Violence Against Women Increasing

Crime Against Women Highlights Violence against women is growing. An analysis of 4,484 killings of women in 47 major U.S. cities over the past decade found that 46 percent of the women died at the hands of an intimate partner, Violence against women is society’s responsibility. Domestic violence is another case of sending cops into […]

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Crime Against Women Highlights Violence against women is growing. An analysis of 4,484 killings of women in 47 major U.S. cities over the past decade found that 46 percent of the women died at the hands of an intimate partner, Violence against women is society’s responsibility. Domestic violence is another case of sending cops into […]

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Justice Reform, Women’s Rights Will Survive Current Politics, say Scholars

“If you can marshal enough facts ….things will change faster than they have in the last 15 to 20 years,” said leading criminologist Ronald Clarke. Women’s Rights scholar and activist Rashida Manjoo said it was a “time of opportunity and hope.” Both spoke on the eve of commencement ceremonies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where they received honorary degrees.

The prospects for real justice reform and greater support for human rights, including the rights of women, will survive the current political climate, say two leading international scholars.

“This is a time of opportunity, of hope,” said Rashida Manjoo, a professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and a former United Nations Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

Her upbeat prediction was echoed by Ronald V. Clarke, former dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and winner of the 2014 Stockholm Prize in Criminology.

“If you can marshal enough facts and get people to understand them, things can change, and things will change faster than they have in the last 15 to 20 years,” he said.

Both professors, who will receive honorary degrees at the John Jay College commencement Wednesday, delivered their remarks at a special discussion with students and faculty on the eve of the ceremonies.

Manjoo, an international human rights advocate for over 30 years, served as Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights between 2009-2015.

She used the tangled post-apartheid history of her own country as an example of why she felt optimistic about the future.

“Despite the democracy we (gained) in 1994 after apartheid, the growing inequality meant that you couldn’t step back and say ‘we made it,’” she said.

“The hard work was just starting, and 23 years down the line, the work continues.”

Clarke, who worked for the UK government’s criminological research department, the Home Office Research and Planning Unit, before coming to the U.S. in 1984, is most widely known for his work on Rational Choice Theory, which posits that people commit crimes when there are reasons to do so, and that individuals effectively do a form of “cost-benefit analysis” when considering committing a crime.

“Reducing opportunities for crimes really does work.”

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology, which some have called the “Nobel Prize” for criminology, was given in recognition of his wide-ranging achievements in criminological research.

He currently serves as associate director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, funded by the Department of Justice Community Oriented Police Services program, and is the author of more than 250 books, monographs and papers.

Clarke admitted the US justice system still had a long way to go in the area of reform.

“We need to spend far more time on prevention,” Clarke said. “Just as we have with our healthcare system, we’ve neglected prevention.”

Clarke added the prevailing notion in the US that imprisonment reduces crime was misleading.

“We know that in countries that have made much less use of imprisonment like Britain, Australia, (and) New Zealand, crime rates have come down just as much as the US since the 1990s,” he said. “It has nothing to do with imprisonment.”

Clarke added: “There’s an obvious problem of unfair treatment of minorities in our criminal justice system. It doesn’t’ get into mainstream of the debate, but people are beginning to see the costs of what we’ve done in the past.”

Manjoo, who served as head of South Africa’s Commission on Gender Equality, has focused her scholarship on examining the socio-economic, racial, historical, and cultural conditions that give rise to violence against women, and how different states have responded to it.

Describing herself as an “activist academic,” Manjoo called on researchers and criminologists to “bridge the theory-practice divide.”

Manjoo said inequality, gender stereotyping, and impunity are the “core” contributing factors in gender violence—which are perpetuated in turn by government policies.

“There is a lot of cultural relativism when we talk about women’s rights,” she said. “The global south is deemed uncivilized, as well as the Middle East.

“I found in one study that statistics of femicide in the U.K. are relatively high, but we name it differently when it happens in ethnic communities.”

Both speakers revealed a common interest in applying their scholarship to preventing crimes against wildlife such as poaching.

“People are not used to criminologists working in wildlife crime,” said Clarke, pointing out that current practices of locking up offenders did little to stop the practice.

“These crimes are a response to economic and land issues,” added Manjoo. “If you’re protecting land or wildlife, and people are homeless, that’s going to create an incentive.”

Asked about what continued to drive her work, Manjoo said it was the knowledge that gender and economic inequality still prevailed in many parts of the world.

