The hidden scandal of older women killed by men

We are very pleased to be working with The Observer on a campaign to raise awareness of and demand action to tackle femicide, men’s fatal violence against women. Today’s feature focuses on the killings of older women.
Observer 7 March 2021
Observer 7 March 2021 Some of the victims, first column, from top: Judith Nibbs, Palmira Silva, Riasat Bi; second column, from top: Rosina Coleman, Norma Bell; third column, from top: Ruby Wilson, Nellie Geraghty; fourth column, from top: Ruth Williams, Eulin Hastings, Lea Adri-Soejoko; fifth column, from top: Paula Castle, Iris Owens.

We are very pleased to be working with The Observer on a campaign to raise awareness of and demand action to tackle femicide, men’s fatal violence against women.  Today’s feature focuses on the killings of older women. Women over 60 are almost twice as likely to be killed by their son as they are a stranger. As well as partners, they are targeted in their own homes by men that they do not know, maintenance men, taxi drivers, robbers and sexual predators. This week we learned that a 75-year old woman, Valerie Kneale, was killed by a “non-medical related internal injury” and that a member of staff from the hospital where she was being treated for a stroke, is being held on suspicion of murder, two offences of rape and one of sexual assault.

We started The Femicide Census because the government was not properly counting the extent of men’s fatal violence in the UK. The government didn’t and still doesn’t produce data that simply and clearly shows us how many women and girls are killed by men.

In the last two government strategies to tackle men’s violence against women and girls, published in 2010 and 2016, fatal violence was barely addressed and femicide was not named. In 2010 there was only one mention of homicide relating to the introduction of Domestic Homicide reviews. In 2016 there were 30 pages on tackling men’s violence against and abuse of women and girls, but the killing of those same women and girls, which happens on average once every three days, is confined to 2 lines, again focusing on domestic homicide.

Whilst it’s true that almost two-thirds (62%) of women killed by men are killed by a current or former partner, 38%, more than one in three are killed by someone else. It is simply not good enough to ignore the deaths of these women.  Men’s fatal violence against women, is not reducible simply to behaviours perpetrated by individual men. If we are serious about ending men’s violence against women, we need to look at the structures and practices that create, maintain, hide and excuse it. Looking at femicide helps us to do that. Failure to even reveal the extent of fatal violence, is complicity.

Last November, we published a report analysing 10-years of men’s fatally violence against women in the UK between 2009 and 2018.  Over those ten years, a woman’s life was ended by a man on average every three days.  Whatever interventions have been made to tackle men’s violence against women, the rate of men killing women has not declined.  Valerie Kneale’s death will not be addressed in actions which focus on domestic homicide.

We need an ambitious cross-party long-term strategy to tackle femicide and all male forms of men’s violence against women and girls. We need to look not just at abusive men and the failures of policing and the criminal justice system to hold individual men to account, or the other state institutions: education, health, social services and welfare.  We will not end men’s violence against women if we don’t address sex inequality, the objectification of women and beliefs about masculinity, femininity, relationships and sex-roles.  We can and must demand that the government does more to protect women’s right to life and freedom from abuse.

Femicide. Name it. Know it. Stop It.



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