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New Report Details Domestic Homicides in MA

Dec 15, 2006

There were 17 incidents of domestic homicide resulting in the deaths of 24 people (19 victims and five perpetrators who committed suicide) in Massachusetts in 2003, according to a new report from Jane Doe Inc. Three-fourths of the murder victims had been in an adult intimate relationship with the person who killed them, and the rest were known to perpetrators as being close to and supportive of the victim.

“With this and future annual reviews of Massachusetts’ domestic violence homicides, we hope to raise awareness among individuals, communities, systems and policy makers around the Commonwealth about the lethal and often predictable consequences of domestic violence and to improve our response to domestic violence and prevention of homicides,” said Jane Doe Inc. Executive Director Mary Lauby.

Researchers found that previous physical harm or threats were documented in eleven of the 17 relationships. Three victims were known to have been stalked by the perpetrators prior to their murders. Thirty-two percent of the victims were over age 50, bringing attention to elder abuse.

Children were also victims in Massachusetts in 2003. One child was murdered and five children were in the home at the time of the homicide; three of those five children witnessed the murder. There are at least 41 surviving descendents of the homicide victims and perpetrators and more than half are minor children.

All 13 female homicide victims were killed by adult males, and ten were killed by current or former partners, half of whom were their husbands. Five men were killed in domestic violence homicides in 2003. Three of the five were killed by current female partners, and one perpetrator had long been abused by the man she killed. One of the other two male victims was killed by a same-sex partner and the other was killed by the male fiancé of a former girlfriend.

The report also notes that the media's coverage of domestic violence homicides often promotes myths and stereotypes about domestic violence, victims and batterers, missing opportunities to educate the public, hold systems accountable and provide the necessary context for understanding these crimes.

The report profiles the victims and uses court documents and media accounts to detail the crimes. Researchers used more than 100 newspaper accounts to compile the list of possible victims. Incidents were considered domestic violence related if: the victim and perpetrator were former spouses or intimate partners, adults or teens with a child in common, or adults or teens in a current or former dating relationship; the victim was a bystander or intervened in an attempted domestic violence homicide and was killed; the motive for murder was reported to include jealousy, in the context of an intimate partner or dating relationship; or a relationship existed between the perpetrator and adult or teen victim that could be defined as exhibiting a pattern of power and control.

For more information about the Massachusetts Domestic Violence Homicide Report, please visit www.janedoe.org/know/know_dv_homicide_report_2003.htm.

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