An Analysis of 2020 Homicide Data
Section One: National Data
When Men Murder Women offers both national and state-by-state statistics from FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data including charts listing the number and rate of female homicides by state and a chart ranking each state by rate. For the states with the 10 highest rates of females killed by males, data are broken out by: age and race of victim; type of weapon used; relationship of victim to offender; and, the circumstances of the murder. General findings are summarized below. More detailed data on each of these states can be found in Appendix Two.
In 2020, the homicide rate among female victims murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents nationally was 1.34 per 100,000. For that year, Alaska ranked first as the state with the highest homicide rate among female victims killed by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents. Its rate of 3.43 per 100,000 was two and a half times the national rate. Alaska was followed by Oklahoma (3.28 per 100,000) and Wyoming (2.80 per 100,000). The remaining states with the 10 highest rates, all of which had female homicide victimization rates higher than the national rate, can be found in the chart on the following page. For ranking information for all states that submitted data to the FBI, please see Appendix One.
AGE AND RACE OF FEMALE HOMICIDE VICTIMS
In 2020, for single female victim/single male offender homicides where the age of the victim was reported (2,022 homicides), six percent of the victims were younger than 18 years old (125 victims) and 11 percent were 65 years of age or older (224 victims). The average age of female homicide victims was 40 years old. Homicides in which race was identified (2,004 victims) included: 44 American Indian or Alaskan Native females; 60 Asian or Pacific Islander females; 641 Black females; and, 1,259 white females. Eighty-three percent (1,665 out of 2,004) of the homicides where the race of the female victim and male offender were known were intra-racial.1 Overall, Black females were murdered by males at a rate (2.96 per 100,000) nearly three times as high as white females (1.07 per 100,000). American Indian and Alaskan Native females (1.86 per 100,000) were murdered by male offenders at a higher rate than white females, while Asian and Pacific Islander females were the least likely (0.54 per 100,000) females of any race to be murdered by a male offender. Nationally, the female homicide victimization rate was 1.34 per 100,000. Unfortunately, Hispanic ethnicity could not be determined on a national level because of the inadequacy of reporting and data collection.
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 by a stranger. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 89 percent of female victims (1,604 out of 1,801) were murdered by someone they knew. Eight times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,604 victims) than were killed by male strangers (197 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2020.2 Of victims who knew their offenders, 60 percent (967 out of 1,604) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. (Ex-girlfriends cannot be included in the intimate acquaintance analysis because there is not a separate designation for ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends in the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report relationship category.)
FEMALE HOMICIDE VICTIMS AND WEAPONS
Firearms were the weapon most commonly used by males to murder females in 2020. For homicides in which the weapon could be identified, 61 percent of female victims (1,057 out of 1,735) were killed with a gun. Of the females killed with a firearm, 53 percent were murdered by male intimates. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance (562 victims) was nearly three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined (197 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2020. In homicides where males used firearms to kill females, handguns were clearly the weapon of choice over rifles and shotguns. In 2020, 64 percent of female firearm homicide victims (675 out of 1,057) were killed with handguns.
FEMALE HOMICIDE VICTIMS AND CIRCUMSTANCE
The overwhelming majority of homicides of females by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents in 2020 were not related to any other felony crime. Most often, females were killed by males in the course of an argument—most frequently with a firearm. In 2020 there were 1,550 incidents in which the circumstances of the homicide between the female victim and male offender in single victim/single offender incidents could be identified. Of these, 88 percent (1,364 out of 1,550) were not related to the commission of any other felony.
Of the homicides not related to the commission of another felony, 58 percent (797 out of 1,364) involved arguments between the female victim and male offender. Fifty-six percent (447 out of 797) of the homicides stemming from an argument were committed with guns. In 2020 there were 298 women shot and killed by their husbands or intimate acquaintances in single victim/single offender incidents during the course of an argument.
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- Intra-racial homicides are homicides in which the victim and the offender are of the same race.
- These are homicides in which the relationship between the victim and the offender could be identified. According to the FBI’s 2020 Supplementary Homicide Report data on females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents, the relationship of victim to offender could be determined in 1,801 of 2,059 incidents (87 percent). In 258 homicides the relationship of victim to offender was “unknown,” meaning 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 homicides where the relationship was initially unknown 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 involve an acquaintance or relative of the victim.