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Women Count USA

In tireless one-woman project, nurse creates a database of women murdered by men in the U.S., remembering their lives

By WITW Staff on February 22, 2019

A school nurse in Dallas has embarked on a one-woman project to tell the stories of the thousands of women who are murdered, on average, by men each year — most typically by partners or other men close in their lives. Dawn Wilcox, 54, said she was inspired to create Women Count USA, a publicly available database of women slain by men, after witnessing the dramatic media reaction to the killing of the gorilla Harambe at the Cincinnati zoo.

While she shared the horror at the brutal killing, she was also struck that women being murdered by their partners, and others they once trusted, is not always met with equivalent uproar.

Since 1996, 1,613 to 2,129 women have been murdered by men each year in the United States, FBI data show. An overwhelming majority of those women were killed by a man they knew. Recording the number of women murdered is not Wilcox’s singular goal, though — she also researches their stories, adds their photos, tries to learn who they were, to memorialize them.

Wilcox’s database now contains entries on nearly 2,500 women killed by men, complete with photos of the slain women’s faces and details from their lives. Her project, she confided, was also inspired by her own experience. A man she dated when she was 21 years old, she told The Atlantic, put his hand on her throat, told her he wanted to taste her blood, and then bit her arm severely, tearing out her skin. She said she ended up in the emergency room, but that she felt grateful to have escaped him at all. “I could’ve easily ended up one of the women on my own list,” she said.

Women Count USA, she says, is intended to humanize accounts of gendered violence and help readers to truly see the victims as people just like themselves. In one such account, she shared the story of Nicole Duckson, a 34-year-old woman from Columbus, Ohio, woman who was stabbed to death alongside her 4-year-old daughter, Christina. Her post on Duckson included testimony from friends who “remembered her as a prayerful person and a loving mother” and Christina as “a polite, happy little girl.”

“Where is the outrage? Where are the marches, the speeches? I know where the silence is. It is everywhere, and it is deafening,” Wilcox said. “I feel like these women were completely failed by all of us, really. A lot of these women did everything you’re supposed to do to keep themselves safe. They told people, they went to the police, they got protective orders, and it still was not enough.”

Read the full story at The Atlantic.


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