 1996 nearly three quarters of female firearm homicide victims (843 of 1,139 victims or 74 percent) were killed with handguns.
Female Homicide Victims and Circumstance
The overwhelming majority of homicides among females by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents in 1996 were not related to a felony crime. Most often females were killed by males in the course of an argument – usually with a firearm. In 1996 there were 1,780 cases in which the circumstance of the homicide between the female victim and male offender in single victim/single offender incidents could be identified. Of these 1,780 cases, 84 percent (1,497 cases) were not related to the commission of another felony.
Nearly two thirds (948 cases or 63 percent) involved arguments between the female victim and male offender – and 557 females (59 percent) were shot and killed with guns during those arguments. According to the Supplementary Homicide Report data, in 1996 there were 398 women shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance in single victim/single offender incidents during the course of an argument – more than one woman murdered every day of the year.
1) These are cases in which the relationship between the victim and the offender could be identified. According to the FBI’s 1996 Supplemental Homicide Report data on females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents, the relationship of victim to offender could be determined in 2,017 of 2,129 cases. In 112 cases the relationship of victim to offender was “unknown,” meaning that the reporting police officer was unable to determine at the scene if the victim and offender knew each other or were strangers. 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) suggest that a substantial number turn out to involve an acquaintance or relative of the victim.