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Black Women Murdered by Men Most Often Die by Gunfire, Usually by Someone They Know

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Black women in America are almost always killed by someone they know, most often with a gun, and usually as the result of an argument according to "When Men Murder Women," a report released each year by my organization, the Violence Policy Center, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The annual report details national and state-by-state information on female homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender. The study uses the most recent data available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report. According to the report:

  • In 2010, 499 black females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender homicides.
  • Where the relationship could be determined, 94 percent of black females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents knew their killers (414 out of 442). Nearly 15 times as many black females were murdered by a male they knew (414 victims) than were killed by male strangers (28 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2010. Of black victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent (267 out of 414) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives or girlfriends of the offenders. Like the vast majority of all homicides -- black or white, male or female -- 93 percent (463 out of 499) of the homicides of black females were intra-racial (meaning that both the victim and offender were of the same race).
  • As with female homicide victims in general, firearms -- especially handguns -- were the most common weapons used by males to murder black females in 2010. In the 451 homicides for which the murder weapon could be identified, 53 percent of black female victims (237 victims) were shot and killed with guns. Three times out of four the gun used was a handgun (179 of 237 victims or 76 percent). The number of black females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance (136 victims) was nearly five times as high as the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined (28 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2010.
  • The overwhelming majority of homicides of black females by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents in 2010 were not related to any other felony crime. Most often, black females were killed by males in the course of an argument -- most commonly with a firearm. In 2010, for the 403 homicides in which the circumstances between the black female victim and male offender could be identified, 89 percent (358 out of 403) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Nearly two thirds of non-felony related homicides (218 out of 358) involved arguments between the black female victim and male offender. Forty-nine percent (107 victims) were shot and killed with guns during those arguments.
  • In 2010, for single female victim/single male offender homicides where the age of the victim was reported (474 homicides), 10 percent of black female victims were less than 18 years old (48 victims) and four percent were 65 years of age or older (17 victims). The average age of black female homicide victims was 35 years old.

And while black females have the highest rate of death at the hands of male offenders -- two and a half times higher than white females (2.59 per 100,000 versus 1.06 per 100,000) and two times higher than all women combined (2.59 per 100,000 versus 1.22 per 100,000) -- the circumstances, relationships and weapons remain mind-numbingly constant for virtually all females of any race killed by males: someone they know, usually an intimate partner, during an argument or other non-felony event, and most commonly with a gun.