To study the potential differences that distinguish homicides involving women as victims or offenders from those involving men, we analyzed Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports data on homicides that occurred in the United States between 1976 and 1987. Only cases that involved victims aged 15 years or older were included. Persons killed during law enforcement activity and cases in which the victim's gender was not recorded were excluded. A total of 215,273 homicides were studied, 77% of which involved male victims and 23% female victims. Although the overall risk of homicide for women was substantially lower than that of men (rate ratio [RR] = 0.27), their risk of being killed by a spouse or intimate acquaintance was higher (RR = 1.23). In contrast to men, the killing of a woman by a stranger was rare (RR = 0.18). More than twice as many women were shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance than were murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means. Although women comprise more than half the U.S. population, they committed only 14.7% of the homicides noted during the study interval. In contrast to men, who killed nonintimate acquaintances, strangers, or victims of undetermined relationship in 80% of cases, women killed their spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member in 60% of cases. When men killed with a gun, they most commonly shot a stranger or a non-family acquaintance. When women killed with a gun, the victim was five times more likely to be their spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a member of their family than to be a stranger or a person of undetermined relationship.
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