When pundits really want the scope of a big issue to hit home, they sometimes relate it to events that are universally affecting, like Sept. 11 or deaths of soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem used both to illustrate the prevalence of domestic violence amid recent high-profile NFL scandals.
"When we think of violence against women, for instance, we understandably think mainly of other countries, where the degree of violence is much higher," Steinem is quoted as saying in an Oct. 1, 2014, Associated Press story. "But what is also true is that if you added up all the women who have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends since 9/11, and then you add up all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq, more women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends."
A reader wanted to know if her factoid is accurate.
Females killed by intimate partners
The Justice Department offers a breakdown of homicides with female victims, more than one-third of which involve "intimate partners," which could be current or former (or male or female).
From 2002 to 2012, the number of women killed by intimate partners was 15,462, according to data from James A. Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor who adjusted federal data for unsolved homicide cases believed to be linked to intimate partners.
Another tally, this one from a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report, shows 10,470 women killed in intimate partner homicides from 2002 to 2010. (That tally should be higher, too, because it does not account for the 3.5 months that followed Sept. 11, 2001.)
In summary, it’s possible that some female victims were killed by female "intimate partners," but we don't know for sure because the data isn't broken down that way. But because the available data also excludes recent years, the true number is likely higher overall.
Deaths from 9/11 and the wars
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on Sept. 11, including the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York, the plane crash at the Pentagon and the fourth crash in a small field in rural Shanksville, Pa., according to a 10-year memorandum on the Sept. 11 attacks from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
Specifically, the consortium counts 2,997 deaths, which shrinks if you deduct the 19 jihadists. Also, a few people have died in recent years due to complications from injuries and conditions related to 9/11. Bottom line: The figure is less than 3,000 if you count only "Americans" as Steinem said. (People from 90 different countries died in the attacks, according to the U.S. State Department.)
As for the wars, the U.S. Department of Defense releases a daily count of casualties involving military and government personnel from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American death count for Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began in March 2003 and was renamed Operation New Dawn in 2010, is 4,491 deaths.
There have been 2,210 total American deaths in Afghanistan stemming from Operation Enduring Freedom, which started with airstrikes in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. Another 134 Americans have died in places outside of Afghanistan in work related to the operation, and three civilian Defense Department employees were also killed in this effort. That brings the total to 2,347.
So the total deaths from Sept. 11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a maximum of 9,838. It’s lower when we exclude non-American victims on Sept. 11.
Steinem said that more women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends since Sept. 11 than "all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq."
You can argue about the significance of such a comparison, but on the numbers, Steinem is accurate.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more women have been killed by "intimate partners" -- the federal jargon for current or former spouses -- than all of the victims in Sept. 11 and the American victims in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that ensued.