More than half of all female murder victims in 2017 were killed by an intimate partner or family member, according to a new study published by the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime. A total of around 87,000 women were killed by homicide worldwide last year, and about 50,000 of them, or 58 percent, were killed by someone close to them. That’s an average of six women every hour.
The study, “Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls,” was part of the UN’s large-scale Global Study on Homicide, which will be released in full in early 2019. These numbers are a marked increase from the last GSH, which showed 47 percent of all female murder victims, or approximately 48,000 women worldwide, were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 2012.
“As this research shows, gender-related killings of women and girls remain a grave problem across regions, in countries rich and poor,” the study says. Africa and the Americas had the highest rates of intimate partner killings of women, the study found, and Europe had the lowest. “While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, killed by strangers, women are far more likely to die at the hands of someone they know.”
Men make up about 80 percent of all homicide victims globally, but women make up 82 percent of all people killed by intimate partners.
The study also found that these killings were not usually spontaneous incidents, but part of a long-standing pattern of escalating abuse. This should sound familiar to Americans who have case after case of the highest profile instances of intimate partner abuse escalating to murder: mass shooters who target their female partners, former partners, or family members, and kill as many innocent bystanders as they can in the process.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of mass shooters in the United States between 2009 and 2016 killed an intimate partner or family member as part of their attack. This connection has gotten increased media attention in recent years, but restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers are still narrowly interpreted and insufficiently enforced.
“According to the study, tangible progress in protecting and saving the lives of female victims of intimate partner/family-related homicide has not been made in recent years, despite legislation and programmes developed to eradicate violence against women,” the UN’s statement on the Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls study results says. “The conclusions highlight the need for effective crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women that promote victim safety and empowerment while ensuring offender accountability. The study also calls for greater coordination between police and the justice system as well as health and social services and emphasizes the importance of involving men in the solution, including through early education.”