Dead Women Count

She counts murdered women. Not women

wiped out in warzones by bullets and bombs,

nor the 63 million missing in India – Rita Banerji

keeps count of them. Nor is she counting

the Korean Comfort Women, piecing

together what’s left of their bones

from the fire pits where they perished.  Though

that too needs done. No, she is counting close

to home. But not the victims of wild-eyed strangers

they drilled us to evade: stay with your pals when you 

leave the pub, don’t walk down darkened lanes, don’t 

take shortcuts through woods alone, don’t get into vans,

 

don’t wear too short skirts, too high heels, 

low-cut tops, don’t end up a headline,

a corpse a break-a-mother’s-heart statistic 

in a ditch. Though we miss them too. Every one.

She counts women, girlfriends, wives, killed with

shotguns, ropes, with septic tanks and fists, with poison,

acid, cricket bats and knives, each murdered by a man

who said he loved her once; a boyfriend, husband,

partner, ex; a man she’d trusted in her heart, her home.

A man who thought her life no longer counts. But she

is counting, every week, every one.

And we are counting with her.

 

*

 

 

Domestic abuse kills more women aged 16 – 44 than cancer in the UK. Women in the UK are more likely to be raped, beaten and/or murdered by men they know than by a stranger – one in three women will experience domestic violence.

Comments (7)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Robert says:

    Thank you for the reminder, Magi.
    See #RideforMurderedWomen

    1. Magi Gibson says:

      Thanks, Robert. I had in mind the work done by Jean Hatchett and by Karen Ingala Smith. Karen counts all women murdered in UK. https://kareningalasmith.com And this is the link to Jean’s fundraising site. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jeanhatchetrideformurderedwomen . As you obviously know, Jean does bike rides for women murdered by partners and ex-partners and money raised goes to a women’s refuge to help other women at risk stay safe.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    I found this combination of poetry and statistics unhelpful on various levels.

    For a start, it is effectively a non sequitur. There is no follow-up for the reader, no further learning opportunities, no source for the statistics to explore, no suggestion of an appropriate course of action. However, considering all those whose lives have been threatened, harmed, scarred, terrorised, ended by domestic abuse, and observing little feedback, I offer a response.

    The poem seems to conflate several serious problems without making sense of their connection, but then narrows a point which excludes other relevant perspectives. For example, the question of whether the few women convicted of killing partners in the UK receive fair trials and sentencing.

    We are given relative comparisons against cancer, between familiar and stranger perpetrators, and perhaps a more helpful (if unsourced) scale of the problem in the UK, but no trends or other contexts.

    What are the risk factors? Is there a helpful profile of abusers (apart from ‘male’)? How does Scotland compare with the UK? Perhaps there are factors like alcohol and patriarchal religion worth noting, or how a childhood history of experience of abuse might affect adults? How (as the Channel 4 series Generation Porn asks) does porn affect abuse?

    We have research that suggests that those from military backgrounds tend to have more than average violent tendencies in civilian life. A study apparently found that the biggest reason for teenage runaway in London was one or more military parents who tended to try and control family members through violence or threats of force. What about other kinds of profiles? Perhaps closeted homosexuals are more or less inclined to take their frustrations out on their spouses? Or is domestic violence inexplicable, random (but predominantly male) behaviour?

    What is the international context? For example, is it true that the intimate partner ratio of male-killing-female and female-killing-male is closer to 4:3 in the USA, a global outlier? Not all paths to equality are equal, I guess.

    When women kill intimate partners, it seems often to be after experience long-term abuse in the relationship. This immediately raises the question of how often killings are symptomatic or asymptomatic of other kinds of abuse.

    What strategies have women (people) developed against domestic abuse? For example, perhaps whisper networks are used to highlight (unconvicted) dangerous prospective partners. And talking of convictions, is there a bias in who gets away with such crimes?

    While male relatives can be abusers, they may also play an important role in its deterrence, like the brothers who come to the aid of the last bride of Bluebeard in Charles Perrault’s version. That is fiction: what is the reality? It is known that premeditating and controlling abusers often try to isolate their victims from family and friend support networks.

    The poem appears to speculate that women are taken in by verbal protestations of love. Is that supposed to imply gullibility, poor education, complicity in their own deceptions? Even then, are crimes of passion supposed to be devoid of love, or that the life of woman does not count?

    I am familiar with the discussions of female social workers in the relevant areas, one of whom used to describe a recurring pattern of domestic abuse as “woman’s inhumanity to man”; another emphatically said “women are worse than men” in her experience of domestic abuse cases. I am not sure how these views fit in the poem and statistics above. Surely the picture is more complex? Certainly a quick survey of websites of groups dedicated to this issue suggests a much more nuanced picture.

    Where is the science?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, and a missed opportunity to connect to the wider discussion on domestic abuse, in my view. I hope that poetry is not exempt from criticism, and I meant mine to be (largely) constructive.

        1. Janette Foggo says:

          It’s a poem. A work of Art. A reflection. A response. A voice. An anger. A non violent articulate expression of feeling about specific violence. You do your own research. Then you can write a poem.

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia