Today brought this piece of news about female murder victims in Sweden: According to a report published by BR┼, the National Council for Crime Prevention, one in three victims of deadly assault is a woman and every second female victim is killed by a spouse or regular partner.
This is not surprising: Epidemiologists have for a long time told us that marriage is good for men’s health, while criminologists and (quite a few feminists) have told us that it is bad for women’s health.
A little surprising – at least if you believe everything they write in the newspapers – is that the frequency of deadly assaults in Sweden has been in decline since the 1970s.
But the report’s main findings are on the one hand not really surprising (at least not if you are a Danish man and not a Swedish radical feminist) and on the other hand deeply disturbing.
First, the typical assailant is not only a man but also the woman’s present or former partner (former partners are especially deadly). Well, duh.
Second, the typical assailant is not a typical man (some Swedish women will find this surprising): He has a history of violence and crime, and is likely to suffer from some kind of mental distorder – depression (yes, depression can often trigger violence) or some kind of psychosis. He is also frequently socially marginalised though lack of education, unemployment and so on.
Finally, deadly assaults often do not come out of the blue – there is a history of violence and abuse against the woman in the relationship.
The disturbing point is of cause that many murders could be prevented if it was possible to screen potential assailants more effectively – police, hospitals and psychiatry (the questionable quality of the treatment of people with mental disorders is an issue which reemerges all to often in Swedish debate) have a large role to play here. Much work has been made but obviously more will be necessary.
And Danish police unfortunately have lessons to learn: I recall hearing a truly embarrassing interview as late as last year with a Danish police officer who couldn’t see any problems with women withdrawing reports against their partners.
What about the social issue, then? One explanation could be that social marginalisation is an effect of the same factors which lead to abuse and murder. Feel free to call me an eternal child of the 1970s, but mental disorders should be acknowledged as a major hazard in peoples’ lives which individuals cannot control.
Another explanation to the variations in violent behaviour could be that middle- and upper-class men have more instruments at their disposal to regain their social standing and disturb the lives of their ex-wives. A good divorce lawyer can (at least in the imagination of the ex-husband) do more harm than a knife.
The full report is here.
Oh, and what made me write the post was this: dr.dk published a story about the report with this headline – Swedish wife-killers are mentally ill. Are there any reasons to believe that Sweden and Denmark are that different in this aspect?