Partner murders set off alarms

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Police are calling this year the worst ever for partner murders in Norway, with more committed since January than in any full prior year. Experts, alarmed by the increase, are asking how these murders can occur in Norway, one of the most sexually equal countries in the world.

Police launched their 13th investigation into a partner murder this year after a man (age 54), was charged this week with killing his wife (52), in their home in the Jessheim area northeast of Oslo. Just two days earlier, a 35-year-old woman was also found dead in a flat in Lørenskog, another town just outside Oslo, and her husband (age 47) has been formally charged after admitting to the murder.

Mostly men killing women
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that police and experts are alarmed that just halfway through the year, they’ve already seen the highest number of partner murders committed in Norway since police started registering them in 1998. The previous high was in 2000, when a total of 12 partner murders were committed during the whole year. Partner murders have accounted for half of all murders committed in Norway so far this year.

Norway is a country where it’s often taken for granted that women have equal rights and financial and social independence, and women often gain custody of children after a relationship or marriage breaks up. It is also a country that has a high level of partner homicides per capita.

“The most typical is for the murder to occur during the break-up of a relationship, or when a break-up is threatened, and the man doesn’t want it,” criminologist and murder researcher Vibeke Ottesen at the University of Oslo told Dagsavisen. “Another category is when the man has lost the ability to care for his family.”

Ottesen also thinks, though, that there is a lot of variation behind the statistics, and that Norway is not necessarily facing a wave of murders. “International research shows that the bigger the age difference between the man and the woman, the greater the likelihood is for murder,” she said. She believes that Norwegians need to remove the taboos around domestic violence and realize that there are people facing life crises. “They need to get the message that there are other solutions,” she said.

Domestic violence has traditionally occurred behind closed doors in Norway as in many other countries, in the home, and it is only relatively recently that it has been started to be discussed more openly and examined more fully. The government has recently launched initiatives to find means of preventing domestic violence.

Calls for better protection
“It says something, that the problem of violence against women is big in Norway. We are not very good at protecting women in violent relationships,” Kjersti Ericsson, professor in criminology at the University of Oslo, told Dagsavisen. She believes the number of partner murders this year is high.

“It has been discussed whether the assailants should be tagged. There are a lot of ethical dilemmas linked to this, but I think that electronic tagging is something that really ought to be considered,” she said. She points to how a significant number of partner murders occur in relationships that already have a history of violence and threats, and she believes the current measures for protecting women, such as concealed identity or restraining orders against their partners, are too weak.

Norwegian filmmaker Eva Sørhaug, who wrote and directed the film 90 minutter (90 minutes) that explores domestic violence and partner murder, is scared by the latest developments. “If there is one place where you should not be killed, it’s in the home,” she said. One of the reasons she made the film was because Norway, one of the most sexually equal countries in the world, has such a high rate of partner murders. “The film was made because I don’t have any answer,” she told Dagsavisen.

She read through hundreds of newspaper articles when researching the film. “I gained the impression that the murderers could be split into three groups: Men who go bankrupt, go through a break-up, or lose control over their own use of violence,” Sørhaug said. “To understand partner murders, we need to understand men.”

Rash spreads
Meanwhile, the partner murders continue. Just hours before the dead woman was found in Jessheim this week, another woman was found murdered in a burned-out restaurant in the Galleri Oslo building downtown, which also houses Oslo’s bus terminal. A man with severe burn injuries was also found at the scene, and police said they “cannot rule out that the fire was deliberately.” The injured man was later charged in the murder.

Last week,  a 17-year-old girl from Afghanistan was found murdered in a relative’s home in Grua, and a man charged with the murder was arrested four days later in Italy. He had taken their two-year-old daughter with him, and she has now been taken into care.

Earlier this month, a woman in her late 20s was found murdered in Asker. Her ex-husband has admitted to the crime. Last month, successful media executive Sivje Schjærven (44) was found murdered in her villa on Ulvøya island in Oslo. Police believe that she was killed by her partner (47), before he took his own life.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay and
Nina Berglund 

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  • Pepita

    doesn’t matter if Norway is one of the top countries in publicly venerated ‘equality of the sexes’, in the house and in privacy there’s always the dominant male who wants to take over, even if he does the dishes so well as a caring Norwegian hubby! Men are the same everywhere in the world, Norwegian men aren’t better in terms of how they think of women. If you want count how many harassment incidents happen especially against foreign women you might find something interesting and on the rise there too… in Norway I mean. I know I would be very interested to see the statistics of reported verbal or physical harassments among sexes in Norway. Sexist crime that is.