Intimate-Partner Homicide in Context of Homicide & Suicide

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Considering intimate-partner homicide in the general context of homicide and suicide provides insights into public discourse and public policy. The fatalities dataset provides counts of homicides, suicides, and occupational fatalities in the U.S. by sex from about 1980 to 2011. The homicide counts are subdivided by sex of the victim and the relationship of the victim to the offender. Intimate-partner homicides account for about 10% of all homicides. From 1976 to 2008, the sex ratio of intimate-partner homicide victims fell from 0.82 men per woman to 0.25 men per woman. For the remaining 90% of non-intimate homicides, the sex ratio of homicide victims is about five men per woman. By the mid-2000s, about six times as many women were killing themselves as were being killed by an intimate partner. Intimate-partner violence is a relatively small risk of death for both women and men.

In considering homicide victim-offender data, missing offender data is an important issue. From 1992 to 2011, law enforcement did not identify the perpetrator of about 36% of homicides.^ Moreover, some homicide records that identify the perpetrator do not provide the relationship between the perpetrator and the offender. The online Easy Access tool for the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports includes “unknown offender” as an explicit relationship category. The share of homicides associated with that category rose from about 30% in the early 1980s to about 48% in the late 2000’s. One statistical approach to dealing with homicide cases lacking offender-relationship information is to statistically impute that information based on homicide case similarity. Intimate-partner homicide counts by sex from 1976 to 2005 have been constructed using statistical imputation for missing offender data. Those series have been extended to 2008 using scaled data on intimate-partner homicides without imputation for missing offender-relationship data.

Consistent with relative lack of public concern about violence toward men, official statistical publications reporting intimate-partner homicide have favored reporting percentages of intimate-partner homicides by sex. While the first annual New York State Domestic Violence Dashboard (2007) reported that intimate-partner homicides accounted for 9% of all homicides, by 2009 that contextual statistic had been dropped from the report. The 2009 report provided the following statistics:

In 2009, there were 15 intimate partner murder-suicides in New York State. (DCJS)

In 2009, females were the victims in 76% of the intimate partner homicides in New York State (68 of 89). (DCJS)

Nationally, nearly four men commit suicide for every woman who commits suicide. A large share of the intimate-partner suicide victims were undoubtedly men. By 2011, the New York State Domestic Violence Dashboard was reporting a more tendentious statistic:

In 2011, 44% of female homicide victims aged 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner; 4% of male homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner. (DCJS)

That’s a popular presentation of intimate-partner homicide statistics. For example, a Bureau of Justice Statistics report on homicides, published in 2011, includes a figure labeled “Homicides of intimates, by sex of victim, 1980-2008.” The reported figures are percentages of homicide by sex, e.g. 45% for women in 2008, compared to 5% for men.^ But nine times as many women weren’t victims of intimate-partner homicide; about four times as many were. Focusing on the share of intimate homicides in total homicides by sex obscures relevant statistical context: compared to women, more than three times as many men are victims of homicide overall. The subsequent Bureau of Justice Statistics report on homicides eliminated reporting of intimate-partner homicides.^

Intimate-partner violence against women at the workplace is less quantitatively significant than intimate-partner violence against women in general. A recent scholarly work on intimate-partner homicides of women at the workplace intoned:

Reducing the prevalence of IPV {intimate-partner violence} remains a public health priority; however, how to best protect IPV victims while in the workplace remains unclear. Thus, research should be undertaken to better understand the segue between IPV and the victim’s work such that effective interventions can be developed to assist both employees and employers on how to deal with the threat of intimate partner homicide and its consequences to not only the victim, but also her work organization.^

This study found that between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were killed at the workplace by an intimate partner.^ During that period, 31,257 men and 2,527 women suffered occupational fatalities. During that period, 157,639 men and 41,377 women committed suicide. Intimate-partner violence against women, like terrorists attacks, makes for sensational stories. At least in part due to media effects and scholars’ self-interests, the public greatly misunderstands relative risks. Sensationalized concern that those you love are going to kill you is highly corrosive to human and social flourishing.

In general, public discourse obscures injuries to men and supports criminalization of men. Comprehensive data on homicide, suicide, and occupational fatalities by sex makes that anti-men gender bias apparent.

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