More than half of women who are murdered are killed by intimate partners or family members.
A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that of the 87,000 women murdered around the world in 2017, around 50,000 were killed by a loved one—an intimate partner or a close family member. More than half of those 50,000 were murdered by their partner.
Put another way, a woman is killed by someone who is supposed to love them every 10 minutes. In contrast, most men who are murdered are killed by strangers or acquaintances.
According to the report, "gender-related killings of women and girls remain a grave problem across regions ,in countries rich and poor. While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, killed by strangers, women are far more likely to die at the hands of someone they know. Women killed by intimate partners or family members account for 58 per cent of all female homicide victims reported globally last year, and little progress has been made in preventing such murders."
Adding to those disturbing stats, pregnant women are more likely to die by homicide than by pregnancy complications.
One might think that a pregnant woman would be less likely to be murdered than a non-pregnant woman, simply because there ought to be some basic standards of human decency. But pregnant women are actually twice as likely to be killed as non-pregnant women.
Research has shown homicide to be the leading cause of death for pregnant women. We hear a lot about maternal mortality rates, but most of us aren't aware that one out of five women who die during pregnancy or during the postpartum period die because they've been murdered. In fact, more pregnant women are shot, strangled, beaten to death, or otherwise killed at the hands of another human than die from pregnancy complications.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Men and women kill their partners and are killed by their partners for drastically different reasons.
It's worth pointing out that while most men who murder people kill strangers, and most men who are murdered are killed by strangers, the opposite is true for women on both fronts. Women are more likely to be killed by a loved one than by a stranger, but are also more likely to kill a loved one than murder a stranger.
For women, the first stat leads to the second. According to the UN report, "male and female perpetrators of intimate partner homicide seem to belong to distinct groups, not only in terms of prevalence rates, but also in terms of the motivations behind the offence: motivations typically reported by men include possessiveness, jealousy and fear of abandonment, while motivations reported by women relate to extended periods of suffering physical violence."
In other words, men tend to kill their partners because they view them as possessions to be controlled. Women tend to kill their partners because they can't put up with their partner's abuse anymore.
The UN report points out that domestic violence killings don't happen out of the blue. There are warning signs.
While those statistics paint a grim picture for women, the report also shows that we can do more to recognize the warning signs that a woman is in danger.
"Research shows that the killing of women and girls by intimate partners does not result from random or spontaneous acts," says the researchers. "It is therefore useful to identify and analyse the factors that precede such killings, along with the traits and characteristics of the perpetrators, among whom considerable gender differences exist."
Naturally, none of this information means that men are awful and women are saints, so if your first reaction is #notallmen, have a seat. It simply means that gender-based violence is a real issue and all of us need to educate ourselves about it. We need to learn to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and support programs and legislation designed to mitigate. For example, we can support making the Violence Against Women Act, which will expire December 7 unless it's renewed by Congress, a permanent piece of legislation.
We live in a backwards world when women have more to fear from their loved ones than from strangers. It's up to all of us to set that world aright.