Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1974-1994

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1974-1994

Article excerpt

Rosemary Gartner

Centre of Criminology

University of Toronto

Myrna Dawson

Centre of Criminology

University of Toronto

Maria Crawford

Women We Honour Action Committee

Toronto, Ontario

This article reviews major findings from the authors' research on women killed by their intimate partners in Ontario. Between 1974 and 1994, killings by intimate partners accounted for between 63% and 76% of all women killed in Ontario. The authors document trends in intimate femicide, characteristics of victims and offenders, circumstances of the killings, and criminal justice responses to offenders. They also discuss the gender-specific nature of intimate femicides and identify ways in which intimate partner killings by males and females are distinctly different.

Cet article recense les resultats principaux d'une recherche effectuee par les auteures sur les femmes tuees par leurs partenaires intimes en Ontario. Entre 1974 et 1994, les meurtres par partenaire intimes constituaient entre 63 et 76 pour cent de toutes les femmes tuees en Ontario. Les auteures documentent les tendances reliees aux femicides intimes, les caracteristiques des victimes et des agresseurs, les circonstances entourant les meurtres, et la reaction du systeme judiciaire aux agresseurs. Elles discutent egalement de la nature genree des femicides intimes et identifient les facons dont les meurtres par partenaires intimes different selon le sexe de l'agresseur.

In March 1988, a young mother of two was killed by her estranged husband in a northern Ontario town. The killer had been visiting his wife who was staying in a shelter for abused women. Convinced that she was not going to return to him, he shot her twice at close range. Later that year, in a small town outside of Edmonton, a woman was shot dead in her home by her estranged husband who then shot and killed himself. Miraculously, the woman's three-year old girl, whom she was holding in her arms when she was shot, was not wounded. These women were two of the 202 female victims of homicide in Canada in 1988. They shared with 68 other female victims a marital relationship with their killers. These two women also shared the experience of having been clients and friends of women who worked in shelters for abused women in Ontario.

In response to these and other killings of women they had worked with, eight women met in January 1989 to share their experiences and provide each other emotional support. Within a few months the group had named itself the Women We Honour Action Committee, setting itself the task of learning more about the phenomenon of women killed by their intimate partners. With the support of a grant from the Ontario Women's Directorate, they conducted a literature review on women killed by their intimate partners, or intimate femicide.

That literature review (1) lead to a number of conclusions about the then-existing state of knowledge about intimate femicide. First, obtaining an accurate estimate of the number of such killings in Canada or in Ontario from statistics in official publications was not possible because official publications restricted their classifications to "spouse killings," which excluded killings by estranged common-law partners and current or former boyfriends. Second, information on the nature of intimate femicide -- its dynamics as well as its structural and cultural sources -- was incomplete. In part this reflected researchers' reliance on small, highly-select samples, on offenders' recollections of their crimes, and on traditional psychological and psychiatric concepts and classifications. Third, much of the research had been conducted in the United States which is atypical in both the quantity and quality of its homicides. That is, spousal homicides make up a much smaller proportion of total homicides in the US compared to many other nations. Moreover, the ratio of female to male victims of spouse killings is more balanced in the US than in other countries (about 1. …

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