Women Who Kill

When women kill, which they don't do very often, the motive can be quite different from their male counterparts. Learn what situations make women snap, making murder feel like the only option they have.

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Why men commit more murders then women is a loaded question. It probably has something to do with a natural, evolved propensity for violence needed to gain social status, resources and control over a sexual mate. Women, on the other hand, are the natural nurturers and caretakers which could make them less "hard-wired" for violence.


Most people, of course, don't resort to murder when provoked or upset. That's because there is an area in the brain that intercepts these ferocious thoughts before they can be acted upon. So what goes wrong when someone snaps? And is it different in men and women?

There isn't a lot of research about women killers because most studies focus on men. Criminologists say the psychological and behavioral characteristics of male murderers are not easily applied to women. Although the motives vary in women, just as they do in men, there are some motives that tend to trigger deadly violence by women more often.


Identifying women at risk , and getting them the help they need, may prevent some women from making the biggest mistake of their lives.


Profile of a Murderess

Studies show that when men commit murder, they typically kill people they don't know well, usually over money, power, or when they lose face. Female-perpetrated homicide, on the other hand, typically has a personal emotional component. The victim is usually a person they have been intimately involved with who may have initiated some type of aggression toward them at some point in their life.


There are some extremely rare serial cases involving misplaced mercy or extreme psychopathy. But, women mostly kill a current or former spouse or dating partner, child, friend or relative.


The murders typically occur in the home and are generally unplanned. They kill out of desperation to protect themselves or their children from a real (or imagined) life-threatening situation or in reaction to physical, sexual or psychological abuse. It is often a crime of opportunity; a chance situation presents itself and is acted upon without much thought.


Women who kill their children (infanticide) may do so during a psychotic event related to severe mental illness or as a consequence of drug or alcohol abuse. They feel like they have no real resources to cope with the responsibility of caring for children and are unable to manage the rigors of managing a household, work and family. Murder is perceived as the only way out.


And, like men, women will kill because they live in communities where there is a culture of violence, gangs or drug addiction.

There is never a good reason for murder. Yet, when a women kills as a way out of an abusive relationship or has an unrecognized or untreated mental illness, it pulls on our heartstrings. Years of domestic abuse can cause depression, post-traumatic stress, sleeplessness and battered-woman syndrome – and getting these women to recognize unhealthy situations is difficult.


The key is to give women in jeopardy the tools that prevent them from viewing murder as the only option.