Alaska Leads Nation in Rate of Women Murdered by Men

Sep 16, 2014

Credit Violence Policy Center

A new report is out from a group in Washington, DC that looks at the rate of violence against women in the US.  According to the report, Alaska ranked first in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men. 

The Violence Policy Center released its annual report “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2012 Homicide Data.”  In the past 10 years, Alaska ranked in the top ten highest murder rates against women four other times. 

The study looked at the most recent Supplementary Homicide Report data from the FBI.  The report only examines instances involving one female homicide victim and one male offender.  In 2012, under those guidelines, there were just over 1,700 females murdered by males. 

Legislative director with the Violence Policy Center Kristen Rand says after 18 years of publishing this report, there is one trend VPC sees every year.

“The biggest threat that women face when it comes to homicide is from someone that they know and most likely and intimate partner rather than a stranger attack.  And that’s really why we started  doing this study almost 20 years ago is to break down the myths that face women.”

The study shows that of the 1700 victims, 62 percent were what are called intimate acquaintances of the killers.  An intimate acquaintance is a wife, common-law wife, ex-wife or girlfriend.  Rand says she sees common themes in the motives behind the murders and the methods used.

“Well I think some of the common things that we see in states that persistently rank in the top ten are there aren’t enough resources available to women to able to identify when they are in an abusive relationship and being able to get out of those relationships.  And also resources available for men to teach them how to deal with their anger and not take it out in a violent way.  Another factor is the availability of firearms.  We see nationally more than 50 percent of the homicides are committed with fire arms and the states that rank in the top ten tend to be states that have pretty high rates of fire arm ownership, and you definitely have that in Alaska.”

Systems administrator and data analyst for SAFE in Dillingham Lisa Haggblom says she thinks guns aren’t the only problem.  She says there are several factors behind Alaska’s rating in the study including substance abuse. 

“Lack of what a lot of lower 48 communities have in terms of law enforcement of just trying to stay on top of things before they escalate to a crime.  Just because the way Alaska is, the size of it, the way the communities are clusters, access in and out, weather, airplanes. All of those things.  The troopers have a harder time here going on a search and rescue for example because of conditions.”

Executive director of SAFE Marilyn Casteel says SAFE offers several programs in Bristol Bay to victims of physical and mental abuse to prevent violence escalating to murder.

“Anything that has to do with direct services like protection orders, our shelter downstairs, helping women find resources that they don’t know are out there when they are in a domestic violence relationship.  Because when you are in a domestic violence relationship sometimes some of those resources are totally cut off from the victim.”

The data in the When Men Murder Women study rated the state per capita.  That’s why Alaska, which saw the murder of nine women by men in 2012, ranked first in the nation, but California, which saw 212 female murders in the same year, ranked 27th.  The population of Alaska is over 731,000; however, there are 38 million people in California. Because of Alaska’s small population, a small change in numbers makes a huge difference.  For example, in 2008, Alaska ranked 35th in the   study, seeing three female murders. 

The US Department of Justice says women are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men and women are much more likely to be victimized at home than in any other place.  All of this is very daunting but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Since the study began in 1996, the rate of women murdered by men has dropped 26 percent.