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The killer is in the home in Europe too

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DomesticViolence11002“Violence against women is the most frequent and less punished crime in the world.”

Women worldwide are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. Male violence is the primary cause of death of women aged 15-44.

And according to the United Nations, 50 per cent of the women killed between 2008 and 2010 in Europe were killed by a member of their family.

For men, that number was just 15 per cent.

In other words, women are killed by those who supposedly love them.

And we are talking Europe here.

According to Paula McGovern, from Sonas Housing, of the women murdered in Ireland since 1996, half of the resolved cases were committed by a husband, ex-husband, partner or ex-partner.

And 30 per cent of the women who experience domestic violence are physically assaulted for the first time during pregnancy.

The issue of domestic violence is virtually invisible in Ireland, McGovern pointed out in Ireland’s Journal recently.

It is not, she continued, listed as a cause of homelessness, which means that women struggle to get housing places even if their lives are severely at risk. It is not recorded in police protocols as a form of abuse.

When a woman is murdered by her partner, domestic violence is rarely named in the reporting of a case even when there is a long history of violence, and the case is reported as a single event.

In effect, victims are doubly victimised – by an abuser and by a system that does not want to acknowledge their experience.

United Nations figures say that one third of all women in Italy are at some point victims of domestic abuse.

Last year, 120 women in Italy were killed by their husbands, exes or boyfriends in so-called femicide attacks – a number that may sound small until you consider that, in Italy, one woman is slain every three days.

Last year women were shot, stabbed, burned alive, pushed off balconies, suffocated with pillow cases, or strangled by the cords of electronic appliances.

Only six weeks into this year, nine women in Italy have already been murdered by their husbands, exes, or boyfriends.

Barbara Spinelli, an Italian lawyer, teaches seminars on the topic to other lawyers, social workers, police officers, teachers and those who work and counsel battered women across Europe.

According to her, 70 per cent of women murdered in Italy are murdered by their partner or ex partner or relative and victims fall across the socioeconomic spectrum.

“The problem is that men aren’t able to accept the end of a love story,” she said.

“It’s not only a problem of power in the society; it’s a problem of self-determination: nowhere in the world do men accept the loss of control over the women’s life choices.”

And Spinelli believes part of the problem is the distorted and stereotyped portrayal of women in the media as either mothers or sex objects.

In Spain, another European country with high rates of femicide, so far, 13 women have been killed this year. Last year, 97 women were killed in Spain – 35 more than in 2011.

According to a government study, 40 per cent of German women aged 16 or over – that’s more than 16 million people – have been the victims of physical or sexual violence or both. But experts believe the real figure is much higher.

And Germany has dismal judicial procedures for dealing with sexual violence; only 12.7 per cent of attackers are ever brought to justice.

At present non-consensual sex is only considered punishable if the accused used violence or threatened to do so or took advantage of the defenceless position of his victim.

Unlike in Britain, it is insufficient if the victim simply says “no”.

Lawyer Sabine Kräuter-Stockton, who is fighting to have the law changed, said to the Guardian recently: “There are cases in which women have said ‘no’ and then cried throughout the whole event so that the man can have been in no doubt that the act is non-consensual, but in the eyes of the German law it is not viewed as a punishable rape.

“This is a gaping hole in the German justice system, and one that is well known because it has been repeatedly raised as something that needs to be dealt with.”

And according to statistics, most attacks in Germany happen in the women’s own homes.

And in the UK the recently released 2011/12 survey from the Office of National Statistics showed there were 536,000 victims of sexual assault in the last year and 2.0 million victims of domestic abuse.

Although the estimated levels of domestic abuse experienced in the last year were lower than those in the 2004/05 report, the baseline for this measure, there has been no statistically significant change since 2008/09.

No statistically significant change to sexual assault figures for the last year either.

The survey also reported 51 per cent of homicides against women were committed by a partner or ex-partner.

And so it goes on.

Women who live in abusive relationships run a high risk of actually being killed, and, said Dr Anna Alvazzi del Frate, research director of the Small Arms Survey, the presence of a gun in the home is very likely to transform disputes into killings.

“Violence against women is the most frequent and less punished crime in the world” was the first sentence of the documentary show at the beginning of the UN meeting where this issue was discussed last year, and it is horribly true.

Angela Me, chief of the Statistics and Surveys Section, at UNODC, presented data on the killing of women in the context of global homicide, as presented in The Global Study of Homicide  from October 2011.

And while 80 per cent of homicide victims worldwide are men and most perpetrators are also men, there was a clear relation between the killing of women and the killing due to partner and family violence.

One of the consequences is that statistically the killing of a woman may not ‘pop up’ as intentional, so it is not properly investigated, no one properly prosecuted.

And it may well be classified as manslaughter or unintentional homicide because there is an – extraordinary – high level of tolerance of violence against women.

And this in turn, of course, has consequences for the researchers as well, since the information is not coming from all possible sources – such as criminal justice or public health.

According to an unprecedented global study in the American Political Science Review published by Cambridge University Press, research “found astonishingly high rates of sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, violence in intimate relationships, and other violations of women.”

The study’s co-author, S. Laurel Weldon, reported that in Europe domestic violence ‘is a bigger danger to women than cancer, with 45 per cent of European women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence.’

The most effective way of combatting femicide involves eradicating misogyny and discrimination against women.

As Weldon says: “The problem with the criminal justice reaction is that you are just serving victims.

“If you don’t find a way to prevent the abuse by changing the mentality, you won’t actually solve the problem.”

  1. vicki wharton says:

    Sexist violence a higher risk to women’s lives than cancer … and yet it’s never mentioned in school’s, no men’s magazine ever mentions the subject of why so many men enjoy violence against women and children … why their media promotes it through on line porn. Its like an enormous elephant in the room … skirted round by everyone for fear of being called a man hater, dyke, feminazi or similar. Time sexist violence was made into a public health issue, like drink driving, smoking and obesity.

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