October is universally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  ICADV releases a domestic violence homicide report in early October as a reminder of how much work we yet have to do to reduce violence and make our communities safer across the state.

After reviewing the Fiscal Year 2020 Illinois Domestic Violence Homicide Report, there were some common themes in this report that show up every report. The majority of people who kill in domestic violence are male. The weapons most often used are guns. In some incidents there are multiple victims. A few of the people who kill will also kill themselves.

But there were a couple of unusual aspects in this report. Although 82% of those that killed were male, 47% of those killed were male. 10 of the people killed were sons of the killers. With seven children being recorded as victims in this report and 71% of the children were male, this means that some of the male children were over 18 years of age.

We don’t have enough data to really understand this but it raises some interesting questions. We have long known that domestic violence homicides are not just males killing their female partners. We also know that people who commit domestic violence and then choose to kill will do so with more than just there partners. However, this report raises some questions that need further exploration.  Are sons more of a target than daughters? What were the circumstances that led to more men being killed during this reporting period?

It isn’t unusual for Cook County to have higher numbers because of the population base, but in this Report Lake and Winnebago Counties stand out. Both counties have significant efforts occurring to try to reduce domestic violence homicides. Are we missing some important components for domestic violence homicide reduction?

We can’t know the answers to these questions based on the information we have but we can look at this report along with our previous reports to think about and ask “what more do we need to know?” Where can we go to find better information? Who can we partner with that can help us find answers? We must find ways of answering these questions to honor those that have died because of domestic violence. And to learn what needs to be in place in our communities to prevent future homicides.

The news reports that we drew the information from for this most recent report were produced between July, 2019 and June, 2020. Recently much has been written about the apparent increase in domestic violence homicides across the country during the pandemic and often restricted access outside the home. It is likely that increased isolation and decreased interaction with others has increased domestic violence and therefore homicides. We need real data to know the circumstances and the contributing factors in order to create better interventions and improved prevention efforts.

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