, Volume 18, Issue 10, pp 788-794

Could we have known? A qualitative analysis of data from women who survived an attempted homicide by an intimate partner

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OBJECTIVE: To examine in-depth the lives of women whose partners attempted to kill them, and to identify patterns that may aid in the clinician’s ability to predict, prevent, or counsel about femicide or attempted femicide.

DESIGN: Qualitative analysis of 30 in-depth interviews.

SETTING: Six U.S. cities.

PARTICIPANTS: Thirty women, aged 17–54 years, who survived an attempted homicide by an intimate partner.

RESULTS: All but 2 of the participants had previously experienced physical violence, controlling behavior, or both from the partner who attempted to kill them. The intensity of the violence, control, and threats varied greatly, as did the number of risk factors measured by the Danger Assessment, defining a wide spectrum of prior abuse. Approximately half (14/30) of the participants did not recognize that their lives were in danger. Women often focused more on relationship problems involving money, alcohol, drugs, possessiveness, or infidelity, than on the risk to themselves from the violence. The majority of the attempts (22/30) happened around the time of a relationship change, but the relationship was often ending because of problems other than violence.

CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians should not be falsely reassured by a woman’s sense of safety, by the lack of a history of severe violence, or by the presence of few classic risk factors for homicide. Efforts to reduce femicide risk that are targeted only at those women seeking help for violence-related problems may miss potential victims.

Presented at the Plenary Session of the 25th Annual Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, May, 2002, Atlanta, Ga.
Grant support: This project was funded via a joint grant (R01 DA/AA11156) to Dr. J. Campbell from the National Institutes of Health (NIDA, NIMH, NIA), Center for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Justice. Additional funding was provided by the Collins Foundation to assist in the collection of data from 1 of the 6 cites.