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The Shifting Demographics of Domestic Violence

New research shows that current boyfriends or girlfriends are more likely than spouses to engage in certain types of violent behavior.

When we picture a perpetrator of domestic violence, it's usually an angry, possibly estranged, husband. Recent research suggests this mental image may be misleading.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania collaborated with the Philadelphia Police Department to get detailed information on intimate-partner-violence cases. Analyzing 31,206 such incidents from 2013, they found only 18 percent involved spouses. Current boyfriends or girlfriends were more likely than spouses to engage in certain types of violent behavior, to injure their victim, and to be arrested. Furthermore, the authors write in the journal Preventive Medicine, former unmarried partners had the highest odds of stalking their exes, and of violating restraining orders. The authors note that the federal Violence Against Women Act is up for renewal this year, and urge legislators to keep in mind that relationships today don't necessarily fit the traditional mold. That includes abusive ones.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.