Media Release: Women's Aid Calls for Review of Domestic Killings.

23 Nov 2018

  • Women’s Aid launches is Femicide Watch 2018 report revealing that almost 9 in 10 women murdered in Ireland are killed by a man known to them.
  • Over half of women were murdered by their current or former boyfriend, partner or husband (resolved cases) and 61% of women were killed in their own homes.
  • Since records began (1996) 225 women have died violently, an average of 10 women per year. 16 children have died alongside their mothers.
  • Ireland must introduce formal reviews of domestic killings as a matter of urgency to help protect women and children and save lives.
  • Until these reviews, happen Ireland is failing to put in place the best prevention strategies for high risk victims of domestic violence leaving them vulnerable to escalating abuse and, in extreme cases, homicide.
  • Intimate partner Femicides are ‘never a crime of passion but are always planned and part of a pattern of abuse.’ Forensic criminologist Dr Jane Monckton Smith outlines the Homicide timeline at the Women’s Aid seminar on Femicide and domestic violence in Dublin today.
  • Domestic violence survivor Jessica Bowes, the family of Celine Cawley, killed in December 2008, and the new Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, are also due to address the gathering chaired by Norah Casey.

Friday 23rd November 2018: Women’s Aid, the national organisation supporting women and their children experiencing domestic violence, today launches its new report ‘Femicide Watch 2018 (Republic of Ireland)’.  The Femicide Watch Report shows that women are more likely to be killed in their own homes and by a man known to them.  In over half of all the resolved cases, women were killed by a current or former boyfriend, partner or husband.  Women’s Aid is calling on the Government to introduce formal reviews of domestic killings as a matter of urgency and argue that the learning from reviews will help save lives.  Without these domestic homicide reviews, agencies lack the ‘whole picture’ and are unlikely to see the full pattern of male violence against women and children.

The organisation is launching the report at a seminar in Dublin today ahead of the UN Day Opposing Violence against Women (25th November 2018).  Speakers at the seminar include the family of Celine Cawley, the Dublin businesswoman killed in her own home by her husband in December 2008 and Jessica Bowes, who was almost killed by her violent ex.  The new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is also due to outline his vision for the force’s handling of domestic violence and domestic homicides.  Other speakers will highlight the links between domestic violence and Femicide including Dr Jane Monckton Smith, a forensic criminologist and expert on domestic homicide, risk identification and management.  Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty, T.D., will represent the Government.

The report reveals that since the beginning of 1996, 225 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland.  16 children were killed alongside their mothers.  137 women (61%) were killed in their own homes.  Where the cases have been resolved 98 women (56%) were murdered by a current or former male intimate partner. Another 20 women (11%) were killed by a male relative and in 35 cases (20%) women were killed by a man who was known to them.  23 women (13%) were murdered by a stranger.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid says that fatal violence against women is at the most severe end of the spectrum of domestic abuse:

“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.  We know where women are killed.  We know how women are killed and by whom.  It is time to act.  Femicide by an intimate partner must not 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.”

Ms Martin continues:

“The types of abuse and behaviour that precedes intimate partner Femicide, mirrors what we hear from women each day.  Last year over 21,000 contacts were made with Women’s Aid including which 19,385 disclosures of abuse against women and 3,552 disclosures of child abuse.  We heard 622 disclosures where a man has told a woman he will kill her, the children, a family member or himself.  756 disclosures where a man had choked, smothered, beaten or threatened to beat his partner with a weapon.  531 disclosures of stalking –both online and in person - and 217 reports of assault during pregnancy.”

Women’s Aid says that the dangerous patterns present in abusive relationships are all too often dismissed and not taken seriously which can put women at risk of serious assault or homicide.  Risk factors for intimate partner Femicide can include a history of physical violence and also a pattern of emotional abuse and controlling behaviour.  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. 

Women’s Aid believes that increased recognition and management of risk factors for intimate partner homicide would lead to an improved response to domestic violence by the State and its agencies, saving the lives of women.  The organisation makes a number of recommendations for Government particularly around the creation of a multi-agency process of domestic homicide reviews.

Ms Martin says:

“One death is one too many and we have to do more to help save women and children’s lives.  One key initiative that could help immediately is the introduction of a system of Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs).  These reviews must have powers to make and monitor recommendations to improve prevention and risk assessment and risk management strategies by agencies tasked to protect women and children, for example, An Garda Síochána, social workers, HSE and other authorities and specialist domestic violence services.  Any DHR system must also include the testimony of family members of the woman, her informal community networks including friends and social groups.  We know from other jurisdictions that DHRs are a very important tool for families and loved ones to have their voices heard after often feeling let down by or voiceless in the Criminal Justice System.”

