And it's more proof violence against women must be stopped
By Rubén Rosario
Updated: 09/23/2009 11:43:38 PM CDT
We're not No. 1. We're not No. 1. We're No. 34. In this case, it's really bad coming in first.
But 34 out of 50 is no cause for celebration, either, considering the subject matter.
So what am I talking about here?
I'm talking about Minnesota's 2007 ranking in the number of homicides of women by their spouse or intimate partner per capita, according to a report released this week by the Violence Policy Center. There were 1,865 such killings nationally in 2007, roughly five each day.
Louisiana ranked first in the nation, according to the nonprofit think tank's analysis of the latest and most complete FBI-compiled homicide data. Illinois ranked last. Wisconsin tied at 37 with Connecticut.
The report strictly limited itself to one-victim/one-offender incidents. In spite of the limitations, the report confirms and underscores a sad truth: We often hurt — if not kill — those we supposedly love.
The report's key findings include:
For homicides in which the victim/offender relationship could be identified, 91 percent of female victims (1,587 of 1,743) were killed by someone they knew.
More than 10 times as many females were killed by males they knew (1,587 victims) than were killed by male strangers (156 victims).
For those who knew their offenders, 62 percent (990) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
There were 315 women shot and killed by either their husbands or intimate acquaintances during an argument.
For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 51 percent of female victims (847 of 1,657) were killed with guns. Of these, 76 percent (640 victims) were killed with handguns. There were 353 females killed with knives or other cutting instruments; 116 were killed by a blunt object; and 227 were killed by bodily force.
Now, a qualifier. The Violence Policy Center is an unabashed and unapologetic advocate for strict gun restrictions.
"Firearms are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes," the report states. "Instead, they are all too often used to inflict harm on the very people they were intended to protect."
Regardless of what we may feel about the Second Amendment or gun ownership, there is no question about the accessibility of firearms playing a key role in such fatalities.
"What the report points out is consistent in what we have seen over the years," said Liz Richards, director of programming for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
The coalition's annual "femicide" reports, which include domestic-related slayings of children and other relatives, reveal that 47 percent of the 63 women slain in Minnesota from 2006 to 2008 were killed with a firearm.
But there's a larger factor to this perennial slaughter. It is not solely about firearms. Quite a number of female victims are stabbed, choked and bludgeoned to death. It is also not about state rankings, but about state of mind.
We are a culture that has not rid ourselves of the mind-set that women are inferior and still somehow possessions or personal property.
One telling statistic points this out: Of the 21 domestic-related killings of women last year in Minnesota, 68 percent of the victims were either separated from their killer or attempting to leave at the time of their murders.
In its prelude to the femicide reports, the coalition challenges communities, among other measures, to enact and effectively enforce and prosecute laws to better protect women and children. But it's the call for prevention education for all elementary and secondary students that caught my eye.
I frankly believe that education starts in the home and at an early age. We need to inoculate boys early in life, teaching them to respect women and treat them as equals.
And we need to tone down the media images and the songs and the commercials that continue to objectify women.
Perhaps that will help reduce the annual carnage.
Rubén Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Violence Policy Center's state rankings report: vpc.org
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women's femicide reports: mcbw.org