Intimate-partner femicide is a preventable cause of premature death, however in many countries the incidence is not monitored or accessible. In Australia, one woman is murdered each week at the hands of a current or former intimate-partner; however there is scant empirical evidence that investigates femicide, thus little is known about progression of violence and opportunities for intervention. The Counting Dead Women Australia (CDWA) campaign is a femicide census counting violent deaths of women in Australia from 2014.
We conducted a cross-sectional in-depth review of CDWA cases Jan-Dec 2014 to establish evidence of antecedent factors and trajectories of intimate-partner femicide. Victim (n=81) and perpetrator (n=83) data were extracted from the CDWA register, law databases and coronial reports. Mixed methods triangulation of socio-demographic and incident characteristics.
Women ranged in age from 20–82 years (44±15.8). Known perpetrators ranged in age from 16–72 years (40±12.8) and 89% were male (n=62). Where victim and perpetrator relationship was known, over half were intimate-partners (n=33). One third of cases were in the most disadvantaged Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) quintile, and this was higher among intimate-partner femicides where approximately 40% were in the most disadvantaged quintile. Intimate-partner perpetrators were more likely to have history of violence and commit murder-suicide than other perpetrators. Conversely, there were lower rates of substance misuse and criminal history among intimate-partner perpetrators.
Femicide is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males, with women most vulnerable in their own home and with their intimate-partners. High rates of perpetrator violence, mental health issues and antisocial behaviour are opportunities for early intervention within primary healthcare as practitioners are well-placed to identify victim and perpetrator risk. Perpetration of intimate-partner femicide is associated with modifiable risk factors that should be targeted through a risk-sensitive multi-sectoral approach that can be embedded within healthcare settings.