This month, The Violence Policy Center, a non-profit which “works to stop gun death and injury through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration,” released a report analyzing all of the homicides in 2016 where a lone man killed a lone woman.
This report is the 21st of its kind; they released the first edition in 1996. The report confirms many previously reported statistics about homicides, and “femicides” particularly; that people are almost always murdered by someone that they know (93 percent of the women in the study were killed by someone that they knew personally), that spouses often kill women, common-law spouses or intimate partners (63 percent), and that guns are usually the murder weapons (56 percent). Disconcertingly, Louisiana ranked second in the nation for femicides per capita, with 58 killings in 2016.
Though the report doesn’t explicitly explore gun violence, the authors note that having a gun is a dangerous factor, that does not make women safer in their residences.
“This is the exact scenario—the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman—that is often used to promote gun ownership among women,” the report notes. “According to reports submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), firearms are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.9 Instead, they are all too often used to inflict harm on the very people they were intended to protect.”
The study notes that according to FBI crime statistics, 45 women used a firearm in 2016 to kill a male attacker in self-defense. However, the same statistics show 14,415 reported homicides in the same year involved guns. Even higher (22,938) is the number of suicides where the victim used a firearm.
Most often, the study found, the homicides began with an argument between the killer and the victim.
Aside from state-by-state data, the authors also looked at femicides by race. The reported statistics found that black women were in more than double the danger of white women. 2.6 black women for every 100,000 were murdered by men, as opposed to 1.03 white women.
The study did not mention violence against trans women, or how “women” were defined in the study. The Human Rights Coalition reports that initial police reports often misgender trans individuals. Trans women, especially trans women of color, are victims of crisis-levels of violence, and their struggles are often under-reported.
Louisiana had the second highest rate of femicides, with 2.42 women killed per 100,000 in 2016 (Alaska has the highest, with 3.40 killings per 100,000 women). The average age of the victims was 34. Sixty-nine percent of these women were fatally injured with a firearm, and 62 percent of the homicides involved an argument between the victim and her killer.
The Violence Against Women Act
As writer and editor Jenn Bentley reported recently, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to expire against the backdrop of the government shutdown. Many programs within New Orleans that support victims of domestic violence receive funding through VAWA grants. VAWA, which was passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized three times in the decades since was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that works to recognize and protect survivors of domestic and sexual violence and stalking and expanded legal powers to prosecute perpetrators. VAWA also funded programs to investigate and prosecute abusers, as well as support critical services for survivors—hotlines, shelters, violence prevention programs and training for allies/advocates. Expansions of the law are aimed to protect Native Americans and members of the LGBT community, and some provisions were added in an attempt to keep those with a record of domestic violence from buying guns. While some grants have already been awarded and will support social services through 2019, others may see funding run out far sooner.
With such a high rate of reported femicides in our state, any little bit of assistance that the Federal government could provide could be crucial. In 1994, VAWA provided national, legal recognition to issues of intimate violence.
How cruel that this piece of legislation should expire, leaving people survivors without critical resources.
In a culture where an argument with a man you are close to can kill you, our country needs every resource possible to effect change.