After almost four decades of decline, homicide among romantic partners is on the rise, finds Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. The worrisome uptick has been primarily driven by gun violence. Fox’s paper, with Ph.D. student Emma Fridel, analyzed gender differences in homicide patterns over a 42-year period, using FBI data, reports HuffPost. Intimate partner homicides ― when a person murders a spouse or romantic partner ― increased each year between 2014 and 2017. In 2014, 1,875 people were killed by an intimate partner. The toll rose to 2,096, 2,149, and 2,237 in the three subsequent years.
Domestic violence groups often say that three women a day are killed by domestic violence. Fox’ data show the average is up to four. He found that since 2010, gun-related murders of intimate partners have increased by 26 percent, while those involving other weapons like knives have continued to decline. Most of the increase in gun deaths has occurred since 2014. Fox did not speculate about the cause of the spike. “Regardless of the whys, efforts to disarm abusers and stalkers are critical,” he said. “All too often, guns that are purchased and kept in the home, ostensibly for the purpose of self-defense, end up being used against a family member.” When romantic relationships turn deadly, victims are overwhelmingly female. Nearly half of all women who are murdered die at the hands of their partners. Since the 1970s, intimate partner homicides have dramatically declined. Much of the decrease is due to fewer women killing their male partners, Fox says. The advent of restraining orders, domestic violence shelters and more liberal divorce laws have allowed women to leave their abusers more easily, paradoxically resulting in fewer male deaths. Over the same period, the rate of men killing their female partners also dropped, but far less sharply.