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Women Who Kill Their Mates

Authors

  • Dominique Bourget M.D.,

    Corresponding author
    • Forensic Psychiatry and Schizophrenia Programs, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Ottawa, Canada
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  • Pierre Gagné M.D.


Dominique Bourget, M.D., Forensic Psychiatry and Schizophrenia Programs, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, 1145 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1Z 7K4, Canada. E-mail: dominiquebourget@gmail.com

Abstract

Spousal homicide perpetrators are much more likely to be men than women. Accordingly, little research has focused on delineating characteristics of women who have committed spousal homicide. A retrospective clinical review of coroners' files containing all cases of spousal homicide occurring in Quebec over a 20-year period was carried out. A total of 276 spousal homicides occurred between 1991 and 2010, with 42 homicides by female spouses and 234 homicides by male spouses. Differences between homicides committed by female offenders and male offenders are discussed, and findings on spousal homicide committed by women are compared with those of previous studies. Findings regarding offenses perpetrated by females in the context of mental illness, domestic violence, and homicide-suicide are explored. The finding that only 28% of the female offenders in the Quebec sample had previously been subjected to violence by their victim is in contrast to the popular belief and reports that indicate that most female-perpetrated spousal homicide occurs in self-defense or in reaction to long-term abuse. In fact, women rarely gave a warning before killing their mates. Most did not suffer from a mental illness, although one-fifth were acutely intoxicated at the time of the killing. In the vast majority of cases of women who killed their mates, there were very few indicators that might have signaled the risk and helped predict the violent lethal behavior. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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