Dangerous Men: Femicide Census comment on cases of men killing women where there are known histories of violence against women

After 27-year-old Kulsuma Akter was stabbed to death in the street in Bradford, it emerged that Habibur Masum, 25, wanted and since arrested in relation to her death, was on bail for threatening to kill her. His bail conditions required him not to contact her and a second unnamed person and not to visit a specified address.

Femicide Census data tells us that of the men who killed 381 women in the UK in the three years from 2020 to 2022, at least 56% had known histories of violence against women and most of these (at least 53% of all men who were woman killers) had known histories of violence against the victim. It’s important to bear in mind that most violence and abuse perpetrated by men is not reported to the police or other authorities, or even anyone at all, so in reality the real figures will undoubtedly be higher.

In the same time period, we have found evidence that 21 men were on bail, 14 men were on licence, and 16 men had been served injunctions (of these 3 were also subjected to bail or licence conditions) when they killed a woman.  Again, we expect the real figure will be higher and that as documents such as Domestic Homicide Reviews are published, we ourselves will find evidence that the figures are higher.

We are concerned about the worth of processes like bail, licencing and Domestic Violence Prevention Orders (DVPOs, sometimes referred to as injunctions). For example, a DVPO is a court order that is supposed to prevent someone from doing something. Do we really expect men who are highly abusive and dangerous to pay attention to that? To a court order? It’s not as if they don’t already know that violence and abuse are wrong. We don’t need a court order to tell us not to kill someone, similarly, a man who has decided to kill a woman isn’t going to be prevented from doing so because a court order exists. The system isn’t fit for purpose.

On top of all this, of 2,085 men who have killed or have been charged with killing women (for whom the case hasn’t yet been heard) since 2009, 34 of them had killed before and two thirds of these (22/34) had killed a woman before.  Given that we know that men kill more men than they kill women, this reverse pattern in women killers is very significant. Men who kill women have a history of abuse of women, not necessarily violence and abuse of other men.

When a man kills a woman, it is almost never the first time that he has been abusive or violent to a woman. Femicide isn’t an entry level crime. Men who go on to kill women usually have been subjecting a woman or women in general to their abusive and controlling behaviour and for a long time.

The simple fact is that men’s violence against women is so normal and normalised that women and children are at risk of men’s violence and abuse every day. Our records go back to 2009. Since 2009, a man has killed a woman in the UK on average every 2.6 days.  Again – at least – because these are the cases that have been identified as homicides perpetrated by men on women. Again, the real figure will be higher, it could be much higher, with homicides disguised as missing persons cases, suicides, drug overdoses or other accidental deaths.

It is true we have to get better at holding abusers to account, that we have to significantly improve conviction rates for all forms of violence against women, for example, but that’s not enough. We need to look at what in society creates the conditions for men’s violence against and abuse of women to flourish, this includes men’s sense of entitlement, the objectification of women, including sexual objectification and sex inequality. We need a society that doesn’t blithely accept woman-blaming rationales such as ‘she must have driven him to it’, or equally rationales that excuse men, such as ‘he lost control’. Men killing women isn’t about them losing control, it’s much more likely to be about them taking control. Policing and criminal justice interventions on their own are not enough.

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