MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gunshot wounds are the leading cause of violent death among women who die in or around their homes, a study published in the current American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine says.
Dr. James E. Bailey of the University of Tennessee-Memphis and colleagues at three other medical centers studied 266 homicides and suicides in urban areas of Tennessee, Ohio and Washington.
The research, conducted between 1987 and 1992, found that guns were involved in nearly half the deaths.
Eighty-two percent of the murder victims knew their killers, the study says.
“Women tend to be most concerned about violence from strangers,” Bailey said. “Their real concern should be about people they know.”
A history of domestic violence, drug use and the presence of firearms were major risk factors for murder of women in the home, the study says. In the suicide cases, women who lived alone and had a history of mental illness were at highest risk.
Guns were not found to be protective against violent death among women in the study, Bailey said. On the contrary, he said, “keeping guns was associated with an increased risk of homicide and suicide.”
Past domestic violence is the prime indicator of future trouble, the study found. Women with a history of abuse were 15 times more likely to be killed by spouses, lovers or first-degree relatives than women without such a history.
“Domestic violence must be taken very seriously by physicians as a potential prelude to homicide,” Bailey said.
The study recommends banning the sale of firearms to convicted batterers or those under court order for stalking or harassment and mandating drug and alcohol treatment for known batterers with substance abuse problems.
— Contact: Dr. James Bailey (901-545-7196)