University of Pennsylvania Study Examines Gun Use in Domestic Violence Incidents

A study by Susan B. Sorenson, a professor of social policy and the director of the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence at the University of Pennsylvania, examined the frequency of the use of weapons – particularly guns – in domestic violence cases. Professor Sorenson examined 35,000 records of 911 calls relating to domestic violence from the files of the Philadelphia Police Department for the year 2013.

Dr. Sorenson’s study found that of the 35,000 cases reported, 6,500 involved attacks using hands, fists or feet. Nearly, 1,900 of these cases included the use of a weapon and a third of these involved a gun. She found that 80 percent of these incidents were males using a gun against a woman.

The data showed that in incidents where a gun was involved, women were less likely to be injured because women tended to back down and not fight back. Professor Sorenson notes that using a gun is a form of coercive control, in which an abuser doesn’t necessarily want to physically hurt a victim but rather cement the power dynamic between, thus increasing the intimidation factor.

“Even when the person is not presenting in the emergency department with a gunshot wound or having been pistol-whipped, it’s important for health-care professionals to ask about guns,” Professor Sorenson said. “If a gun is used and there is increased fear, the person is less likely to leave the relationship.”

Professor Sorenson joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 after teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Iowa State University, where  she majored in sociology and psychology. Dr. Sorenson holds a master’s degree in psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

The full study, “Guns in Intimate Partner Violence: Comparing Incidents by Type of Weapon,” was published in the Journal of Women’s Health. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment


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