Homicide and Domestic Violence

Share this:
At a community engagement event, a candle flickers for all 16 Hmong women and child victims described in Shattered Lives. Men and boys come stand by each candle, read out the story of each victim’s killing, then blow out the candle…a deep silence falls across the room. 

Who gets killed?

The answer to this question is crucial to understanding the struggles of battered women to survive their abusive relationships and to protect the safety of their children, family and friends.

Globally, more than 35% of all murders of women are reported to be committed by an intimate partner.
– WHO: Femicide Report (2012)

In the U.S., 55% of all homicides are IPV-related.
– CDC: Homicides of Women & IPV (2017)

Who did the killing?

This question reminds us who is responsible for these deaths; bringing into sharp focus the relationships that batterers hijack for the final time when they transition from abusers to killers.

Contrary to media and public opinion, domestic violence related homicides are not “crimes of passion” where killers suddenly “snapped,” but are by and large, carefully executed plans that involve deliberation, planning, and extensive monitoring/stalking of victims.

Homicides in API families

A national study by the CDC analyzed 236 homicides of API women, finding that:

  • 58% of cases with known causes were IPV related.
  • Of the IPV related homicides, 81% of perpetrators were the victim’s current intimate partner, and 10% were a former intimate partner.

– CDC: Homicides of Women & IPV (2017)

160 Asian homicide cases involving domestic violence, from a six-year period, resulted in 226 fatalities, of which 184 were homicide victims and 42 perpetrator suicides. In these cases:

  • 83% of perpetrators were men, 14% were women, and 3% were unknown.
  • 78% of victims were women and girls, 20% were men and boys, and 2% were unknown.
  • Intimate partners — male or female current, estranged, or ex-partners — were the largest group of victims (68%).
  • Children were the second largest group of victims (12%).
  • Perpetrators’ in-laws and parents of his girlfriend were the third largest group of victims (9%).
  • Over one third (60) of the 160 non-fatal child victims were on the premises during the killing of their mothers or other family members.

– Shattered Lives: Homicides, Domestic Violence, and Asian Families (2010)

Our Work: Understanding Community-Generated Risk Factors

In general, assessing batterer-generated risks (such as suicidality, unemployment, increased sexual violence) and system-generated risks (such as failure to provide interpreters to victims with limited English proficiency) is at the core of domestic violence related homicide prevention methods and tools. However, community-generated and/or family-generated risks increase endangerment levels because they can elevate batterer- and systems-generated risks. The Institute is making a unique contribution to the field by identifying how family- and community-generated risks are implicated in intimate homicides, familicides, contract and/or honor killings, and endangering non-intimates such as friends and family.

For Asian immigrant and refugee women, community or family-generated risks include violent and credible threats by male and female in-laws, blocking victims from seeking help by threatening them with deportation and/or loss of home and children, adding to the batterer’s victim-blaming tactics, arranging a contract killing (in her home country), and prohibiting and ostracizing abused women from leaving or seeking divorce. In some communities, e.g., this can include making it known that separated/divorced women will not be buried by the batterer’s family even if he kills her – given the importance of burial rituals, such practices put women at elevated risk for staying in abusive situations despite escalating danger.

Resources on Domestic Violence Related Homicide

Other Resources

Centers for Disease Control: Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence, United States, 2003-2014 (2017)

Danger Assessment: a tool that helps advocates and clients determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner.

National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women (NCDBW): a technical assistance resource and advocacy center for battered women charged with crimes related to their abuse with aims to increase justice for — and prevent further victimization of — arrested, convicted, or incarcerated battered women.

National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative: provides technical assistance, training and resources for the reviewing of domestic violence related deaths with the underlying objectives of preventing them in the future, preserving the safety of battered women, and holding accountable both the perpetrators of domestic violence and the multiple agencies and organizations that come into contact with the parties.

VAWnet: Special Collection on Intimate Partner Homicide Prevention (2016)

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV): Washington State Fatality Review Reports

World Health Organization: Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women: Femicide (2012)