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Violence and Gender: More on dangerous women 

Friday, June 9, 2017
posted by Douglas Keene

We’ve written a number of times about dangerous women here and our readers (as well as random internet visitors) seem to be fascinated by them. But there is disagreement among those that believe their personal experiences/exposure define reality instead of the actual facts.

For example, we published a post on a prospective research study. The study questioned whether women were sentenced to more time in prison than men who were convicted of the same crimes. A legal blogger known for his moral outrage wrote about the post and asked why in the world we would use our blog to perpetuate a myth that did not fit with his own observations (nor his friends). His readers piled on.

It was odd. First of all, a “prospective study” is investigational and is not meant to be taken as fact. It is a first look to see if it was worth looking into further as full-blown and statistically controlled research.

How dare we report research being introduced by a well-regarded national research firm? Wow. It was a lesson for us in not engaging with angry men (especially those who hide behind pseudonyms) on the internet.

In truth, we don’t apologize for our previous posting, or for this one. We often write about preliminary research studies that raise questions for further examination. That is the heart of science. We often express our views about whether the follow-on research is likely to confirm or refute the original study, and we are not shy about criticizing flaws in experimental design or the researcher’s conclusions. But if there is a conflict between legitimate scientific inquiry and political correctness/personal opinion, there can be no quarter given—scientific inquiry must prevail.

But we digress. Today’s study is a report looking at the forty-year span from 1976 through 2015 and at gender differences in the commission of homicide by both men and women. We want to give you some highlights here of their findings and encourage you to read the full article if you are interested in the facts that are documented rather than internet opinions.

The researchers comment first that gender has not really been studied much in terms of homicide since most homicides are men killing men. However, they say, there are “substantial differences in the trends and patterns of female offending and victimization”. They think the patterns and trends in homicides by women get lost in the sea of men killing people. So they are looking.

Here are some of the differences they found when examining data collected over the past forty years (from the FBIs Supplementary Homicide Reports).

The killing of women (‘femicide’) receives more media coverage but almost 3/4 of homicides in the past forty years have exclusively involved men (as both predator and victim).

Women are much more likely to kill men (78%) than to kill other women.

Males are 10 times more likely to commit murder than women and are victims of homicide nearly 4 times as often as women.

Nearly half of all male murderers are younger than 25 but only 35% of women who kill are younger than 25. (Women are more likely to commit murder when they are middle-aged.)

Men (almost 3/4) tend to rely on guns to kill than women (almost half) with women using what the researchers call “more distant and cleaner” murderous strategies. Women are responsible for more than “40% of homicides involving poison, drugs, drowning and asphyxiation” (the last two categories are especially prevalent when women kill children).

The researchers also describe the drop in females killing their male intimate partners (which has declined almost 60% in the past four decades). They hypothesize that the reduction has occurred due to the “increase in the availability of social and legal interventions, liberalized divorce laws, greater economic independence, as well as a reduction in the stigma of being the victim of domestic violence”. In other words, women have options for behavioral choices in addition to murdering their domestic partner.

The article is based on dry statistics but is a fascinating read if you are interested in different ways men and women kill, whom they kill and how they kill. The authors think the study of why women kill has to be separated out from male-generated homicides in order for these patterns to be seen and thus to develop improved prevention efforts.

Fox, JA Fridel, EE 2017. Gender differences in patterns and trends in US homicide, 1976-2015. Violence and Gender, 4(2).

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