I’m almost 63 (but) I cannot just walk away and say I’m exhausted,” she said. “Human rights is a way of life. I’m unable to let go witnessing or [fighting] any injustice that I see.”

Dane Stallone is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.


Will Trump Try to Downgrade the COPS Office?

The independent Community Oriented Policing Services office, created in 1994 to assist local law enforcement, may be folded inside a DOJ division as part of a White House efficiency drive. In a letter supported by major police groups, 135 Congress members said the move could threaten communities “struggling” to pay for public safety.

President Donald Trump insists that he is a solid supporter of the nation’s police officers, but that backing may not count for much when it comes to the federal agency set up to aid local police departments.

When the White House next Monday proposes its federal spending plan for the year starting Oct. 1, Washington insiders who have talked to officials at the Justice Department anticipate that the plan will include ending the COPS Office’s more than two-decade-long run of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office as an independent agency in the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Instead, COPS would be placed within the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and its grant-making authority would be given to an agency that long has awarded a wide variety of funds to state and local governments, the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

It’s possible that the White House Office of Management and Budget also will seek to end the independence of another DOJ agency, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Such a move is less likely because the agency was created by law and would require congressional action to change. It also would provoke anger from women’s advocates.

Although the COPS program was created in a major federal anticrime law in 1994 after President Bill Clinton campaigned on a promise to fund 100,000 community police officers nationwide, the separate agency that gives out the funds was not authorized separately by Congress.

In anticipation of a White House move to downgrade the office, 135 members of Congress this week sent a letter to the president declaring that “it is imperative the COPS Office remains an independent agency within the DOJ so that it may continue to support community policing efforts that build trust and mutual respect between law enforcement officers and communities.”

The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA), co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, and it includes signers from both parties.

The lawmakers cited the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring (COPS Hiring) Program, which it said “provides struggling communities with necessary funding to address their personnel needs to protect their citizens.” The program says it has helped cities hire 130,000 officers since 1994.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the budget proposal before it is issued next week.

However, DOJ is expected to contend that giving another agency the responsibility for giving out policing grants would help government efficiency by consolidating federal anticrime grants in one agency.

In 2013, the Government Accountability Office reported that “more than 200 [DOJ] grant programs overlapped across 10 key justice areas, and that this overlap contributed to the risk of unnecessarily duplicative grant awards for the same or similar purposes.”

Last June, the Heritage Foundation, whose recommendations the Trump administration has followed on many spending issues, issued a report saying that “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should consolidate COPS grants into the OJP, thus reducing administrative costs.”

The report was written by David Muhlhausen, then a Heritage staff member and now the Trump administration appointee to head the National Institute of Justice, DOJ’s main research agency.

Muhlhausen also wrote for Heritage that the COPS program has “failed at reducing crime,” and added that, “State and local officials, not the federal government, are responsible for funding the staffing levels of local police departments. By paying for the salaries of police officers, COPS funds the routine, day-to-day functions of police and fire departments.”

The new Trump budget is not expected to seek the elimination of the COPS program, but it may propose major budget cuts, as the White House has done for its own Office of National Drug Control Policy, the so-called drug czar. COPS currently has an annual budget of $218 million, and pending Congressional appropriations bills could increase it slightly.

The new congressional letter asks the White House for “robust funding” of the COPS office, which it credits with overseeing implementation of the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act that establishes a nationwide Blue Alert communications system to help disseminate information on the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, an officer who is missing in connection with the officer’s official duties, or an imminent and credible threat that someone intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.

The lawmakers’ letter to Trump was supported by four major organizations, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

FOP involvement could be significant, because the group was a major backer of Trump’s election. Last summer in Nashville, Attorney General Sessions gave the keynote address to the FOP annual convention, where he announced that Trump was reversing an Obama administration order that restricted police agencies’ access to surplus military equipment, including grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields and firearms.

The White House is expected to counter criticism of its handling of the COPS Office by appointing a well known former police official to head it.

Two sources told The Crime Report they had been told that the Justice Department was considering Phil Keith, who served for more than 16 years as police chief of Knoxville, Tn., until 2004, to head the agency. He would succeed Ronald Davis, a former police chief in East Palo Alto, Ca., who ran COPS under President Obama.

DOJ already has significantly reduced the COPS Office’s authority by scaling back a “collaborative reform” program in which police departments could voluntarily work with COPS to review their practices on some controversial issues such as officers’ use of force.

