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Intimate-Partner Homicide and Suicide

Richard Davis

By Richard Davis

All truth are easy to understand once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

On October 13, 2009, a columnist for the Boston Globe writing about domestic violence noted that Dan Walsh, the CEO of the ROSE fund said, “It’s an issue that most people know little about.” A female domestic violence victim in the column is quoted as saying, “The fact that this is somehow characterized as a ‘women’s issue’ is nuts.” If you read the column you may discover just how right they really are.

My research paper about domestic violence-related deaths explains why so many people continue to know so little about domestic violence, which is not merely a women’s issue since it impacts all of us.

The 110th Congress passed H.Res. 590 proclaiming that the House of Representatives is concerned with raising awareness about domestic violence and its devastating effects on families and communities. However, the resolution wrongly and exclusively mentions males as offenders while ignoring victims and female perpetrators.

Staffers for our elected representatives need to learn and understand about the goals and objectives of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). One specific goal is to provide decision makers, public policy makers, program planners, and domestic violence interveners with more complete information about domestic violence related deaths. Criminal justice and related suicide data leave no doubt men kill other men and themselves far more often than they kill women.

The hyperlink to the research paper in the second paragraph above contains detailed information about homicides and homicide-suicides reported by the NVDRS for 2005.

The 2006 NVDRS data documents 559 intimate-partner homicide incidents which accounted for 616 deaths, as reported by the 16 states submitting data. There were 370 female and 246 male intimate-partner homicides. Of the 5831 offenders a little more than 3 of 4 (77.9%) are male. However, the gender of the offender does not alter the fact that approximately 4 of every 10 intimate-partner homicide victims are male.

The 2006 NVDRS data also documents that of those 616 intimate-partner related homicides 166 offenders committed suicide, 157 of who were men. Combining the homicides and suicides the total would approximate 379 female and 364 male lives lost in the 16 reporting states.

It is imperative that we understand the risk factors for both victims and offenders in order to develop effective interventions and help family members better understand what might have been done differently to prevent such tragedy.

Table 7 of the 2006 NVDRS shows there were 1,951 male and 452 female suicides precipitated by an intimate-partner problem. That same year there were 26,308 male suicides and 6,992 female suicides. All of which suggests that in 2006, 7,890 male and 2,097 female suicides, approximately 30%, may have been precipitated by an intimate-partner problem.

In 2005 in my home state of Massachusetts, there were 14 female and 75 male reported intimate partner precipitated suicides. The number of female suicides alone matches the total number of male and female 2005 Massachusetts domestic violence homicides.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month during which most domestic violence organizations, institutions, and the media at large showcase violence against women with little or no mention of female offenders or male victims, even though substantially more men may lose their lives from intimate partner violence than women. There is something seriously wrong with that.

Again, I ask Congress and the majority of domestic violence organizations, why male victims and female offenders are minimized or ignored. I recognize that females suffer more sexual and injurious intimate-partner violence than do males, except perhaps for the incarcerated. However, must we wait until males and females are victimized in the same manner and number to be deserving of equal compassion and recognition for their victimization? I think not.

1 There were 583 offenders for 559 incidents because more than one person can be charged for a homicide, which is often referred to as a “joint venture”.


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