The research goals of Campbell, et al. (2003) were to “to specify the risk factors for intimate partner femicide among women in violent relationships with the aim of preventing this form of mortality” (p. 1090).
The Campbell, et al. (2003) study “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study” was not the first to look at the risk factors involved in femicide; however, it is “one of the few studies of intimate partner femicide to include a control population and, [. . . the first to examine the connection between relationship variables and specific demographic characteristics of victims and perpetrators” (p.
1094).Campbell, et al. (2003) were careful to include a control group and a range of variables from which relevant information was revealed. They were also upfront with several of the study’s limitations which included the fact that “some of the women who were excluded from [the] analysis because of no record of previous physical violence were in fact being abused,” and that “the relatively large proportion of ‘don't know’ responses from proxies regarding certain hypothesized risk factors [.
. were treated. . . ] as representing absence of the ‘exposure’ [which may have] produced conservative biases” (p. 1095).
While shortcomings exist, and not all respondents may have revealed accurate data, certainly the results of Campbell, et al. ’s work is useful.Not only did many of their results mirror those of others’ work, several new facts were brought to light. Two particulars stood out at the beginning of this study.
First, an inordinately high percentage “(67%-80%)” of the women who were murdered had experienced prior instances of hysical abuse (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p. 1090). Obviously, an escalation of violence isn’t surprising; however, that so many women who had been injured and who presumably sought medical attention were not more carefully assisted or monitored was alarming (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p.
1090).The second early surprise was the language limitation set: only English- or Spanish-speaking persons were included. Although no numbers were given to address how many proxies and/or women this eliminated, it seems a shortcoming that language was the sole basis for some exclusions.The two risk factors I found most staggering were the relationship between “the abuser’s lack of employment” and increased instances of intimate partner femicide, and that while an “abuser’s use of illicit drugs were strongly associated with intimate partner femicide, [.
. . ] the abuser’s excessive use of alcohol was not” (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p. 1091). The idea that something as simple as a job opportunity might save a woman’s life drastically changes the way I will view the unemployment rate in the future.
It also makes little sense that excessive use of alcohol was not a factor as it seems that many acts of violence (domestic and otherwise) often come on the heels of a long night (or other period) of drinking. I was intrigued by the dual role of the firearm: on one hand, a firearm in the home of a cohabitating couple was a factor that increased the potential for femicide; on the other, a woman who was not cohabitating and who had sole access to a firearm was less likely to be a femiucide victim (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p. 1091).This was the first of several factors that revealed the control dynamic that seems to be present in instances of femicide.
The other factors that drew me to the issue of control were the increased risk of femicide when the victim has “been separated from an abusive partner after [they had] lived together (Campbell, et al. , 2003, pp. 1091, 1092). And finally, that “having a child living in the home who was not the abusive partner’s biological child more than doubled the risk of femicide” (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p.
1092).Taking into account the social construct that men be their family’s earners, protectors, eaders, and fathers, each of the previously mentioned risk factors is an example of a direct “failure” on the abuser’s part regarding what society expects of a man. The obvious answer in all of this would seem to be that women need to be wary of entering into live-in relationships if the male is unemployed, lacks a college education, and/or if a non-biological child will be a part of the new “family. ” However, this isn’t realistic as few people can control whom they fall in love with, and not all men who fit into one or more of these categories is going to be an abuser at all or will eventually commit femicide.It also seems obvious that if abuse is a “67%-80%” indicator of the potential for femicide, women who experience any physical abuse what-so-ever should pack their things and leave. Unfortunately, leaving isn’t easy for reasons that range from emotional attachment to a lack of alternate living arrangements.
What’s even worse is that “the risk of intimate partner femicide [is] increased 9-fold by the combination of a highly controlling abuser and the couple’s separation after living together” (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p. 092).It appears that even if a women senses danger, she may be faced with a lose-lose situation. If she stays, the circumstances may escalate into further violence and possibly her death; however, if she leaves, her abuser may pursue her and kill her.
“Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study” attempts to end on a somewhat positive note by pointing to “the role medical professionals might play in identifying women at high risk of intimate partner femicide,” and tating that “often, battered women like the idea of a health care professional notifying the police for them” (Campbell, et al. , 2003, p. 1095).Unfortunately, this ray of hope is dimmed by the information that “with the exception of California, states do not require health care professionals to report to the criminal justice system unless there is evidence of a felony assault or an injury from an assault, [.
. . and that . . . ] in states other than California [.
. . ] the women should have the final say [in reporting]” (Campbell, et al. 2003, p. 1095).
The study certainly proves any woman entering into a potentially intimate relationship needs to proceed with great caution before allowing that relationship to move forward. This caution is even more important for women who have partial or total custody of children from a previous relationship. Frankly, the overall picture painted by Campbell, et al. ’s study is a gloomy one. It seems to indicate that the challenge of ending a cycle of abusiveness in intimate relationships is an almost impossible task.