Thursday January 4 12:44 PM ET
Battered Women Saves Lives of Men
By Alan Elsner, National Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Efforts to protect women in the United States against domestic
violence has had the ironic effect of reducing the murder rate of men
by their partners by almost 70 percent over the past 24 years, according to
new figures released on Thursday. The
data, compiled by James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern
University, show homicides by women of their spouses, ex-spouses or
boyfriends has declined steadily to 424 in 1999 from 1,357 in 1976.
Homicides of women by their male partners has also declined in the same period
but by a far less dramatic degree, to 1,218 in 1999 from 1,600 in 1976 --
a 24 percent reduction.
Fox and other researchers attribute the 69 percent fall in the number of male victims
of domestic homicides to the availability of alternatives for battered
women. ``We have given women
alternatives, including hotlines, shelters, counseling and
restraining orders. Because more battered women have escape routes, fewer wife
batterers are being killed,'' Fox told Reuters in an interview.
Women who in the past may have felt the only way to end their own victimization
was to kill their partner now have other options. The greater availability
and reduced stigma of divorce and the improved economic independence
of women may also have contributed to the decline.
Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie-Mellon University said, ``Our society has been paying
more attention to protecting women from domestic violence and this has produced
a major decline in male victims of homicide.''
80 Percent Of Male Victims Abused Partners
He cited a 1999 study sponsored by the National Consortium on Violence Research
which suggested that the greater the availability of hotlines and other
resources for battered women, the greater the decline in homicide of their male
That study found that four in five male domestic homicide victims had physically
abused their partners prior to the murder. Nearly two-thirds of female
murder victims had been abused before they were killed.
About one-third of female murder victims in the United States are killed by a domestic
partner or boyfriend. Only 4 percent of male murder victims are killed
by an intimate. Breaking down the
1999 figures by race, Fox found the greatest decline was among black male murder victims. In 1976, 846 black males were
killed by their partners. In 1999,
that figure was down to 190. Blumstein said part of that decline might reflect the fact that so many young black
males of the type who might have the propensity to commit domestic violence had been incarcerated.
Among whites, the domestic murder rate of women by men was about the same in 1999
as it had been in 1976. The murder rate of men by women had fallen to 221 in
1999 from 493 in 1976. Looking at the weapons used to commit such murders,
the data showed the major decline among men and women has been in the use of
guns. Non-gun murders of men by
women has fallen by about 35 percent, while gun murders fell by 73 percent between 1976 and 1998. But while gun
murders of women by men fell by 28
percent, non-gun murders rose by 6 percent.