Recently a friend of mine was killed in a murder-suicide by her husband. They were in the middle of what everyone thought was an amicable divorce. Not once did she ever tell her friends or her family that she had been in any way abused by her husband or that she was scared for her life or the lives of her children. In the minds of her family and friends this violent act came out of nowhere; however, research will tell us this is not the case. There were warning signs that could have saved her life had she been aware.
Here are some awakening facts. (I am only going to talk about statistics involving women, but intimate partner violence (IPV) affects both sexes in both straight and gay relationships.)
- On average, each day, three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. (Intimate Partner Violence Facts and Research, American Psychological Association.)
- In female homicides between 2003 and 2014, 55% were IPV related. In 93 percent of those cases, the culprit was a current or former romantic partner. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Rep 2017; 66:741–746.)
- The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. (American Journal of Public Health, July 2003.) In households with a history of domestic violence, the risk increases 2,000%. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)
- Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. (Intimate Partner Violence Facts and Research, American Psychological Association.)
- Domestic violence is correlated with higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, April 2014.)
- A ten-city study found about one-fifth of the female IPV victims who had a restraining order were killed within 2 days of the order being issued; about one-third were killed within a month. Nearly half of those with a restraining order had been protected by multiple orders. (Injury Prevention, 2008 Jun; 14(3):191-5.)
- A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders. (American Journal of Public Health, March, 2014.)
- 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder-suicides are female. (Violence Policy Center American Roulette Murder-Suicide in the United States, Fourth Edition.)
Commonalities of Perpetrators
- Substance abuse (drugs and/or alcohol)
- Possession of a firearm
- Depression/suicidal ideation of abuser
- Materially motivated (wealth/lifestyle retention – fear of loss of image/assets/status due to divorce)
- Prior history of violence
- Less fear of legal consequences
- Family history of domestic violence exposure in childhood
- Prior domestic violence in the relationship
- Depression/suicidal ideation
- Recent break up of relationship
- Recent protective order/restraining order
- Firearms available
- Sudden loss of interest in things that once made your partner happy, like others, social media, responsibilities, hobbies, etc.
What can I do for myself?
- Contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.
- Prepare a safety plan with the help of a professional organization or professional counselor.
- Remove weapons from the household.
- Take pictures of injuries, keep a journal of violent events, see a doctor to treat injuries.
- Set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
- File for a protective order/restraining order, but know this is only a piece of paper and the danger is still present.
- Leave the situation first, get to a safe, secret location, then tell your partner.
What can I do for my friends?
- Help them develop a safety plan.
- Remove weapons from the household.
- Encourage them to talk to professionals who can provide help and guidance.
- Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.
Resources for More Information
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN
- Sojourner Center
The statistics are staggering, and while we continue to train women to protect themselves based on stranger violence outside the home, we must educate them on the dangers of sleeping with the enemy.