Scholars from 11 cities have come up with some answers to an age-old question in the battered women’s movement–which abused women are in the most danger? Women’s E News reports that as researchers probed the stories of women who had been murdered, some obvious clues such as gun ownership and an abuser’s arrest record were prominent. But more surprising results turned up, such as the presence of a stepchild and an abuser’s job status, says Jacquelyn Campbell of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore.
“Unemployment came out as the single most important demographic factor, so it really shows the community implications and the need to think about employment as being an important element for women’s safety,” Campbell says. The study appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Up to 1,300 women each year are killed in the United States by husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Along with Baltimore, researchers covered 10 other cities, including Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Portland, Ore.
“Victims die every year because someone they were talking to didn’t understand how dangerous the situation was,” says San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn, who often works with Campbell in training and other advisory efforts around the country. “Someone always knows about the abuse, whether it’s their mother, neighbors, friends or co-workers–someone knew.”
The journal article uses the term “femicide” to describe the homicides of women. The term has long been used among feminists in an international context for practices such as stoning a woman to death for adultery and for so-called “honor” killings of women in some Muslim societies if their families believe that a rape or a relationship has dishonored the family. The term only recently has gained ground in scholarly literature on homicide in the United States.