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The Number of Women Murdered by a Partner Is Rising

A new study reveals an increase of gun-related deaths to about four women a day.

Source: janjf93/Pixabay

A recent study examining gender differences and homicide (Fridel, et al.) identified a rise in domestic violence murders since 2014, after 40 years of a steady reduction. In the US, three women used to be killed by an intimate partner each day. The figure is now up—closer to four women a day. At the same time, the number of men who are murdered by an intimate partner has declined.

The means to kill is gun-related and the “why” invites us to recognize how violence against women is closely connected to the growing sentiment of hate promoted by white supremacists.

A woman’s life is safer with someone she doesn’t know than with a man she knows.

According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), intimate partner homicides make up approximately 10% of all US murders and of those, women comprise approximately 70% of those killed. In other words, one out of every 10 people murdered is by an intimate partner, and seven of those ten murdered are women. Research tells us that women are far more likely to be killed by an intimate acquaintance or spouse than by a stranger.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also described as intimate partner violence, is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is applied by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Intimate partner violence includes physical and sexual violence and threats to intimidate and cause harm to another (US Department of Justice, 2015).

Red Flags for Intimate Partner Homicide

Threats of physical violence

In abusive relationships, emotional abuse and varying threats to get a partner to comply too often are commonplace. When the threat escalates to a threat of violence such as “I'll kill you,” research tells us that the woman is then 15 times more likely than other women to be murdered.

Guns in the home

In a home with domestic violence, the presence of a gun such as one might have for self-protection increases the risk of violence taking place. An abused woman in this circumstance is six times more likely than other abused women to be killed (NRCDV).

The “Why” Behind the Rise in Intimate Partner Homicides

Fox and Fridel cite their research findings of increased intimate partner homicides as surprising after so many years of decline. Fox, in his New York Times article (April 12, 2019), attributes the decline to fewer and later marriages, the divorce rate increase, and women having more options to leave bad relationships. He adds, “Women no longer have to pick up a loaded gun to get out of a situation.” Fox stated, “these factors benefitted men, mostly, as the number of deaths among them dropped steadily.”

Yes, the fact that women have better options to leave an abusive relationship might be one of the most serious contributors to the rise of women killed by their intimate partners. It’s well known that women are at greater danger and risk when they leave an abusive relationship—leaving is the biggest threat to the abuser’s power and control. When women feel more supported and empowered with helpful resources, they can choose to stand up to the abuse and take steps to leave.


The mainstreaming of white supremacy and domestic violence are closely connected. A recent New York Times article, “A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women,” reported, “The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them—other than access to powerful firearms—is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online.” (Bosman, et al, Aug. 10, 2019).

In 2018, the findings of a report by the Anti-Defamation League titled, “When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy” found that the hatred of women is frequently an accession into the white supremacist world. The report identified that the cultural changes and attention to gender equality in progressive politics emboldened some men to choose to follow the far-right, white supremacist movements that hold women to strong traditional gender roles. (Salon, H. D. Parton, August 2019).

When we see media coverage that shows women overtly devalued by men, particularly by a man in the highest position of power in our country, it’s not hard to imagine a fueling of misogynist viewpoints that then places an already vulnerable woman in an abusive relationship at greater risk for violence.

Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains:

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.

The passage of VAWA in 1994 and its reauthorization in 2000, 2005 and 2013, has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking have been able to access services, and a new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate.

In fact, fewer people have experienced physical domestic violence and the rate of intimate partner violence has declined, until recently.

This year, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act with stricter provisions regarding domestic abusers and gun ownership.

One important provision to the House Bill is closing the so-called “boyfriend loop.” In the 1990s, the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban passed by Congress prevented someone convicted of domestic violence from purchasing and owning a firearm. This ban only applied to people living together, or did live together, or have children together. With a boyfriend as the abuser, without living together, marriage, or a child together, there were no firearm restrictions. This change in the law will ensure greater protection for women.

Another important provision to the House Bill cites a person with a restraining order or convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a domestic partner will not be allowed to purchase a gun.

As it stands, the NRA (National Rifle Association) strongly opposes the legislation. The Senate received the House Bill April 10, where it currently sits unaddressed.

What to do?

If you know you are at risk, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

© Lambert.


Fridel, E.E. & Fox, J.A. “Gender Differences in Patterns and Trends in US Homicide, 1976-2017.” Violence and Gender, Vol 6, Issue 1, March 2019.