MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 07-Oct-14 15:22:27

Guest post: 'Let's start counting dead women, not ignoring them'

Karen Ingala Smith, who started the Counting Dead Women campaign in 2012, argues that the murders of women by men should not be seen as a series of isolated incidents - and that recording them properly is vital to ending violence against women

Karen Ingala Smith

Counting Dead Women

Posted on: Tue 07-Oct-14 15:22:27

(97 comments )

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'I've been able to make connections that others simply wouldn't know about'

I started counting dead women in January 2012. In the first three days of the year, eight women in the UK were killed through men's violence. Eight dead women in three days: three were shot, two stabbed, one strangled, one smothered and one - 87-year-old Kathleen Millward - was beaten to death by 15 blunt force trauma injuries inflicted by her own grandson.

Eight women aged between 20 and 87; their killers, five men aged between 19 and 48, were husbands, partners, boyfriends or exes, a sister's partner, an aunt's partner, a robber and a grandson. I was outraged that these murders were being reported as isolated incidents - that connections weren't being made about the occurrence and impact of men's violence.

I didn't intend to start a campaign, but once I'd started counting and naming the women, I didn't feel able to stop. Initially I focused on women killed through domestic violence, but the boundaries of who I was counting were continually tested. At the end of the year, I tried to define who I was counting and who I wasn't, using the term ‘gender related murder’. I was trying to express that fatal male violence against women goes beyond ‘domestic violence’; that there is more to men's misogynistic murders of women than the widely used phrase ‘two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners’, and that socially constructed gender has an influence on men's violence against women that goes beyond domestic violence.

Nearly three years after I started counting, I now include all women aged 14 and over who have been killed by men in the UK and UK women killed overseas: regardless of the relationship between the woman and the man who killed her; regardless of what is known, not known or assumed about his motive; regardless of how he killed her and who else he killed at the same time; regardless of the verdict reached when the case gets to court in our justice system created by men, which repeatedly delivers anything but justice to women. I do it because I believe that - in a world where sexism and misogyny are so pervasive that they're all but inescapable - a man killing a woman is always a sexist act, a fatal enactment of patriarchy.

I do it because I believe that - in a world where sexism and misogyny are so pervasive that they're all but inescapable - a man killing a woman is always a sexist act.


Because I'm counting dead women, I've been able to make connections that others simply wouldn't know about. It’s not just that in the UK men killed 126 women in 2012, 144 in 2013 and between January and the end of September this year at least 112 women have been killed through suspected male violence. It's that 37 of these have been women who have been killed by their sons, and that 20 elderly women have been killed in so-called botched robberies or muggings. On 4 September this year, 82-year-old Palmira Silva was beheaded in London, but most people didn't know that she was the third women to have been beheaded in London in less than six months. I did, though. On the 3 June 2014, Tahira Ahmed, 38, had also been decapitated. Her husband, Naveed Ahmed, 41, was charged with her murder; and in April, Judith Nibbs, 60, was decapitated, allegedly by her estranged husband Dempsey Nibbs, 67.

The Home Office currently records and publishes data on homicide victims’ gender and the relationship of the victim to the principal suspect - but it does so in a way that does not reveal the sex of the killer. We may be able to see how many women were killed by a partner and assume that most of them were male, but the records don't show us that most women killed by their child are killed by a son, or that most women killed by a relative, acquaintance or stranger are actually killed by a male relative, acquaintance or stranger. The Home Office records don't allow us to make connections across the different forms of men's fatal violence; in fact, the official government statistics hide the extent to which the problem of fatal violence is a problem of male violence.

This is significant, because it's by making the connections between instances of fatal male violence against women that we can get a true understanding of what is going on. I started this project because I wanted to remember and commemorate the women who have been killed by men, to raise awareness and motivate others to speak out and oppose men's violence. That is still important to me, but I also want to contribute to reducing, if not ending, men's violence against women and girls. If this is going to happen, we need to name and analyse male violence. So I started a petition calling for a ‘femicide observatory’, a fit-for-purpose, comprehensive record of fatal male violence against women.

I've been working with Women's Aid and Freshfields solicitors to develop a database of all women killed by men between 2009 and 2013, but we're going to need funding to support the development and maintenance of the sort of records that we'd like to keep. We want proper records, which we could then make accessible to policy makers and academics, in order to build a better understanding of the social, cultural and psychological issues that enable men's violence against women.

To show your support and add your voice to my call for a proper record, please sign my petition 'Stop Ignoring Dead Women'. Men's fatal violence against women is not a series of isolated incidents – it's connected and systemic. Men's violence against women is both a symptom and cause of inequality between women and men. Men's violence against women affects all women, directly or indirectly. And we need to stop it.

By Karen Ingala Smith

Twitter: @K_IngalaSmith @CountDeadWomen

HeySoulSister Tue 07-Oct-14 16:40:07

How do you propose to 'stop it '?

