And Claire Elizabeth VanLandingham, 27, a Navy dentist fatally shot by her ex-boyfriend. She had appeared in a video for Take Back the Night, the organization known for fighting dating violence, sexual violence, and domestic violence on college campuses nationally. Her mother said, “Her heart was kind; her spirit generous; her soul wise. She gave her smile to everyone who needed it; to everyone who hadn’t even realized they did.”
Those are just a few of the nearly 2,500 women listed in Wilcox’s album during the past two years.
“Where is the outrage? Where are the marches, the speeches? I know where the silence is. It is everywhere, and it is deafening,” Wilcox says.
Her crusade, she says, was spurred in part by the media frenzy about the shooting death of a gorilla, Harambe, at the Cincinnati Zoo and the uproar over the killing of Cecil the lion, shot by a Minnesota dentist as a trophy.
As an animal lover, she was horrified by those killings. But as she saw the social-media fury and the online petitions spread, she asked herself: What about women?
“Women are people and they deserve to have their lives valued,” she posted on Facebook in 2016, after Harambe’s death. “They deserve our voices speaking out on their behalf. And when they are abused, assaulted, murdered and erased they deserve our attention and our outrage.”
The FBI releases crime data every year, including the number of women who have been killed by men, but local police are not required to file reports to the federal agency, so some state figures are missing.
Florida, for example, has not provided its data to the FBI since 1996, according to reports by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates to stop gun violence. Numbers from Alabama and Illinois have also been unavailable or limited in certain years.
Since 1996, 1,613 to 2,129 women have been murdered by men each year in the United States, FBI data show. In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, the FBI counted 1,733 women. An overwhelming majority of those women were killed by a man they knew.
“If you just go by the raw numbers, it is undoubtedly an undercount of domestic-violence homicides,” says April Zeoli, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University and an expert on domestic-violence homicides and gun laws. Still, she adds, “it’s the most accurate picture we have.”
Wilcox, however, is doing something the FBI does not: putting faces to the cases. Recording the correct number of women murdered isn’t her only goal. Her work is about searching for their stories, finding their photos, trying to learn who they were, so that these women aren’t forgotten.
Wilcox is no stranger to violence against women.
When she was 21, she began dating a man she met in a bar in Dallas. She’ll never forget the first time he hurt her.