New Australian research into domestic violence murders shows separation or intent to separate was a factor in nearly 60 per cent of cases where a man killed his female partner.
In two separate reports released on Tuesday, research reveals both the number of people who have been killed by their partners in Australia and for the first time identifies the three distinct patterns of perpetration which lead to murder.
And one researcher says too often we refuse to believe men will carry out their threats to kill their partners.
The report published by Australia's National Research Organisation into Women's Safety (ANROWS) shows one clear risk across victims of intimate partner violence homicides between 2010 and 2018.
"It is so clear that separation is the most dangerous time for a woman and potentially lethal, particularly around three months after separation," ANROWS chief executive Padma Raman said.
The second report from the Australian Institute of Criminology details pathways to intimate partner homicide and analyses the key stages and events in male perpetrated intimate partner homicide in Australia.
The figures from the ANROWS and Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network report show a woman is murdered by her male partner every 11 days in Australia, a decline since the early 2000s. In nearly all those cases (94 per cent), the killer used domestic violence abusive behaviours against the victim in the lead-up to her death.
In more than 70 per cent of cases when a female homicide offender killed a male partner, she was the primary domestic violence victim in the life of the relationship. Between 2010 and June 30, 2018, 311 people were killed by their partners. Of those 240 were women, all were killed by men; and 71 men, of whom six were killed by their male partners. No women killed their female partners.
Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon, director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, said the report significantly increased our understanding of the trajectories of men who killed their female intimate partners in Australia.
In the pathways analysis of nearly 200 cases of intimate partner homicide between July 2007 and June 2018, researchers found three clear types of killer: fixated threat, persistent and disorderly; and deterioration/acute stressor. This is the first time this kind of research has been published in Australia.
Lead author of the Pathways project Dr Hayley Boxall of the Australian Institute of Criminology said the finding which really stood out to her was the number of men in the sample who had verbalised a threat to kill their partner in the lead-up to the intimate partner homicide but those threats were ignored by family and friends, statutory services and law enforcement.
"Everyone brushed it off or just dismissed it. We never seem to believe someone is going to kill their partner. Only when they do that, we retrospectively go, well there were are all these red flags that I could identify. But no one seemed to believe that it was going to happen," she says.
"This report really strongly puts the onus not on individual victims or even offenders but on their communities."
Fixated threat offenders accounted for one in three of these homicides. These men were jealous, controlling and abusive in their relationships but appeared normal in other aspects of their lives. The most common pathway, persistent and disorderly, accounted for 40 per cent of homicides. These killers had concurrent mental, emotional and physical health problems; had significant histories of violence towards intimate partners and others, had complex histories of trauma and abuse and were more likely to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
One in 10 offenders were described as on the deterioration/acute stressor pathway. They tended to be non-Indigenous, older, and to have significant emotional, mental and physical health problems.
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