Annual Violence Policy Center Study Produces Harrowing Information Concerning Black Women, South Carolina

South Carolina ranked fifth in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, with a rate of 2.01 per 100,000, according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2017 Homicide Data.

South Carolina tied for fifth with Tennessee, and has ranked within the top 10 states for the rate of women murdered by men every year since the VPC began tracking this issue in 1998.

Each year the VPC releases this report in advance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. This year, its release comes following the February 2019 expiration of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). A bill to reauthorize VAWA has passed the U.S. House and is awaiting action in the Senate. 

The study uses 2017 data, the most recent year for which information is available. The study covers homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender, and uses data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Report.

The study found that nationwide, 92 percent of women killed by men were murdered by someone they knew and that the most common weapon used was a gun.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Women are most likely to be murdered with a gun wielded not by a stranger but by someone they know. In many instances the murderer is an intimate partner of the victim. It is important to know these facts in order to identify effective strategies to prevent homicides against women. One critical step is for the U.S. Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and pass legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.”

Interim Executive Director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence Karen Abrams states,“We are appalled at the rates at which women continue to be shot and killed by men. But, when it comes to gun violence against women we have policy tools that work. Our grassroots gun violence prevention leaders know this. Which is why they push tirelessly at the state and local levels to pass and strengthen laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. These are solutions that make change happen.”

This is the 22nd edition of When Men Murder Women. From 1996 to 2017, the rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents dropped from 1.57 per 100,000 women in 1996 to 1.29 per 100,000 women in 2017, a decrease of 18 percent. Since reaching its low of 1.08 in 2014, the rate has increased in each of the last three years, with 2017’s rate of 1.29 up 19 percent since 2014.

Below is a table of the states with the 10 highest rates of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2017.

For each of these 10 states, the study offers a detailed summary including: the number of victims by age group and race; the most common weapons used; the victim to offender relationships; and the circumstances of the homicides.

National statistics from the study include the following.

  • Nationwide, 1,948 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2017, at a rate of 1.29 per 100,000. Of the 1,948 female homicide victims, 1,309 were white, 507 were black, 65 were Asian or Pacific Islander, 35 were American Indian or Alaskan Native, and in 32 cases the race of the victim was not identified.
  • Nine out of 10 victims (92 percent) knew their offenders. Of the victims who knew their offenders, 62 percent were wives or other intimate acquaintances of their killers. Nearly 11 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers.
  • Black women are disproportionately impacted by lethal domestic violence. In 2017, black females were murdered by males at a rate of 2.55 per 100,000, more than twice the rate of 1.13 per 100,000 for white women murdered by men.
  • Firearms were the weapons most commonly used by males to murder females in 2017. Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 57 percent of female victims were shot and killed with a gun. Of the homicides committed with guns, 69 percent were killed with handguns.
  • The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance was nearly four times the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined.  
  • The overwhelming majority of these homicides were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. Nationwide, for homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 82 percent of the homicides were not related to the commission of another felony. Most often, females were killed by males in the course of an argument between the victim and the offender.

The study calculates the rate of women murdered by men by dividing the total number of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents by the total female population and multiplying the result by 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method of comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

In addition to supporting renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, the study urges that state legislators adopt laws that enhance enforcement of federal legislation and ensure that guns are surrendered by or removed from the presence of abusers.

Nine out of 10 black women murdered by men are killed by someone they know, most often with a gun, according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2017 Homicide Data.

The study found that in 2017, 507 black females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents, at a rate of 2.55 per 100,000. In comparison, the rate for white women murdered by males for that year was 1.13 per 100,000. Nationwide, across all races, 1,948 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2017, at a rate of 1.29 per 100,000.

Firearms, especially handguns, were the most common weapons used by males to murder black females. When the murder weapon could be identified, 62 percent of black female victims were shot and killed with guns. Within that group, 72 percent were killed with a handgun.

“Women are most likely to be murdered with a gun wielded not by a stranger but by someone they know. In many instances the murderer is an intimate partner of the victim. It is important to know these facts in order to identify effective strategies to prevent homicides against women. One critical step is for the U.S. Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and pass legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.

Additional findings from the report relating to black females murdered by males include:

  • Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member than by a stranger. Where the relationship could be determined, 91 percent of black females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents knew their killers. Of the black victims who knew their offenders, 60 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. More than 10 times as many black females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers.
  • The number of black females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance was nearly four times as high as the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined.
  • The vast majority of homicides of black females murdered by males were not related to any other felony crime. Most often, black females were killed by males in the course of an argument. In cases where the circumstances could be identified, 85 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony.

The study also ranks each state based on the homicide rate for women across all races killed by men. Below are the states with the 10 highest rates of females of all races murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2017.

The study calculates the rate of women murdered by men by dividing the total number of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents by the total female population and multiplying the result by 100,000. The rate of black women murdered by men is calculated by dividing the total number of black females murdered by males by the total black female population and multiplying the result by 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method of comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

To view the full report, please visit http://vpc.org/studies/wmmw2019.pdf.

To see previous editions of When Men Murder Women, please click here.

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