Counting Dead Women in Australia: An In-Depth Case Review of Femicide

Abstract

Gender-based fatal violence (femicide) is a preventable cause of premature death. The Counting Dead Women Australia (CDWA) campaign is a femicide census counting violent deaths of women in Australia from 2014. We conducted a cross-sectional in-depth review of CDWA cases Jan-Dec 2014 to establish evidence of antecedent factors and describe femicide in Australia. Victim (n = 81) and perpetrator (n = 83) data were extracted from the CDWA register, law databases and coronial reports. Mixed methods triangulation of socio-demographic and incident characteristics. Women ranged in age from 20 to 82 years of age (44 ± 15.4). There were 83 perpetrators, of which 13 were unknown (not yet apprehended). Known perpetrators (n = 70) ranged in age from 16 to 72 years of age (40 ± 12.7) and 89% were male (62/70). The location of the crime was most frequently the victim’s home (49/70). In cases where the relationship between the victim and perpetrator was known (n = 59), over half of femicides were committed by intimate-partners (33/59). Intimate-partner perpetrators were more likely to have a history of violence and commit murder-suicide than other perpetrators. Femicide is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males, with women most vulnerable in their own home and with their intimate partners. Furthermore, intimate-partner femicide is associated with modifiable risk factors, including previous violence and mental health issues, which represents opportunities for early intervention within healthcare settings as practitioners are well-placed to identify risk and provide support. In line with recommendations for multi-sectoral approach, future research should target identification of risk and protective factors, and improved coordination of data collection.

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    In one such case the woman’s three children were additional victims

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the immense and important work of Pat Bradley, Sue McLeod and Debra Smith and the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint. The research team also acknowledges the contribution of Sanela Begani who assisted with data collection.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Sullivan.

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Cullen, P., Vaughan, G., Li, Z. et al. Counting Dead Women in Australia: An In-Depth Case Review of Femicide. J Fam Viol 34, 1–8 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-9963-6

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Keywords

  • Femicide
  • Family violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Gender-based violence
  • Homicide
  • Women