Three-quarters of women killed by men in the UK in 2017 knew the perpetrator, according to a report on femicide.
The Femicide Census, conducted by Women’s Aid and the campaigner Karen Ingala Smith, found that of the 139 women known to have been killed by men in the UK last year, 105 (76%) knew their killer. Thirty women were killed by strangers, with 21 of the 30 killed in terrorist attacks.
The report found that 64 of the women, or 46%, were killed by a current or former intimate partner. Another 24 (17%) were killed by a man known to them – such as a colleague, neighbour or friend – while 17 (12%) were killed by a male family member, of whom 10 were killed by their son. The perpetrator’s relationship to the victim could not be established in four cases.
A sharp instrument was used as a weapon in 66 cases, or 47%, while 82 (59%) were killed at home. More than half of women killed by a former partner were killed within the first month of separation; almost 90% of the same subset were killed within the first year of separation.
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For the first time, the Femicide Census collected data on “overkilling”, killings where the force or method used was greater than that required to kill the victim. “Overkilling” was evident in 58 (42%) of the cases.
In one case, a victim was stabbed 175 times, while in others women were “hit 40 times with an axe”, “bludgeoned repeatedly” and “battered virtually beyond all recognition”.
Ingala Smith, the chief executive of the domestic violence charity Nia, said: “The use of excessive violence or desecration after death challenges narratives of momentary loss of control that are especially prevalent in relation to domestic violence.
“Instead it highlights the brutality and misogyny that men bring to their violence against women whether dead or alive and challenges benign rationales given by men which are often accepted and repeated in media coverage of the killings of women.”
Smith said the report challenged widely held assumptions about the nature of violence in society. “The dominant perception of knife crime is one of young men and street violence yet the Femicide Census tells us that 47% of women were killed by knives or sharp objects; in fact, this is the most common method used by men to kill women,” she said.
“It may also surprise some to learn that 40% of women killed by men were aged over 45 and 14% were over the age of 66. Where analyses of violent crime do not look at sex disaggregated data, violence against women continues to be overlooked and made invisible.”
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, called on the government to ensure its domestic abuse bill, due to be published imminently, delivered both the legislation and the resources needed to respond effectively to domestic abuse.
“Time and time again, we hear of cases where a woman has been killed by a man as an ‘isolated incident’; yet the latest Femicide Census report shows yet again that this is not the case,” she said. “The majority of these cases are not isolated incidents. There are too many similarities in the circumstances where women are killed by men.”
The Femicide Census contains information on more than 1,000 women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009, Northern Ireland as of 2015 and Scotland as of 2017. A number of cases of suspected femicide are still under investigation, making it likely that the real 2017 figure is higher than that recorded by the report.
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