Eliminating Domestic Abuse – The Femicide Census
Emma Hopkins Jones
The Law Of… ending domestic abuse
Every year, more than 100,000 people in the UK are at a high risk of being killed or seriously injured due to domestic abuse.
When you look more closely at the gender of those who have experienced domestic abuse and lost their lives at the hands of another, a disturbing pattern emerges. Why is it that the majority of individuals who have suffered from domestic abuse are women?
Our Emma Hopkins Jones, Partner for Simpson Millar's Family Law team, looks at how a new, groundbreaking initiative being launched by Women's Aid and Karen Ingala Smith plans to put an end to domestic abuse.
Stopping Abuse From Going "Unexamined, Unanswered and Ultimately Unstopped" – The Femicide Census
Femicide is a term that's been used to define the murder of women and girls because of their gender, and has also been used to describe the killing of women by intimate partners or family members.
Started by Karen Ingala Smith, the Femicide Census aims to expose the sheer scale of domestic abuse against women and girls in the UK and identify why so many women are the targets of such abuse.
An important part of the purpose of the census is to gain new – and deeper – insights into the nature and causes of domestic violence.
Rather than treating every case of domestic abuse as a separate, isolated incident, the census will take a wider view of domestic abuse as a whole by examining data on the hundreds of women and girls who have been killed by men.
936 Women Were Killed By Men Between 2009 And 2015
The Census involved gathering and analysing as much information as possible about the women and girls who were killed as well as those responsible for taking their lives, including:
- The names of the women and their killers, as well as their age, occupation, and health status
- The incident and the date of the murders
- Information about the relevant police force areas
- The weapons used and the recorded motives
- Details on whether these women had any children, and the ethnicities of the women and their countries of birth
Statistics from the Femicide Census, which includes information on almost 1,000 women killed since 2009, paint a shocking picture of the reality of domestic abuse:
- 936 women were killed by men between 2009 and 2015
- 598 of these women were killed by their partners – including both current and former partners
- 75 women were killed by their sons
- 152 women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse were killed in the first year after their separation
- 106 of the women killed by their ex-partners had a child under the age of 18 and 8 of these women were pregnant when they were killed
- 218 cases of femicide were committed by men who weren't related to their victims – this includes friends colleagues, clients, neighbours, and strangers
- 31 women were killed in sexually motivated attacks – 20% of these victims knew the perpetrator, whilst 10% of these acts were committed by strangers
- 426 cases involved a sharp instrument being used as the murder weapon, and 290 of these cases were domestic intimate-partner femicides
- 149 women aged over 66 years were killed in England and Wales between 2009 and 2015
The report also reinforced the fact that "Coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse; it is where a perpetrator exerts control over a victim's life through a system of intimidation tactics (e.g. limiting her personal freedoms, surveillance and the threat of violence)."
Commenting on the project, Polly Neate, the chief executive of Women's Aid said: "The killing of women, especially when women are killed by an abusive partner or ex-partner, is often reported as an isolated incident. There is an abject failure to look at patterns of behaviour."
"We accept fatal male violence as an inevitability, not a conscious choice that a man has made to end a woman's life. This dangerous culture needs to change. We need to learn the lessons. And by viewing these cases of femicide altogether, we can learn."
16 Days Of Action Against Domestic Abuse
As part of this initiative, Women's Aid have launched 16 Days of Action, during which they will expose some of the myths around domestic abuse whilst also raising awareness of the Istanbul Convention.
"The Istanbul Convention is an international agreement that aims to prevent violence against women", Emma comments.
"It has the objective of making domestic violence and violence against women and girls illegal, whilst making sure that the rights of those who have suffered from abuse are protected. Although the UK government signed the convention in 2012, until it's ratified it can't be put into effect and help protect women and girls."
Whether this document is approved or not will depend on the debate that's due to take place on 16th December 2016.
"Reporting domestic abuse is one of the most difficult things someone can do, and takes an awful lot of courage. Suffering from abuse at the hands of another – especially someone who you care about and who is supposed to care about you – is deeply traumatising and often those who have been targeted are terrified and don't know where to turn."
"No matter how isolated these individuals feel, it's important to remember that the law is there to protect them. The introduction of coercive control laws in 2015 was another step forward in tackling domestic abuse and protecting those who are most vulnerable."
"By supporting projects like the Femicide Census and urging your MPs to approve the Istanbul Convention, we can stamp out the impression that domestic abuse is acceptable or that it should go unreported and unaddressed."
"The action that you take may just help save the lives of women – and men – who find themselves in similar situations."