“Changes to this program will fulfill my commitment to respect local control and accountability, while still delivering important tailored resources to local law enforcement to fight violent crime,” Sessions said last September. “This is a course correction to ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support.”

Putting the COPS office within the Office of Justice Programs would reduce its independence and visibility because its director would report to an Assistant Attorney General.

As an independent agency, it now reports to the number three official in the entire Justice Department, the Associate Attorney General, giving it much more access to the main Justice Department.

Law enforcement organizations contend that this move would reduce the prominence of the COPS Office that it has enjoyed for 24 years under three presidents. Even though the agency remained intact during the George W. Bush administration, many Republicans have not fully supported it because it was created by a Democratic president.

This includes, perhaps crucially, Mick Mulvaney, the former congressman from South Carolina who now heads Trump’s budget office.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.


Fifty-One Unsolved Women’s Deaths in Chicago

Over the last 17 years, at least 75 women have been strangled or smothered in Chicago and their bodies dumped in vacant buildings, alleys, garbage cans, and snow banks. Arrests have been made in only a third of the cases, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Over the last 17 years, at least 75 women have been strangled or smothered in Chicago and their bodies dumped in vacant buildings, alleys, garbage cans, and snow banks. Arrests have been made in only a third of the cases, reports the Chicago Tribune.

While there are clusters of unsolved strangulations on the South and West sides, police say they’ve uncovered no evidence of a serial killer at work. If they are right, 51 murderers have gotten away with crimes.

There have been few news stories and even fewer memorials or other public gestures that would have focused attention on these women and how they died. The Tribune began reviewing their cases while following up on the largely ignored story of a woman strangled last summer, her body dumped along a curb.

“It’s a staggering number,” said Kaethe Morris Hoffer of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “It is odd how easy it is to disrupt people’s sense of comfort when a large number of people are all killed at once. It is likewise upsetting to realize how, if you spread out over a long period of time, how inured people are to the murdering of women, particularly marginalized women.”

Many of the women struggled with drugs or prostitution, making them particularly vulnerable to predators on the street. Twenty-five of the cases have been closed with the arrests of 13 men, some of them charged with more than one murder.


What Rape Reform Needs: More Convictions, Less Punishment

In the “Post-Weinstein era,” victims of sexual assault and harassment are finally being believed. But unless critical reforms are enacted to how we convict and punish rapists, just believing the victim won’t be enough, argues a Boston College Law School professor.

In what is being called the “Post-Weinstein era,” victims of sexual assault and harassment are finally being believed. This no doubt is overdue, but in the context of rape, believing the victim will not be enough.

Three reforms are essential to how we convict and punish rapists.

First, the way states currently define the crime of rape does not target the conduct of unwanted sex. In the United States, rape was initially defined by unwanted sex accompanied by an element of force. The proof of force was and continues to be a high bar to meet, usually requiring threats, physical violence, actual injury, or weapons.

In 2017, a California court reversed a rape conviction because the evidence showed that a group of four men “lured” a 15-year-old girl into a house, got her “falling-down drunk” and then penetrated her while she was unconscious.

There was no doubt over her lack of consent. But that was not relevant. The men’s actions did not fall in the definition of rape because the men did not use force during the intercourse. This is not an anomaly; 46 states currently define rape with this additional requirement of force.

But why is force part of the definition of rape?

Before the 1960s, all sex outside of marriage was criminalized in the offenses of adultery (defined as sex with a married person) or fornication (defined as sex by unmarried people). An element of force was needed to prevent a rape victim from unwittingly confessing to these crimes when reporting the rape against her.

This observation is not academic. As recently as 2013, a Norwegian tourist in Dubai was arrested and imprisoned for the crime of adultery after reporting that a man raped her.

Starting in the 1980s, 35 states reformed their laws to include a crime of rape that did not use force. Due to the fears that women would falsely accuse men (what will likely be an anachronistic belief from the Pre-Weinstein era), the states narrowly limited consent to be actionable only in codified power imbalances, such as a prison guard and prisoner, therapist and patient, or certain family members.

The first needed reform to the definition of the crime of rape, then, is to abandon the definitions of rape used by 42 states.

Rape should not be limited to unwanted sex when there is also force or only arising in specific contexts. Rather, all states should simply define rape as only eight currently do: sex without the consent of the other person. Full stop.

