New Study Shows Murders of Women Typically Involve Domestic Violence and Guns

For Release:  Wednesday, September 30, 1998

Debunks “Stranger in the Alley” Myth Promoted by Gun Lobby
Includes First State-by-State Ranking of Female Homicide Rates

A new report from the Violence Policy Center, When Men Kill Women: An Analysis of Homicide Data, offers the first-ever comparative ranking of each state’s female homicide rate and debunks many of the myths surrounding fatal violence against women. The study is set for release on Wednesday, September 30, to coincide with the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

The state with the highest rate of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender cases reported for 1996 was Nevada, followed by Delaware, South Carolina, Louisiana, and North Carolina (see table below).

Homicides against women are surrounded by mythology and sensationalism that suggests women are typically murdered by a depraved rapist or mugger who jumps from a dark alley or breaks into a home. The firearms industry and the gun lobby are particularly enthusiastic in perpetuating these images as part of their advertising and rhetoric.

In fact, the study demonstrates, these frightening scenarios are the least common. Instead, homicides involving one female victim and one male attacker are most frequently the result of domestic violence, most often using a gun.

Number of Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/Single Offender Homicides and Rates by State, 1996, Ranked by Rate

Top Ten States



Number of Homicides Homicide Rate per 100,000
1 Nevada 27 3.44
2 Delaware 12 3.23
3 South Carolina 58 3.03
4 Louisiana 66 2.93
5 North Carolina 100 2.66
6 Virginia 87 2.56
7 Alabama 55 2.48
8 Georgia 93 2.47
9 Kentucky 44 2.20
10 Texas 210 2.17

“We have to counter fear with facts. The gun lobby cynically stokes fear as a way to sell handguns to women,” said VPC Health Policy Analyst Susan Glick, the study’s author. “This study shows that the most common threat women face is not some knife-wielding stranger intent on rape or mugging, but someone she knows, most frequently her husband or boyfriend, armed with a gun.”

The study, and the state rankings, consider only supplemental data on homicides reported by state and local law enforcement officials to the FBI for 1996 in which one male attacker killed one female victim. These cases are the most similar to the prevailing myth about fatal violence against women.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • More than 12 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,866) than were killed by male strangers.
  • There were 398 women killed with a gun 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 than with all other weapons combined (56 percent of cases). Of the homicides committed with firearms, almost three quarters (74 percent) were committed with handguns.



About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
(202) 822-8200 x104