Unemployment, access to guns among factors that turn domestic violence deadly

Access to guns, threats to kill and most of all, unemployment, are the biggest predictors of the murder of women in abusive relationships, concludes a nationwide case control study led by Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

The study, published in the July 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, finds that a combination of factors, rather than a single factor, increases the likelihood that a woman will be murdered by her partner.

Researchers identified and interviewed family members and acquaintances of 220 intimate partner femicide victims in 11 U.S. cities, along with 343 women who reported physical abuse during the past two years. The relatives and acquaintances were people knowledgeable about the murder victims' relationships with the partner. The interviews used an instrument created by Campbell called the Danger Assessment and included questions about the victim and the perpetrator, characteristics of the relationship, and details about the abuse, including the type, frequency and severity of violence.

Results of the study show that the abuser's lack of a job is the strongest social risk factor, increasing the risk of femicide fourfold. The abuser's access to a firearm increased the risk to more than five times, and threats to kill her and threats with a weapon also were strongly associated with homicide after taking the other factors into account.

The most common relationship factors that independently increased risk included a home with a stepchild of the abuser, an abuser's highly controlling behavior, and separation. The combination of controlling behavior and separation made femicide five times more likely.

"Such information can be useful in preventing these killings," says Campbell, principal investigator of the study. "In the United States, women are killed by intimate partners more often than by any other type of perpetrator, with the ma

Contact: Ming Tai
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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