The Question of Liability

Second, unlike homicide and theft offenses, rape law has not benefited from having liability arise from more sophisticated mental states that define the crime. If a person drives a car into a crowd and kills someone, it is a tragedy if the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. But the same death will be prosecuted as a murder if the driver had an intent to kill someone, disregarded the risk of death, or showed callous indifference over whether someone would be hurt.

Known as malice, this capacious mental state is effective in sorting out tragedies from murder.

In his book Missoula, Jon Krakauer interviewed a juror about her reasons for acquitting an accused rapist, which is a significant interview given that Montana is one of the eight states that define rape in its broadest reach as sex without the consent of another.

An important insight from this interview is that even when rape is defined broadly, the mens rea of knowledge requires proof that the defendant in fact knew he was having sex without his partner’s consent.

When framed in this manner, it is possible for the jury to both believe a woman’s testimony that she was raped but not have evidence that the defendant knew the victim was not consenting.

The second essential reform, then, is establishing a new crime of “rape by malice,” a crime that criminalizes both those who knew—or deliberately did not care to know—if their advances were consented to.

Unwanted sex arises from multiple motivations. A mens rea for rape should be flexible and responsive enough to criminalize as much unwanted sex as possible without criminalizing lawful or wanted sex. Other crimes such as homicide have expansive definitions to capture all killings made by the predators, the fools, and the careless. A new crime of rape by malice would do the same.

Rethink Rape Sentencing

Third, these proposed reforms to the redefinition of rape would lead to more convictions. But convicting more rapists under our current criminal justice system should not be welcomed. On paper, 19 states have respective maximum terms of 99 years, 100 years, and life sentences. And 12 states begin at 10 years.

Although only six states and the federal government even compile data on the number and lengths of sentences, where data is available, the range in actual sentences for rape was from eight to 30 years.

These numbers should be alarming. Whereas 40 percent of people convicted of all felonies will be punished with prison terms, about  90 percent of all rapists will receive a prison sentence, and a very lengthy one at that.

In the rush to condemn rapists, throwing people away in prison is a poor policy option that no other developed country follows. In 35 comparable countries, the vast majority impose prison terms that do not exceed five years. This short sentence does not at all communicate that the crime was not heinous, the offender not depraved, or the victim does not merit justice.

In the mass incarceration era, the U.S. makes prisoners suffer with long sentences and harsh conditions, but that only results in high recidivism rates of about 75 percent for all crimes.

Canada, by contrast, provides evidence-based treatment that has resulted in the recidivism rate for sex offenders to fall from 33.2 percent to 14.5 percent. For first-time sex offenders, recidivism rates fell from 27.5 percent to 8.8 percent.

If the goal is to reintegrate into society convicted rapists who will not reoffend, the third essential reform is to impose shorter sentences for rapists. It is shorter sentences and actual treatment that succeed over calls to simply lock them up.

The third reform of shorter sentences also will serve the victims by leading to more convictions. Forty years ago, states faced an analogous problem in figuring out the proper punishment for a driver who killed another. The crime could fit under manslaughter, but when the prosecutor charged this serious offense, the jurors balked and did not convict—knowing from common sense that manslaughter carried a lengthy prison sentence.

In response, state legislatures crafted the new offense of involuntary manslaughter, which reduced the punishment for the killing from 20 to two years. Not surprisingly, conviction rates increased.

Many recoil at light sentences for rapists, on the assumption that a light sentence is letting-off a very bad person. But it is a mistake to contend that the problem with mass incarceration starts and ends with drug offenders. Ninety-five percent of all prisoners leave prison.

We can no longer be outraged by crime and continue to ignore what happens to the criminal.

National surveys of crime victims lend support to the policy goals of rehabilitation over lengthier sentences; 82 percent support “increasing education and rehabilitation services for the people in the justice system.”

In this respect, reforms to rape sentences must be accompanied by a call for more effective criminal justice intervention rather than simply incarceration and more of it.

Kari Hong

Kari E. Hong

Instead of channeling outrage for the first rape, sentencing must also meaningfully seek to rehabilitate and prevent a second.

Kari E. Hong, an Assistant Professor at Boston College Law School, teaches immigration and criminal law. She founded a clinic representing non-citizens with criminal convictions in the Ninth Circuit, and has argued over 100 Ninth Circuit cases and 50 state criminal appeals. Her article A New Mens Rea For Rape: More Convictions and Less Punishment can be downloaded at Readers’ comments are welcome.


