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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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VICTIM CHARACTERISTICS

Number of Victims
Gender of Victims
Age of Victims
Relationship of the Victim to the Offender
Living with the Victim
History of Abuse and Conflict with the Victim
Victim's Activity at the Time the Homicide Occurred

 

Number of Victims

The majority of homicides examined involved one victim. There were no cases with more than two victims. The homicides that involved multiple victims included adult and child victims. In total, there were 187 victims.

 

Gender of Victims

74% of the victims were men. Women were victims 26% of the time.

 

Age of Victims

Age at time of death was available for 150 of the victims. The victim's ages ranged from a few hours old to 83 years old. Of the 150 victims for whom age at the time of death was available, 30 were youth 15 and 120 were adults. The average age of the youth victims was 6 years old. However, most child victims were under 5 years old accounting for 63.3% of the child victims. The average age of the adult victims was 43. Refer to Chart 28 and 29 for the age ranges of the adult and child victims respectively.

 

Relationship of the Victim to the Offender

One of the objectives of this study was to determine the victim-offender relationship in homicide offences. In the majority of cases (84.6%), the victims knew the offender either on an intimate basis or as a casual acquaintance. Only 15.4% of the women did not know their victim at the time of the offence. These results are similar to other findings (Statistics Canada 1976; Boyd 1988; Nouwens 1991; CSC 1995) where women were convicted for killing individuals with whom they had a previous relationship.

In over a quarter of the cases (26.0%), the victim was the offender's intimate partner (marital or common-law spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend). For those for whom it was possible to determine if the partner was current, past or estranged (13 out of 47), 2.8% were ex-partners (both male and female spouses were included in this category).

In 19.3%, the victims were the kin of the women, including the woman's own child (7.1%), another child in the woman's care 16 (5.5%), parents, and relatives. Another category of victims (5.0%) included individuals who were common law family members such as the relatives of the offenders spouse or boyfriend. Victims also include the wives or girlfriends of the men with whom the offender was involved.

In total, 51.3% of the cases had a domestic relationship link between the victims and offenders. This accounts for relations between intimate partners, ex-partners, other kinship relations and common-law family relations.

Acquaintance relationships are defined in this study as those where the offender knew the victim but not necessarily on an intimate basis. Victims in this category included neighbors, the offender's lawyer, another inmate in the same institution, roommates, friends/possible lovers, or people known through events in the offender's past. As well, acquaintances who were introduced to the offender through the co-accused during the commission of the offence were included in this category.

Six percent of the victims were involved in business relationships with the offender. These victims included prostitution customers, a prostitute hired by the woman's husband, a cab driver, and Justice figures, such as police officers and a staff member at group home accounted for 2.2% of the victims.

Other victims (8.2%), included strangers who had never met the offender prior to the homicide.

As illustrated in Chart 30, many different types of relationships existed between these women and their victims. Some of these categories are based on those found in Homicide in Canada: A Statistical Synopsis (Statistics Canada 1976).

 

Living with the Victim

In the majority of cases (65.5%), the victim was not someone with whom the offender lived. However, there were 61 cases (33.9%) where the victim had been living with the offender at the time of the homicide.

 

History of Abuse and Conflict with the Victim

An attempt was made in this study to determine if there had been a history of abuse or conflict between the offenders and the victims prior to the homicide. Of the 175 cases where information was available, 44% of the offenders had experienced some sort of prior conflict with their victim while 55.4% had not. In one case, the offender had a history of previous abuse/conflict with one of her victims but not with the other. It is important to note that abuse and conflict between offender and victim would probably vary according to the age of the victim, as well as the nature of the victim-offender relationship.

Information pertaining to the type of prior abuse or conflict that existed between the victim and offender before the homicide occurred was available for 78 cases. The most prevalent type of conflict involved abuse or harassment from the victim towards the offender (37.2%). Other conflicts involved situations where the offender had been harassing or abusing the victim prior to the homicide (17.9%). Arguments such as relationship disagreements 17 (17.9%), other arguments (16.7%), and money issues (3.8%) were another area of conflict between offenders and victims.

Chart 31 below illustrates the different types of conflicts known to have occurred between the offender and the victim before, or at the time the homicide occurred.

 

Victim's Activity at the Time the Homicide Occurred

Another variable examined in this study was the victim's activity at the time of the homicide. This variable is important because it reveals whether or not the victim was acting aggressively towards the offender at the time of the homicide. Information pertaining to this variable was available for 171 of the women.

Overall, it would appear that most victims (69.4%) were not behaving aggressively towards the victim at the time of the homicide. These victims were lying down, sitting down, sitting in the car, sleeping, or passed out when the homicide occurred.

The remaining 30.4% of the victims' did behave aggressively towards the offender at the time the homicide occurred. Nineteen were arguing with or assaulting the offender (7.6%). These latter assaults were either in the form of unwanted sexual advances or physical abuse. Four percent of the victims were arguing or assaulting the offenders' co-accused when the offence took place.

Refer to Chart 32 for a description of the victims' activity at the time the homicide occurred.

Other activities the victims were engaged in at the time of the homicide (10.5%) included: walking to or from school, walking with the offender or co-accused, entering or leaving the offender's home, being forcibly confined, showing family photographs to the offender, entertaining the offender, talking with the offender, evicting the offender from her apartment, conducting a maintenance check on a vehicle, taking a bath, waiting for the offender, urinating behind a car, playing in the backyard, and exiting a restaurant. Each of these activities accounted for 2.0% or less of the cases and was classified as "other".

15 Youth meaning from birth to 18 years of age.

16 These children may be step-children, foster children, or other children for whom the offender was responsible.

17 Relationship disagreements does not only include relationship problems between the woman and her spouse but also problems between the woman and her friend or parent, for example.