Fatal violence against women across the world is increasing. In a report from UK-based nonprofit Femicide Census spanning nearly nine years, it was found that “on average, a woman is killed by a current or former partner every four days,” with that number increasing to every three days when the focus is expanded to include killings outside romantic relationships. Due to a lack of accumulated data, the Femicide Census reports that these killings are typically treated as isolated incidents by law enforcement and legislation despite being “a leading cause of […] premature death for women globally.”
According to the Femicide Census, sixty-two percent of the 1,042 women killed by men from 2009-2018 in the UK were killed at the hands of an abusive partner, and the remaining thirty-eight percent were either killed by family members or someone they’d just met. Of the 888 women killed by abusive partners, thirty-eight percent were killed within the first month after separating from their partner, eighty-nine percent were killed within the first year of separating or attempting to separate, and five percent were killed three or more years later. Fifty-nine percent of the femicides reported by the Femicide Census in familial abuse cases had a known history of abuse and one-third of those women had disclosed to police.
As reported by Yvonne Roberts in a November 2020 Guardian article regarding the staggering statistics from the Femicide Census, these seemingly isolated killings are part of a bigger public health crisis—one that is likely even larger than reported, as the Femicide Census only takes into account killings that have been legally proven as having been committed by a man. The UK website Counting Dead Women (CDW), created by Femicide Census co-founder Karen Ingala Smith, keeps a record of every killing—noting suspected killings as well—and reported at least 106 cases in 2020, and at least 15 so far in 2021. However, “research […] is limited and unconnected” across the world, so data outside of the UK is not included. The United States has its own version of the census, known as “Women Count USA” which was started in 2017 and has incomplete information about violence against women and girls in the US dating back to the mid-1900s, but the information compiled there is not updated as frequently and Women Count USA is not connected directly to the UK database.
Despite providing glimpses of the global wave of domestic violence against women—something that UN Women describes as a shadow pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic—the majority of corporate news coverage fails to acknowledge the scope of femicide and gender-based violence worldwide. According to the Femicide Census, the root cause of this wave of violence is “sex inequality and the beliefs, attitudes and institutions that underpin it,” and in corporate news accounts is almost never discussed in-depth. Stories concerning femicide covered by corporate broadcast news outlets like CNN, ABC and NBC most prominently focus on protests in Turkey and Mexico, with one article reporting on Namibia, but all place emphasis on politics rather than on the social, cultural, and systemic factors at play. In articles published in 2019, ABC News reported on Women Count USA, BBC News reported on femicide murders in Europe, and a 2020 interactive news article by CNN compiled a mix of statistics and personal stories across 17 countries regarding domestic violence. The CNN article mentioned femicide in Mexico, but that is the closest any corporate news station has come as of February 25, 2021 to connecting data across the globe.
Although articles in the establishment press about domestic violence have become more common in the past year, they tend to spend more time on abusers’ individual issues, stories, and events, rather than on the systemic and widespread reasons violence against women occurs. As the Femicide Census reports, “By collating femicides, we can see that these killings are not isolated incidents, and many follow repeated patterns,” which is the first step to understanding the problem and creating change. And while the increase in visibility for domestic abuse due to the COVID-19 pandemic should not be minimized, as Ingala Smith asks in Roberts’ Guardian article, “If we’re alarmed at an apparent increase in men’s fatal violence against women, why aren’t we equally alarmed at the numbers of women being killed by men all the time?”
Femicide Census, “Reports,” November 25, 2020, https://www.femicidecensus.org/reports/.
Karen Ingala Smith, “Coronavirus Doesn’t Cause Men’s Violence Against Women,” As I see it, April 15, 2020, https://kareningalasmith.com/2020/04/15/coronavirus-doesnt-cause-mens-violence-against-women/.
Karen Ingala Smith, “2020: UK Women Killed by Men or Where a Man Is the Principal Suspect,” Counting Dead Women, January 9, 2021, https://kareningalasmith.com/2020/04/14/2020/.
Karen Ingala Smith, “2021: UK Women Killed by Men or Where a Man Is the Principal Suspect,” Counting Dead Women, February 8, 2021, https://kareningalasmith.com/2021/02/08/2021/.
Yvonne Roberts, “‘If I’m Not in on Friday, I Might Be Dead’: Chilling Facts about UK Femicide,” The Guardian, November 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/nov/22/if-im-not-in-on-friday-i-might-be-dead-chilling-facts-about-uk-femicide.
Student Researcher: Arden Kurhayez (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)