Media Are Key to Battling Myths About Domestic Violence, Panel Told

In an era of falling crime rates, spousal abuse often disappears from the radar screen of public attention. But journalists can play a critical role in providing context—and help prevent future tragedies, speakers at a John Jay College panel said Tuesday.

The media can play a critical role in battling stereotypes about domestic violence—most importantly in puncturing myths that blame the victim rather than the perpetrator, speakers at a New York panel discussion on media coverage said Tuesday.

“We’re happy to see that this issue is covered a lot,” said Sandhya Kajeepeta, director of Research and Evaluation at the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (MOCDV).

Sandhya Kajepeeta

Sandhya Kajepeeta. Photo by Megan Hadley

But she noted that recent research of media coverage by her office showed that reporting often fails to mention relevant research or to utilize the expertise of practitioners who can put incidents in context.

Just as importantly, journalists can help alert potential victims to warning signals and lead them to organizations in local communities that can help, she said at the panel, co-hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice.

The event, which was live streamed to an audience across the country, noted that domestic violence continues to be a growing concern to police and social service providers, even while overall crime rates have dropped in many U.S. cities.

According to the MOCDV study, the number of family-related homicides in New York City, which has otherwise seen one of the nation’s longest sustained declines in crime, increased by 28.6 percent between 2015 and 2016. Over 60 percent of those homicides were directly related to intimate partner violence.

But covering the story sometimes puts reporters and survivors at loggerheads.

Destiny Mabry

Destiny Mabry. Photo by Megan Hadley

Destiny Mabry, a Bronx, NY activist who was a victim of intimate partner violence, recalled feeling uncomfortable when reporters pushed her to talk about her abusive relationship.

“It’s important to share experiences, but if someone is not willing to share more than ‘I’m a survivor,’ they should not have to go into gruesome detail,” said Mabry. who now serves as a “peer leader’ in a New York City program that hosts workshops with young people to discuss domestic violence.

“In the age of social media, everyone wants every detail,” she added.

Melissa Jeltsen, a senior reporter at The Huffington Post, agreed that the interests of survivors and reporters are sometimes completely opposite.

For instance, she said, reporters need specific dates to create a timeline, while survivors may not remember (or want to remember) the order of events.

“You want your readers to connect with a real story,” she said, noting that a lot of the specifics are red flags that can help prevent the next tragedy.

Jeltsen, whose beat includes gender-based violence issues, said educating readers about how to prevent domestic violence should be an important part of media coverage—even though talking about prevention is not as “sexy.”

According to Kajepeeta, media coverage should start with the recognition of its power to reach victims of abuse.

Every story, she suggested, should contain when possible a hotline number or contact information about a service center.

The MOCDV media guide, she said, could help journalists and editors access resources that deepen their coverage.

The research study examined domestic violence coverage by print news outlets in the New York metropolitan region between 2013-2016.

Among its findings:

  • Only ten of the 442 articles (2.3 percent) covering NYC intimate partner homicides from 2013-16 included an intimate partner violence advocate or expert as a source.’
  • Only 15 percent of articles used terms such as “domestic violence,” “intimate partner violence,” or “domestic abuse,” and less than eight percent of the articles described the homicide as being intimate partner violence-related.
  • Less than six percent of the articles studied framed the homicide within the broader social problem of intimate partner violence.
  • Only seven articles (1.6 percent) listed intimate partner violence resources for readers.

But Jeltsen pointed out that journalists often themselves encounter stereotypes promoted by police and other officials when they try to report on domestic violence incidents.

She recalled interviewing police who claim that “women never want to press charges and they’ll go back to their abuser anyway.”

That helps to reinforce the approach of many officials who say ‘there’s nothing we can do,’ ” Jeltsen said.

Melissa Jeltsen

Melissa Jeltsen. Photo by Megan Hadley

But the media has also been a key force in bringing the issue to the forefront. Following the mass killing in Sutherland Springs, Tx last month, journalists uncovered the history of domestic abuse perpetrated by the shooter.

After the tragedy occurred, the media was responsible for uncovering Kelley’s previous abuse history.

“A lot of the data (on domestic abuse) is not collected in a systematic way,” said Kajeepeta, noting that the media are key to uncovering information that is otherwise concealed by bureaucracy.

