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Artillery Row

Better men in prison than women in morgues

The feminist fix: Violent men — not alcohol, unemployment, COVID or stress — kill women

“Better men in prison than women in morgues” is the second article in Julie Bindel’s new online column for The Critic, “The feminist fix”, which explores feminism’s answer to today’s challenges. The first article, on seeing an end to the sex trade, can be read here.

The tragic case of Penelope Jackson tells us something crucial if we are to understand domestic homicide: in the relatively rare instances where a woman kills her abuser rather than ending up dead herself, much of the media and general public will find any way they can to look beyond the evidence of abuse, and trivialise. We are to believe, in this instance, that Jackson stabbed her husband over a row about cooking. In fact, and I speak from experience in dealing with such cases, it looks very much to me that Jackson had been bullied and controlled by the deceased for years and could take no more. 

The bigger question, at least in terms of sheer numbers, is how do we end femicide the killing of women and girls by men because they are women and girls? Feminists that campaign to end male violence have long pointed out that the dead bodies piled up in the morgues are there because non-fatal violence by men against women is normalised and rarely penalised. 

Domestic homicide often pops up in stand-up comedy routines, and there are endless references in popular culture to killing women, such as the Beatles’ “Run for Your Life”, which contains the familiar line “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man” a sentiment expressed by a number of men who kill their wives and plead so-called “provocation”. 

If they’re predictable, they’re preventable

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) does not break down the data for victims of intimate partner homicide by the sex of the perpetrator, but in the eleven years from April 2009 to March 2020, of 1,027 homicides 890 (86.7 per cent) of the victims were female, 137 (13.3 per cent) were male. So, for every two men killed, there were thirteen women.

I am writing this whilst in Turkey, having just met with feminists who are involved in the campaign against femicide. In Turkey, so-called honour killing is rife. The feminists tell me that every year, the names of all women and girls killed by men are collated and read out during the annual 16 Days of Activism against male violence. As with the Counting Dead Women project in the UK, and Women Count USA, the job of listing and honouring femicide victims is left to feminists. Nowhere in the world is this grim toll carried out by a state agency. 

In the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, I visited a cemetery full of the unmarked graves of women and girls who have been murdered by male relatives in the name of “honour”. The dead were given as much dignity in death as they were in life. 

Just as women are not raped by a lack of street lighting, femicide is not a result of men being cooped up with their wives during lockdown. Violent men not alcohol, unemployment, COVID or stress kill women. 

Across the US, homicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women aged 18 to 44. Current or former intimate (romantic) partners commit 14 per cent of all homicides in the U.S., with over 70 per cent of the victims being female disproportionately women of colour.  

Research has shown that intimate partner domestic violence homicides are often predictable; if they’re predictable, they’re preventable.

Call it what it is: punishment porn

In San Diego, California, domestic violence homicides involving strangulation have dropped significantly since 2017.  Between 2013 and 2016, strangulation accounted for 13.5 per cent of domestic-violence-related homicides. In the past four years it decreased to just over 2 per cent. The reduction has been credited to a countywide protocol, implemented following feminist campaigning, which requires police officers to ask specific questions of domestic violence victims in an effort to investigate and document any instances of choking or strangulation. This documentation could become evidence in court and lend weight to successful prosecutions.

Understanding risk is one way to prevent domestic violence from elevating and escalating towards homicide. But there is something to be done before the violence begins in the first instance: deterrence. 

Stop victim blaming, and not just when women are killed (“she asked for it, she nagged him”). Take the term “revenge porn” what has she done for him to seek “revenge”? Nothing! Call it what it is: punishment porn.

Stop buying the line that murderous men are mad (or a bit depressed) rather than bad. Perpetrator programmes involve men joining up with other abusers and attending group sessions in which they discuss and are challenged on their violent criminal actions. But are they more supportive of the abuser than the abused? Do they in fact leave the women in more danger than if the men had been dealt with in the same way as other violent offenders?

Take stalking more seriously. I have lost count of the times I have encountered a case of domestic homicide where the victim had called the police to report ongoing harassment prior to being killed. Most men who kill female ex-partners wage a war on their victims prior to the final fatal act, often relentlessly pursuing the women who have the nerve to break free of their control.  

Rather ask what she needs to escape

Understand that male violence escalates. Stop the misogyny that fuels abuse of women, and the worst will no longer happen. 

Prior to femicide, almost all of the women have been exposed to violence from the perpetrator. Police are often aware of this, but the complaints are not always taken seriously. Make it an automatic disciplinary offence if law enforcers do not address violence against women as seriously as it merits. 

Victims of femicide by former or current partners have almost always been controlled and isolated to varying degrees. If you notice this happening to a neighbour, colleague, friend or family member, do something. Do not ask her “Why do you stay?”, rather ask what she needs to escape. 

When a woman attempts to break away from an abusive man and begins to resist his ownership and control, she is in danger. Approximately half of all women killed by male partners die when they attempt to leave the relationship. Why, then, does the UK government not listen when feminists tell them to fund services run by feminist experts on sexual and domestic violence? These women can help the victims disclose their fears and reach safety. 

In the meantime, much as I am an advocate of emptying prisons of all but the most dangerous offenders, the men that routinely treat women as punchbags need some time behind bars, to understand that actions have consequences. I would rather see them in jail than women stacked up in morgues.

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