Could we have known? A qualitative analysis of data from women who survived an attempted homicide by an intimate partner

J Gen Intern Med. 2003 Oct;18(10):788-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21202.x.


Objective: To examine in-depth the lives of women whose partners attempted to kill them, and to identify patterns that may aid in the clinician's ability to predict, prevent, or counsel about femicide or attempted femicide.

Design: Qualitative analysis of 30 in-depth interviews.

Setting: Six U.S. cities.

Participants: Thirty women, aged 17-54 years, who survived an attempted homicide by an intimate partner.

Results: All but 2 of the participants had previously experienced physical violence, controlling behavior, or both from the partner who attempted to kill them. The intensity of the violence, control, and threats varied greatly, as did the number of risk factors measured by the Danger Assessment, defining a wide spectrum of prior abuse. Approximately half (14/30) of the participants did not recognize that their lives were in danger. Women often focused more on relationship problems involving money, alcohol, drugs, possessiveness, or infidelity, than on the risk to themselves from the violence. The majority of the attempts (22/30) happened around the time of a relationship change, but the relationship was often ending because of problems other than violence.

Conclusions: Clinicians should not be falsely reassured by a woman's sense of safety, by the lack of a history of severe violence, or by the presence of few classic risk factors for homicide. Efforts to reduce femicide risk that are targeted only at those women seeking help for violence-related problems may miss potential victims.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Spouses*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*