New York is among the jurisdictions that have launched a special effort to educate citizens about abusive behavior and assist survivors. Following the launch of a city Task Force a year ago, more than $11 million has been earmarked to improve and expand local services.

Editor’s Note: Additional resources for coverage of Intimate Partner Violence are available through the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 

A full report of the live stream panel discussion will be available online.

Megan Hadley is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.


When Men Murder Women

Alaska has the highest rate of femicide by men, followed by Nevada, Louisiana, and Tennessee, according to the annual report of the Violence Policy Center (VPI) . Black women are more than twice as likely to be killed by men than their white counterparts.

The latest analysis of state-level homicide data shows a sharp increase in the rate at which women were slain by single men between 2014 and 2015 despite an overall 20-year decline, according to an annual report released by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) in September.

The 20th annual publication of When Men Murder Women analyzed the most recent Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data submitted to the FBI, which covers the year 2015, and offers a breakdown of cases in the ten states with the highest rates of female homicides committed by men. Alaska had the highest femicide rate, followed by Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, and Missouri. VPC notes that data from Florida and Alabama are missing, and data received from Illinois is incomplete.

The study, which only examined instances involving one female victim and one male offender, found that 1,686 females were murdered by males in the U.S. in 2015.

“This is the exact scenario—the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman—that is often used to promote gun ownership among women,” write the authors, zooming in on VPC’s main target: gun laws. For 2015, firearms, and especially handguns, were the weapon most commonly used by men to murder women.

The report also notes the findings of a 2003 study from California which showed that while two-thirds of women who get a handgun do so for for protection, “purchasing a handgun provides no protection against homicide among women and is associated with an increase in their risk for intimate partner homicide.”

Editor’s note: According to the Gun Violence Archive, out of 46,597 incidents of gun violence so far this year, only 1,518 incidents were “defensive use” of a firearm– roughly equal to the number of accidental shootings, which numbered 1,511.

Here are highlights from VPC’s analysis of 2015 data on women slain by men:

  • For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (1,450 out of 1,551) were murdered by a male they knew.
  • Fourteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,450 victims) than were killed
    by male strangers (101 victims).
  • For victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent (928) of female homicide victims were wives or
    intimate acquaintances of their killers.12
  • There were 266 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the
    course of an argument.
  • Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,522), more female homicides were committed with firearms (55 percent) than with any other weapon. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 20 percent of all female murders, bodily force 11 percent, and murder by blunt object six percent. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 69 percent were committed with handguns.
  • In 84 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related
    to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) turned 23 this year.

Victoria Mckenzie is deputy editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.


Domestic Violence Coverage ‘Perpetuates’ Abuse

A recent study by the New York City Mayor’s Office argues that “inadequate” or sensationalist coverage of Intimate Partner Violence—and in particular of homicides linked to domestic violence cases─prevents serious public debate on the issue.

Superficial or irresponsible reporting on domestic violence “re-victimizes” readers who have experienced it, and “may perpetuate cycles of abuse,” says the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

A recent study by the NYC Mayor’s Office analyzing 442 print articles in the New York media written between 2013 and 2016, concluded that press coverage of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)—and in particular of homicides linked to domestic violence cases─is often “inadequate” or infected by sensationalism, which in turn prevents serious public debate on the issue.

According to the study, the media covered 99 of the 126 intimate partner homicides recorded in New York during that period. But in many of the articles there was no mention of “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence.”

At least 20% of them used sensational language or phrases, such as “bludgeoning,”“bloodbath,” “jilted gangbanger,” “slaughter,” and “butcher.”And some 16% used language that portrayed the victim or perpetrator as socially deviant or as an “other,” the report said.

The report called on the media to live up to its “critical role in shaping how society perceives the dynamics of IPV, and in sparking conversation around public responsibility and solutions to IPV.”

The study, written by Sandhya Kajeepeta, Kara Noesner and Edward Hill, did not examine broadcast or online coverage.

The authors acknowledged that coverage of the issue by New York media was “more comprehensive” in 2016, but they added their anecdotal evidence suggested that in general “media coverage of IPV incidents is often inadequate or problematic in its framing.”

Among the coverage issues highlighted in the study:

  •  Only ten of the 442 articles (2.3%) covering NYC intimate partner homicides from 2013-16 included an intimate partner violence advocate or expert as a source;
  • Only 15% of articles used terms such as “domestic violence,” “intimate partner violence,” or “domestic abuse,” and less than 8% of articles described the homicide as being intimate partner violence-related;
  • Less than 6% of articles framed the homicide within the broader social problem of intimate partner violence;
  • Only seven articles (1.6%) listed intimate partner violence resources for readers.

