Our homes and neighborhoods are dangerous places for both females and males. Anyone remotely familiar with the criminal justice system understands that the vast majority of homicides, regardless of age or gender, are not committed by strangers. However, despite the constant media reports about female homicide victimization, male homicide victimization is quite common.
Both offenders and victims of homicides can be intimate/family members. The FBI Supplemental Homicide Report (SHR) defines intimate/family members as relatives, step-relatives, in-laws, and common law or ex-spouses. Neither the Federal government nor the states define domestic violence as violence only or primarily against women.
In fact the SHR definition of intimate/family members is similar to that of the majority of the states. In 1980 the SHR documents that 2,094 males and 1,609 females were murdered by a family/intimate. In 1990, it was 1,600 males and 1,427 females and in 2,000, it is 928 males and 1,133 females. The yearly decrease totals replicate the yearly decrease in total number of homicides in general
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the United States, documents that females account for 24% of the total number of all homicides victims. Of that 24%, approximately 30% of females are murdered by a husband or intimate partner Thus, female intimate partners who are murdered by their spouse or intimate partner account for approximately 7% of the total number of homicides.
The DOJ report Family Violence Statistics documents that females account for 58% of all family murder victims and males account for 42%.
As noted above data documents that more females than males are the victims of family homicides. However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics documents that homicides account for less than ˝ of 1% (0.3) of all family violence between 1998 and 2002.
Regardless of what many domestic violence advocates and some researchers want the general public to believe, domestic violence homicides are not representative of domestic violence incidents in general. In fact homicides are not representative of crime in general.
The is no doubt that the homicides of intimate partner females are tragedies, however, as the data above documents these homicides do not represent an epidemic that is sweeping the nation
In the National Institute of Justice study, Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities: Trends, Context, and Policy Implications (pdf) the researchers report that female homicide victimization occurred at such low rates relative to male homicide victimization that the changes in female victimization accounted for little of the overall fluctuation of the homicide trends.
The majority, but certainly not all, of the domestic violence homicides are committed by people who have histories of criminal behavior, long histories of violent and aberrant behavior inside and out side the family, were physically and/or sexually abused as children and/or suffer from alcohol or substance abuse. These murderers do not represent the population in general. In fact murderers are not representative of criminals in general.
Those who do not have histories of criminal behavior and commit a smaller number of domestic violence homicides also do not represent the population in general. They often appear to be people who display extreme narcissistic behavior, have alcohol or drug problems, display pathological jealousy, become extremely depressed at the prospect of losing their partner and blame their intimate partners for the loss of their economic standing or professional and personal esteem.
Tragically nationwide, approximately one out of every four domestic violence homicides also involves a suicide. On the last day of each year in Massachusetts the Boston Globe lists the names of people who died as a result of domestic violence. Inexplicably each year the Globe excludes domestic violence suicides as lives lost as the result of domestic violence. Many of the family members of those who murder and then take their own lives may respectfully disagree.
The editors of the Globe do acknowledge that the homicide/suicides involve many people who feel helpless and hopeless and are profoundly troubled. Despite the fact that they took the lives of others along with their own, there should be no doubt that both deaths in these murder/suicides are the direct results of domestic violence.
The SRC documents that between 1980 and 2000, 28,586 females were the victims of a family/intimate homicide. During that same period there were 31,509 male victims. There has been a yearly decrease in intimate/family homicides during this period for both males and females, ironically more so for males than females. The drop in most of these homicides seems to be reflective of the steady decrease in the total number of homicides nationwide.
All family/intimate, acquaintance or stranger homicides, regardless of gender, are tragedies. Advocates and the Federal government do themselves no justice by picking and choosing which victims they deem are the “primary victim” and who, because of data differentials, should receive more empathy than others.
Richard L. Davis served in the United States Marine Corps from 1960 to 1964. He is a retired lieutenant from the Brockton, Massachusetts police department. He has a graduate degree in liberal arts from Harvard University and a second in criminal justice from Anna Maria College. He is a member of the International Honor Society of Historians and the American Society of Criminology. He is a college instructor for Quincy College at Plymouth, MA in Criminology, Criminal Justice and Domestic Violence. He is the vice president for Family Nonviolence, Inc. in Fairhaven, MA. He is also the vice president for the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women.
He is an independent consultant for criminal justice domestic violence policies, procedures, and programs. He is the author of Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies by Praeger publishers and has written numerous articles for newspapers, journals, and magazines concerning the issue of domestic violence. He has columns concerning domestic violence at http://www.policeone.com, and http://www.nycop.com, is a distance learner instructor in Introduction to Criminal Justice and Domestic Violence for the Online Police Academy and has a website. He and Kim Eyer have a domestic violence website The Cop and the Survivor.
He lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts with his wife and the youngest of five children. He experienced domestic violence professionally for 21 years as a police officer and personally as a child and as an adult. In his retirement he continues to use his education, experience, and training to help the children, women, and men who have had to endure violence from those who profess to love them. He may be reached here.