Monday, 16 January 2012

Would you know your killer?

The plot of Two Graves revolves around a serial killer preying on strangers but what are the odds that you would know your killer? That is certainly something that nobody really wants to think about. But consider for a moment.

What do you think the odds are that you would know your killer?

What are the chances that the last face you see would not only be your killer but someone you know, or even more frightening, your spouse?

The answer, according to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) Global Study on Homicide, depends on whether you are a man or a woman. These statistics are a reflection of the serious problem of violence against women which often escalates to murder.

UNODC based much of its gender victim studies on a selection of European countries but this group mirrors most US statistics. In that group, 75% of the female victims were killed by someone they knew. In fact, 35% of the female murder victims were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse. That is compared to 5% of men who were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.

This disparity also means that the location of the murders differ between men and women. Women are much more likely to be killed in their own home while men are more likely to be killed in the street.

For police, that means a woman found murdered in her home will know her killer three times out of four and one out of three times it will be her husband or ex. Is it any wonder that police concentrate on the husband, ex-husband or boyfriend?

Another effect of the relation with the murderer also affects the age of the victims when compared with gender. Worldwide, the percentage of male victims declines by over 12% between ages 15-29 and 70+. However, for women, the variation is only about 1% and actually increases for the 70+ group. The male’s statistics are explained by the murders related to criminal activities, increasing the odds for the 15-29 year old group being involved. For women, their close relation to their killers exposes them to the dangers throughout their lifetimes.

What does this mean for women?

We spend too much time training women about strangers, dark alleys and psychotic killers. Women should be watching for their killer in the bed beside them or in their ex-spouse or in that violent boyfriend. No amount of violence can be acceptable and should not be tolerated. Do you forgive the first time, the second, the fifth, the tenth? When will that beating become a killing?

Likewise, the police and courts need to deal with the issues of violence against women swifter and harsher. Stalking, threats, normally dealt with ineffective restraining orders, must be taken more seriously. We are finally dealing with drunk driving with some stronger penalties. When will we do the same with violence against women?

Silence or ignoring the problem, whether it is happening to you or someone you know, could be facilitating a murder.

“It won’t happen to me” could be written on your tombstone. Just ask three out of four women who were murdered last year!

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