The study also found that homicides involving victims who were men and perpetrators who were women were covered differently than those that involved victims who were women and perpetrators who were men, respectively.

“Intimate partner homicides were typically reported as isolated incidents with no mention of ‘domestic violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence,’” the study said.

“Given the role of the media in driving conversation about present issues, more effective coverage includes framing each domestic violence or IPV incident within the larger social problem.”

But the authors said journalists should do more than just “name the problem:” they should “identify trends and patterns as well as gaps in the system’s response that should be addressed.”

And they recommended that domestic violence agencies and advocate groups support journalists by providing up-to-date information and statistics on domestic violence “at an aggregate level.”

Editor’s Note: For additional sources, reports and coverage on Intimate Partner Violence, see TCR’s resources page. 

Summary prepared by Stephen Handelman, executive editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.


Domestic Violence Reports to Police Exceed General Violent Crime-But 600,000 Unreported Each Year

Observations 1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence victimizations occur each year. Police were notified of more than half (56%) of these victimizations. Does increased reporting indicate an improved criminal justice response? The majority of police departments now have a domestic violence unit. Author Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal […]

Observations 1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence victimizations occur each year. Police were notified of more than half (56%) of these victimizations. Does increased reporting indicate an improved criminal justice response? The majority of police departments now have a domestic violence unit. Author Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal […]


IACP Releases Four-Part Training Video: The Crime of Domestic Violence

The crime of domestic violence is complex and law enforcement officers often feel frustrated and discouraged when responding. Officers provide as much support to victims as possible, but when equipped with a better understanding of the nuances and dynamics of … Continue reading

The crime of domestic violence is complex and law enforcement officers often feel frustrated and discouraged when responding. Officers provide as much support to victims as possible, but when equipped with a better understanding of the nuances and dynamics of this intimate partner crime, they can more effectively address victims’ needs and hold offenders accountable. In order to present law enforcement with information to strengthen the response to victims of domestic violence, the IACP has created a four-part training video: The Crime of Domestic Violence, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. This video highlights the realities and complexities of domestic violence and provides strategies for effective investigations.

Segment 1: Critical Context

“Leaving is a process, not an event”

As first responders, law enforcement officers play a significant role supporting victims of violence and providing needed support. It is critical that officers build an understanding of the dynamics of power and control as well as the course of conduct nature of domestic violence. Until misconceptions and frustrations about victims and victim behaviors are addressed, the response to this crime will be unsuccessful and potentially harmful. This segment will begin to unpack many of these misperceptions and present information to strengthen the overall understanding of this complex crime.


Segment 2: On Scene Response

“You’ve got to look at the history”

Domestic violence is a course of conduct crime. There are often multiple incidents and abusive behaviors over an extended period of time. Responding officers need to be equipped with this understanding in order to capture pertinent details to support the victim, hold the offender accountable, and a conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation. It is critical that officers build rapport and trust with victims when on-scene. The second segment provides information about documenting threats, intimidation, trauma, and fear, as well as effective report writing, and conducting supportive interviews to empower victims.

Segment 3: Offender Realities & Threats to Officers

“You can’t separate officer safety from victim safety”

Isolation. Coercion. Manipulation. Threats. The tactics that perpetrators of abuse use to control victims are often the same tactics they will use on responding officers. When the abuser’s power is threatened, domestic violence calls can put officers in risk of harm and, all too often, become lethal situations. Segment three highlights the danger/lethality of domestic violence calls, information about offender behaviors that may indicate increased risk for victims and officers, and details that officers should gather before approaching a scene.


Segment 4: Working Together   

You need everyone if you’re going to make a difference

Law enforcement alone cannot provide all the needed support and resources to victims; it takes partnerships. By establishing multiagency, multidisciplinary collaborations, the needs of victims and communities overall can be better provided for. The fourth segment presents compelling details about how partnerships and collaborations can impact the safety and healing of victims, as well as strengthen law enforcement investigations. Segment four highlights promising practices for responding to domestic violence and effective collaborative models, and the benefits of such alliances.

You can view the four-part training video, The Crime of Domestic Violence, online. To receive a DVD copy of the video, or if you have questions, please contact