Crime For Members

What can Denmark do to protect women at risk from domestic violence?

Emma Firth
Emma Firth - [email protected]
What can Denmark do to protect women at risk from domestic violence?
Illustration photo of a woman in distress. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

Fourteen women have been killed this year in Denmark. Nine of those women were killed by a partner or ex partner, leading campaigners to warn that the most dangerous place for a woman is in the home. What is being done in Denmark to help women in danger?


Over half of all women murdered in Denmark from 1992 to 2016 were killed by their current or former partner. This is the finding of research from Danish medical examiner Asser Thomsen, whose PhD thesis has shone a stark spotlight on the scale of domestic violence in the Nordic country.

From investigating 1,417 murders in Denmark during a 25-year period, Thomsen discovered that partner homicide (partnerdrab) made up 26.7 percent of the deaths, which makes it the single largest type of homicide in Denmark. 85 percent of those killed this way were women. 


The issue has become increasingly prominent in 2022. Earlier in November, a 37-year-old pregnant woman in the town of Holbæk died after she was repeatedly stabbed and her throat cut. Her unborn child did not survive the attack. Court reports said she had a "relation" to her suspected attacker.

She was the 14th female murder victim in Denmark this year. 

The government (currently a caretaker government) has not been silent about the issue and has pledged to act.

"We have closed our eyes to partner violence for far too long. It is a huge failure of the victims of violence and their children. Partner violence is a social responsibility. Everyone – authorities, family, friends and neighbours – has a responsibility to speak up, ask questions and react", Equality Minister Trine Bramsen said earlier this year, as the government drew up an action plan in response to partner homicide figures.

Pernille Skipper from the Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) party has said the government must do more to prevent women being killed.

"Now 14 women killed this year. It is the biggest single cause of death in Denmark, and the most predictable. An action plan is not enough if it only takes the symbolic and cheapest steps," she tweeted.

Mette Marie Yde, director of women's crisis centre Danner, told The Local that more needs to be done in Denmark.

"We can prevent at least half of these deaths with better preventative measures.

"If we reduce the violence, we reduce the risk of it ending in death because homicides are just the tip of the iceberg of the violence underneath," she said. 

More than 70,000 women are exposed to psychological violence from their partners every year in Denmark and more than 38,000 women are exposed to physical violence. This is according to LOKK, an organisation for women's crisis centres throughout Denmark. 

"Municipalities, police, women's shelters need to start sharing information so the dots are connected. We need to make better risk assessments so red flags can be raised and resources deployed, to prevent these deaths," Yde explained.

In the past, the main focus in supporting women subjected to violence has been by providing shelter, but Yde told The Local that this does not suit all women.

READ ALSO: Denmark shocked by suspected killing of young woman after night out

"We need to offer non-residential counselling and we need to increase the financing for perpetrator treatment. If we can build a bridge much earlier, we can help them change the patterns of their behaviour to break this cycle of violence they're in," she explained. 

Women's crisis centre Danner has used the research of English professor Jane Monckton-Smith from the University of Gloucestershire to help people spot the signs of an abusive relationship before it goes too far. 


"I think a lot of us are witnesses to it but we don't realise that is what we're seeing," Yde told The Local. 

As part of professor Monckton-Smith's research, where she compared 372 cases of female deaths in England, she concluded that partner homicide often follows the same eight steps. 

The first step is that the partner has a violent history; the second step is that the relationship moves very quickly; then starts the isolation and coercive control.

"She can't see her friends, use Facebook, he decides what she eats, when she eats, when to leave family functions - that is a big sign of coercive control," Yde explained.

"The fourth step is when it becomes really dangerous, as she decides she doesn't want to be in that relationship anymore. Step five can follow, where her partner will spend around three months trying to regain control, using the children, or harassment, stalking, or love-bombing her. He can turn from being extremely sorry to being really angry and threatening," Yde described.

The fifth step can result in either the couple getting back together; the controlling partner starting a relationship with someone else; or the relationship progressing to the sixth step. 

"Here, the coercive partner will threaten to kill, or commit suicide and in the process they can become depressed. For some, it is just a fantasy, but others will go onto step seven and start planning the killing and then step eight, when some will carry it out," Yde said.


"If we can stop that process, from when she breaks free of the relationship and is going to the police, we can prevent some of these homicides.

"The police need to be much better at screening the risk, but relatives can also support her, such as getting her to a shelter and if we can get treatment for the perpetrator's behaviour, all these elements will help," Yde explained.

Since 2015, a UN initiative has encouraged all member states to register murders of women at a national level in a so-called 'femicide watch'. After Denmark did not respond to this, the newspaper Politiken launched its own national monitoring unit in October this year, to record all cases of partner homicide from 2017 until 2027 to give a comprehensive overview.

Figures so far show there have been 45 partner murders since 2017, with 40 of them committed against women. 

"I don't know if it's getting worse, but I'm not convinced it is getting better. The fact is that the most dangerous place for a woman to be is in the home, " Yde told The Local. She described how countries such as Norway and the UK are ahead of Denmark in their preventative measures.

"A few years ago Norway implemented around 150 different laws and initiatives to protect women and [prevent] femicides and they reduced the deaths of women by half. So with the right knowledge, we know we can prevent them," Yde said.

With the ever-growing list of women murdered by a partner or former partner in Denmark, the pressure is growing for the government to do more.


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