One way to deconstruct these myths is to counter fear with facts. Social scientists and women’s safety advocates have worked tirelessly to debunk the falsehoods surrounding violence against women. This study is an attempt to aid this effort while responding to persistent and misleading gun lobby propaganda.
When Men Murder Women presents the truth about murders committed against women by analyzing 1996 Supplemental Homicide Report data reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.1 This is the first analysis of the 1996 data on female homicide victims to offer breakdowns of cases in every state, and the first to rank the rate of female homicide by state.
This study examines only those instances involving one female homicide victim and one male offender. This is the exact scenario that generates such fear, and that is distorted by the gun lobby to promote gun ownership among women – the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman. There are also methodological reasons for this choice, which are more fully explained in the Appendix.
In 1996, there were 2,129 females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents that were reported to the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report. These highlights of the study, expanded upon in the next section, dispel many of the myths:
- 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).
- More than a thousand female victims were wives or intimate acquaintances2 of their killers – over half of all cases where the victim knew the offender (56 percent).
- There were 398 women shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance during the course of an argument – more than one woman murdered every day of the year.
- More female homicides were committed with firearms (56 percent of cases) than with all other weapons combined. Of the homicides committed with firearms, almost three quarters (74 percent) were committed with handguns.
- In 84 percent of all cases where circumstance could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony – such as rape or robbery.
1) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) collects basic information on serious crimes from participating police agencies and records supplemental information about the circumstances of homicides in its unpublished Supplemental Homicide Report (SHR). Submitted monthly, supplemental data consists of the age, sex, and race of both victims and offenders; the types of weapons used; the relationship of victims to offenders; and the circumstances of the murders. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, supplemental data are provided on only a subset of homicide cases. Additionally, SHR data are updated throughout the year as homicide reports are forwarded by state UCR programs.
2) Intimate acquaintance is defined as a common law husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend.