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Clinical and Research News
Intimate-Partner Murders Tied to Several Factors
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 15 page 30-30

Even though American women may fear being murdered by a stranger on the streets, they are more likely to be killed by a spouse, lover, ex-spouse, or ex-lover.

But which intimate partners pose the greatest dangers to American women? Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., a professor of nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues, conducted a study to answer that question.

The focus of their study was 220 women who had been killed by intimate male partners, the intimate partners themselves, 343 women who had been physically abused or threatened with a weapon by a current or former intimate partner within the past two years, and the current intimate partners of these 343 women. In other words, the 343 women and their current partners served as control subjects.

The researchers compared certain characteristics of the partners who had killed with those of the current partners of the 343 control subjects to identify factors that increase a woman’s chances of being murdered by her intimate partner.

The researchers found that 70 percent of the partners who had killed had been physically abusive, whereas only 10 percent of the current partners of the control subjects were physically abusive. Thus, physical abuse appears to be a major risk factor for intimate partner femicide, as other studies have found.

What’s more, having a partner who is unemployed, has a gun, and threatens to kill his partner were found to be risk factors. So was a partner’s use of illicit substances. However, a partner’s use of alcohol was not, nor were a partner’s prior arrests for intimate-partner violence. In fact, arrests for domestic violence actually decreased the risk of murder.

Campbell and her team also used the data they had collected about their subjects to pinpoint circumstances that increase a woman’s chances of being slain by an intimate partner. One, they found, is living with an intimate partner while also living with a child from a previous relationship.

Another is living with a physically abusive partner, then separating from him, especially if he is highly controlling. Still another is leaving a physically abusive partner for another partner.

The results of the study by Campbell and her colleagues appear in the July American Journal of Public Health.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institute of Justice.

An abstract of the study, "Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study," is posted on the Web at www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/93/7/1089?.

Am J Public Health2003931089

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