You can collate figures and they are pretty shocking! But moving on from that.... What do you propose to do to stop/reduce this

PuffinsAreFicticious Tue 07-Oct-14 17:16:35

Soul I think this paragraph explains what she and other groups are doing to stop/reduce this.

I've been working with Women's Aid and Freshfields solicitors to develop a database of all women killed by men between 2009 and 2013, but we're going to need funding to support the development and maintenance of the sort of records that we'd like to keep. We want proper records, which we could then make accessible to policy makers and academics, in order to build a better understanding of the social, cultural and psychological issues that enable men's violence against women.

If we name the problem, instead of having a general idea about it, we can use it as a springboard for campaigning. Men need to stop the whataboutery and get on board with this as well. What is it about maleness/masculinity that is making so many of them kill?

Karen Ingala Smith is a shero of mine, she speaks so passionately about this, and has worked really hard to bring it to public attention.

PetulaGordino Tue 07-Oct-14 17:19:39

Karen Ingala Smith is doing amazing work. raising awareness is enormously important

BelleCurve Tue 07-Oct-14 18:55:49

Is there somewhere we can donate as well as signing the petition?

YonicScrewdriver Tue 07-Oct-14 19:32:57

Agree, Belle. Karen, your work is amazing and is an ongoing inspiration for the Victims of Violence thread on here.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 07-Oct-14 19:35:23

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/feminist_activism/1065291-Victims-of-Violence?msgid=49918138#49918138

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ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Tue 07-Oct-14 21:52:37

Interesting (and heartbreaking) post. Will sign.

HeeHiles Tue 07-Oct-14 21:55:10

I've known two women who were murdered by their partners. Both had begged with police for protection but just patted on he head and told not to be silly. We need women to be taken seriously when their fears are reported and we need to be able to provide safe refuges for them. I remember Erin Pizzey setting up a refuge 40 years ago and the hate and vitriol she had to deal with was shocking - as far as I can see, nothing has changed sad

ballsballsballs Tue 07-Oct-14 21:59:48

I'll sign.

My ex-husband threatened me twice with a hammer. It took the police over half an hour to arrive.

NormaStanleyFletcher Tue 07-Oct-14 22:27:20

I will sign.

So much admiration for Karen.

The problem has to be recognised, named and analysed. It is far too much ignored or glossed over.

MyNameIsInigoMontoya Tue 07-Oct-14 23:32:01

Signed. I thought similar things when I saw the news reports of Alice Gross's body being found, on the same day as a news story about an 18-year-old strangling his (16-year-old, pregnant) girlfriend.

It's NOT just random, unrelated stuff. It is men killing women and girls, over and over again and I can't help feeling there MUST surely be reasons and more importantly, things that can be done about it.

LuisCarol Wed 08-Oct-14 02:17:22

Signed

Blondieminx Wed 08-Oct-14 06:32:23

I really admire Karen's work, frankly I think she should be made a Dame as her work is of national importance. It's a really awful thing to think about (men systemically killing their girlfriends/wives/mothers) and she works tirelessly to raise awareness of what's happening around us. The project on the database sounds very promising.

The way stats are recorded at the moment which hides the relationships involved in these crimes, is ridiculous. And very dark when you really think about why the stats are recorded the way that they are sad

DoctorTwo Wed 08-Oct-14 06:48:34

Men need to stop the whataboutery and get on board with this as well

Indeed. Whataboutery needs to be countered with 'this is not about you'. Education is key, I think. Attitudes have to change and the only way to do it without a mass cull is education.

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 08-Oct-14 11:25:33

Signed and shared

BrewsterToo Wed 08-Oct-14 13:27:50

Signed

cadno Wed 08-Oct-14 13:32:54

I know nothing of academic studies in this research area. Other than them being men are there other common characteristics that connects them ? Being a man, it seems to me, is a very poor indicator of a person being a murder.

PetulaGordino Wed 08-Oct-14 13:35:34

wrong way round cadno. not "most men are murderers", but "most murderers are men"

is that not worth highlighting?

cadno Wed 08-Oct-14 13:41:32

Most murders are men - but most men are not murders.

PetulaGordino Wed 08-Oct-14 13:45:51

do you mean murder victims? confused

either we're saying the same thing, or you're not making sense

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 08-Oct-14 13:50:24

If most murderers fit a certain profile (be that male or some other factor) this is a useful fact to know - not in terms of starting to treat everyone in that class as a murderer but at looking to see what, as a society, we can do to change and influence that.

Obvious, no?

cadno Wed 08-Oct-14 13:58:32

There needs to be a focus on those things that makes these men murder. if those factors can be identified that will be vitally important. The vast majority of men see out their days without committing murder.

PetulaGordino Wed 08-Oct-14 14:08:58

and even more women proportionally see out their days without committing murder. why is that?

cadno Wed 08-Oct-14 14:28:40

Agreed most people aren't murders. This is going well hmm

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