Penn Study Finds That Vast Majority of Intimate Partner Violence Incidents Involve Unmarried Couples

A new study led 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 in Philadelphia, finds that the vast majority of domestic violence cases or intimate partner violence occurs between unmarried couples.

In 2011, Professor Sorenson began collaborating with the Philadelphia Police Department to improve documentation of domestic violence in the city. As a result, an officer who responds to a such a call must fill out a form that includes a narrative description of the event, as well as other additional information such as victim-offender relationship and behavior, regardless of whether an arrest occurs.

Professor Sorenson’s data was taken from 31,206 of these forms filled out by city police officers in 2013.  She found that more than 80 percent of intimate partner violence incidents occur between boyfriends and girlfriends. Only 15 percent of the incidents involved married couples.

Furthermore, Dr. Sorenson found that “current boyfriends or girlfriends were more likely than current spouses to injure their victims,. They were more likely to push and shove, to grab, to punch. They were more likely to strangle — some pretty awful behaviors toward a partner. They were also more likely to use a knife, a bat or another kind of weapon. We were not expecting to find this.”

Professor Sorenson joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, 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 earned a master’s degree in psychology at the Illinois Institute of technology in Chicago and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

The study, “New Data on Intimate Partner Violence and Intimate Relationships: Implications for Gun Laws and Federal Data Collection,” was published in the February issue of the journal Preventive Medicine. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment


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