Charity launches website to analyse UK killings of women by men

By Emma Batha

By Emma Batha

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Campaigners against domestic violence launched a website on Thursday that aims to record every killing of a woman by a man in England and Wales in the hope of spurring action to save other women's lives.

The Femicide Census, which already has data on nearly 700 women killed between 2009 and 2013, will allow detailed tracking and analysis of male violence against women.

An average of two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner, according to Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, the domestic violence charity behind the project.

"We need to know what happened to these women before their deaths - for example if there were previous reports of domestic violence, if they had previous contact with the police or other agencies, but the warning signs were not picked up on.

The National Statistics Office reported on Thursday that about 1.4 million women were victims of domestic abuse in the year to March 2014, up 1.4 percent from the previous year.

"We are launching the Femicide Census to identify common themes so that we can learn from them, and so that we can reduce deaths by working with all relevant agencies and professionals to better protect women," Neate said.

The inspiration for the website came from domestic violence campaigner Karen Ingala Smith, who set up a blog in 2012 called Counting Dead Women in which she records the names of women killed by men.

"People reel off statistics without thinking about the individuals. Through naming the women and including pictures I'm trying to make the horror of what is happening feel more real. I want it to be upsetting – this should be absolutely shocking," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I want us to stop seeing these killings as isolated incidents and to see the connections and patterns because you cannot solve a problem unless you understand it," added Ingala Smith who runs Nia, a domestic violence charity in London.

Ingala Smith said women from the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and South Africa had approached her, wanting to set up similar projects.

Women's Aid said the census would be the most comprehensive single source of UK information about women who have been killed by men and the men who have killed them.

It will allow police, social workers and others to compare cases to identify when women are at risk.

Data shows 46 percent of women in the census were killed by an intimate partner or ex-partner, 6 percent by their son, 3 percent by extended family and 3 percent during a burglary.

Just over two fifths of women who died at the hands of a partner or ex-partner were killed with a knife or blunt instrument and around one fifth were strangled or asphyxiated.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 8.5 percent of women in England and Wales - an estimated 1.4 million - had experienced domestic abuse in the 12 months to end-March 2014, a 1.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Neate said the ONS methodology did not represent the large number of female victims who experienced coercive controlling abuse without physical violence, making it harder for the police to respond appropriately to domestic violence.

"The government's data on this are so bad, we now see organisations like Women's Aid having to step into the gap, to ensure our services have the information they need to protect women from violence," Neate said.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)