Dr Jane Monckton Smith, an expert on domestic homicides, speaking at the seminar, argues that we need to change the way we talk about and deal with abuse and fatal violence by intimate partners:

“I've met a lot of wife killers and murder is never a 'crime of passion'.  These murders are not about love, they’re about entitlement to a relationship, and a need to control that relationship. Murder is the ultimate expression of control. The most repeated phrase uttered by these killers is ‘if I can’t have you no-one can’.  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 both past and future victims - we just don’t know their names yet.”

Dr Monckton Smith will also outline her eight stage Homicide Timeline:

“I train police officers in risk and threat identification and there is so much resistance from them. We need a lot better police leadership telling their officers that this is important.  For those working on the frontline, looking at patterns in domestic abuse rather than incidents, motivations rather than actions and clusters rather than the number of risk markers is a more effective way to identify escalating risk and prevent femicides.  The eight stage homicide timeline I have identified will helps this.  There are known behavioural patterns to these murders and a critical indicator is coercive control which is not a benign or silly idea. It’s not about couples arguing; it’s not about a bit of jealousy. It’s about subjugation. Stalking isn’t about love struck individuals leaving flowers to declare their passion. It’s about monitoring and intelligence gathering.  When we talk about domestic violence deaths, we must talk about control.”

At the seminar, Women’s Aid and other speakers will highlight the need for improvements in media reporting of domestic homicide and domestic violence. 

Ms Martin explains:

“We believe that media reporting on intimate partner femicide and domestic violence can improve and that positive and responsible reporting can add to the public’s understanding and support those affected as they seek support and justice. It can also safeguard the privacy and dignity of the victim, their families and their communities. In particular, we are calling for guidelines on the reporting of violence against women by the Press Ombudsman in collaboration with key stakeholders such as Women’s Aid.”

Ms Martin concludes:

“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.”

The Women’s Aid UN Day Opposing Violence against Women Seminar takes place today from 9.30am to 1.30pm at Pillar Room, Rotunda Hospital, Dublin 1. 

When reporting on domestic violence or Femicide please list the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900.  www.womensaid.ie


Ends.

For further information contact Christina Sherlock on 087 919 2457 or by email Christina.sherlock@womensaid.ie

Photographs from the event will be made available by Paul Sharp/Sharppix from lunchtime, Friday 23rd November 2018.  Email paul@sharppix.ie or call 086 6689087.

Notes for editors/Producers:

  • The Women’s Aid Femicide Watch Report is available here
  • The Seminar Programme is available here.
  • List of 225 women and 16 children available in the report from page 24.
  • Femicide is generally accepted to be the killing of women by men. 
  • A 2013 study showed that more than 47% of all murders of women globally are reported to be committed by an intimate partner. In comparison, the same study estimates that about 6% of all murders of men are committed by an intimate partner. (Global Study on Homicide, UNOCD, 2013).
  • Key statistics from the Women’s Aid Femicide Report 2018:
    • Seven women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland in 2018. 
    • Since 1996, 225 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland.  16 children were killed alongside their mothers.
    • 137 women were killed in their own homes (61%).
    • In the resolved cases, 98 women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner (56%).
    • Another 20 women (11%) were killed by a male relative and in 35 cases (20%) women were killed by a man who was known to them.  23 women (13%) were murdered by a stranger.
    • In the 20 cases where a woman has been killed by a male relative, 16 were killed by their sons (80%).
    • In total, 87% of women were killed by a man they knew.
    • Women of any age can be victims of homicide with women under the age of 35 making up 52% of cases in Ireland.
    • There have been 22 cases of murder suicide in this time, where the killer has killed a woman and then himself during the incident or shortly afterwards.  In 21 of these cases the killer was a partner or ex of the victim
  • The Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline answers 50 calls a day.
  • Women's Aid is the national organisation providing support and information to women experiencing domestic violence through its Direct Services. It runs the only free, national, domestic violence helpline (1800 341 900, 24 hours, 7 days) with specialised trained staff & volunteers, accredited by the Helplines Partnership and with a Telephone Interpretation Service covering 170 languages for callers needing interpreting services as well as a Text Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing women. Women's Aid also offers a Dublin-based One to One Support Service and Court Accompaniment Service and runs the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service in the Dublin District Family Law Court (in partnership with Inchicore Outreach Centre.)