As Women’s Aid released its 2018 Femicide Watch report, the organisation called for a new approach to reducing deaths from femicide.

Following the 23 November release of the Women’s Aid Femicide Watch 2018 report, the organisation has called for the introduction of a system of formal domestic homicide reviews (DHRs) as an essential means of saving lives.

According to the report, 225 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland since records began in 1996. Of these, 137 (61%) were killed in their own homes and, where the cases have been resolved, 98 (56%) were murdered by a current or former male intimate partner.

“When women call Women’s Aid and tell us that they are afraid for their lives, we believe them. We know just how dangerous domestic violence can be,” said Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid. “Femicide by an intimate partner must be accepted as a fact of life for women. Women should be safe in their homes and in their relationships. And we must recognise the strong connection between the killing of women and domestic violence.”

That connection is the driving force behind calls for DHRs, as many of the risk factors in domestic violence homicide cases overlap with behaviours and tactics used by perpetrators of domestic violence, including physical abuse, threats to kill, abuse during pregnancy, jealousy, stalking and surveillance, and controlling behaviour.

In a system of DHRs, information gathered during reviews would be used to create tools and recommendations to improve prevention, risk assessment and risk management strategies currently used by agencies tasked to protect women and children, such as An Garda Síochána, social workers and the HSE.

Trends, patterns and histories

Explaining why this system is so essential, Dr Jane Monckton Smith, a forensic criminologist and expert on domestic violence, said: “Murder is never a ‘crime of passion’… If we keep explaining these murders away as spontaneous crimes without looking into the trends, patterns and histories, we will remain in denial. But, more importantly, we will be letting down past and future victims.”

The launch of the report came two days before the start of the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

This year, the Women’s Aid 16 Days campaign is focusing on femicide, breaking the pattern of male violence, believing survivors, and challenging myths, and the call for DHRs will play a big part in that. But it is also a time to honour the women who have already been lost.

Martin put this best: “We publish our Femicide Watch Report 2018 to pause, and to remember and reflect on the lives lost to male violence. Women’s Aid stands in solidarity with families, friends and communities of women murdered, and with the many women currently living with abuse.”

16 Days

The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign took place from 25 November to 10 December. The dates were originally chosen so that it would start on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and end on Human Rights Day.

Over the span of those 16 days, the international community also observed International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (on 29 November), and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was marked in Canada (6 December).

The 16 Days campaign was started in 1991 to challenge violence against women and girls.

While the Women’s Aid 16 Days campaign focused on femicide [the killing of a women or girl, in particular by a man, on account of her gender], breaking the pattern of male violence, believing survivors, and challenging myths, the international theme was the Ending of Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.

Global campaigns raised awareness of violence against women, called for changes at international, national and local level, and aimed to send a strong message that violence is not acceptable and that women and children have a right to live lives free from violence, abuse and fear within their homes and relationships.

The campaign also aimed to challenge the victim-blaming culture that surrounds domestic violence, and dispel some of the myths that are still believed about its causes and appropriate responses.

The symbol of the 16 Days campaign is a #BelieveHer purple ribbon.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, or someone you know is, call the Women’s Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900. Trained staff and volunteers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide support and information.

Main photo: Andy Art/Unsplash