When Men Murder Women (1997 Data): The Reality: The Husband or Boyfriend with a Gun

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 1997. Once again, it is the most recent data available. This is the first analysis of the 1997 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 that generates such fear and is distorted by the gun lobby to promote gun ownership among women – the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman.

In 1997, there were 1,920 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 next section, dispel many of the myths propounded by the gun lobby:

  • More than 12 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,689 victims) than were killed by male strangers (137 victims).
  • Almost a thousand female victims (57 percent) were wives or intimate acquaintances4 of their killers – over half of all cases where the victim knew the offender.
  • There were 393 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the course of an argument – more than one woman murdered by their husband or intimate acquaintance every day of the year.
  • More female homicides were committed with firearms (52 percent) than with all other weapons combined. Of the homicides committed with firearms, three quarters (75 percent) were committed with handguns.
  • In 85 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.

2) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) collects basic information on serious crimes from participating police agencies and records supplementary information about the circumstances of homicides in its unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). Submitted monthly, supplementary data consists of the age, sex, race, and ethnicity 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, supplementary 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.

3) In 1997 the state of Florida did not submit any data to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report. In addition, Florida’s Criminal Justice Information Services, which collects UCR data, was not able to supply the Violence Policy Center with the information in a computerized format. As a result, data from the state of Florida are not included in this analysis.

3) Intimate acquaintance is defined as a wife, common-law wife, ex-wife, or girlfriend.
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