In the 2018 report by the Violence Policy Center, "When Men Murder Women," Louisiana came in second in the nation for the "highest homicide rate of female victims killed by male offenders," with 58 victims in 2016. A high percentage of these women (69%) were killed with guns. This is the highest number of women killed by men in Louisiana since 2002. Only Alaska fared worse.
While these numbers may be discouraging — if not downright scary — there are ways in which we can all help counter domestic violence against women in Louisiana and across the country.
By the Numbers
To get a clearer picture, we should first look at a few of the factors involved.
Age: In Louisiana, older and younger women (under the age of 18 and over the age of 65) are less likely to be the victims of deadly violence than other age groups: only 10%, according to the Violence Policy Center. But women between the ages of 19 and 64 are in a more difficult situation. In fact, the average age of the victims was 34.
Race: There is also a marked disparity in the statistics based on race. Of the 58 women murdered by an intimate partner in Louisiana in 2016, nearly 59% (34) were African American. Twenty-three were white, and one was of unknown race. When you look at the racial breakdown of the population of Louisiana as a whole — 63% white; 32.6% black or African American — the numbers become even more stark.
Weapon of Choice: Guns are far more prevalent in these homicides than other methods — 69% of the 51 murders in which the weapon could be identified. Four of the women were killed with knives or other cutting instruments, two were killed with blunt objects and four were killed with bodily force.
Relationship to the Victim: Of the homicides in which the relationship could be determined, 49 of 50 women were killed by someone they knew. Only one was killed by a stranger. More than three-quarters of the victims were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives or girlfriends of the offenders.
Circumstances: Of the cases in which the circumstances were known, only 26% of the homicides were committed in conjunction with another serious crime. Most were committed during or because of an argument between female victim and male offender, according to the Violence Policy Center's report.
What Is Being Done?
There is no question that the situation is grim, particularly in Louisiana, but efforts are underway to address the issue of domestic violence.
"The homicide numbers for Louisiana are incredibly depressing, and they paint a picture of how far we have still to go in order to truly address domestic violence in our state," says Mariah Wineski, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV).
The LCADV, for example, is a coalition of people, shelters and nonresidential programs created in an effort to help women and their children get safely away from their abusers — stopping the progression that too often leads to homicide. The National Network to End Domestic Violence is another group working toward this aim on a national level.
Another such group, Catholic Charities, partnered with the Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office to provide free counseling to victims of violent crimes. In addition to these groups providing essential services within impacted communities, federal and state legislatures continue to work toward better laws to stop domestic violence.
In April 2019, for example, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. "Since VAWA was signed into law in 1994, over $7 billion in federal grants have been sent to state and local governments to facilitate programs that prevent domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence," according to NACo.
In 1994, the Wellstone amendment, which prohibits "individuals who are the subject of a protective order involving domestic violence from buying or possessing firearms," became law. A provision was added in 1996 that prohibits people who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying or possessing guns.
While these laws are critical to keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, there are still problems. According to the Violence Policy Center, "… not all states make the records of domestic violence protective orders and misdemeanors available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the computer system used to conduct the Brady Law background checks." Sometimes the records are incomplete even if they are available, and some don't make a distinction between nonviolent misdemeanors and domestic violence misdemeanors.
It's safe to say that there's more work to do.
What Can You Do?
Volunteering with organizations like those listed above, is a great start. Just talking to a person who has lived with violence can do wonders. Small donations of food, clothing and household items is another way to be of service.
Education will also put you in a position to be a part of the solution.
If this is an area of interest to you, you might want to consider formal education options, such as a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related field. With the LSUA online B.S. in Criminal Justice program, you can take on one of the many roles that will help you help others. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, for example, can help you attain a career as a law enforcement professional at the local, state and even federal levels. It will also position you to work in policy change and support others who do the same.
With enough hard work, education and continued vigilance, we can help reduce domestic violence for future generations, starting now.
Learn more about LSUA's online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.
Sources:NACo: U.S. House Passes Five-Year Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
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