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Penn researchers found that individuals who are dating are more likely than those who are married to use violence against their partners. 

Social Policy professor and Director of the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, Susan Sorenson, and 2017 College graduate Devan Spear, have conducted research on domestic violence cases. According to a Penn News press release, 82 percent of violent incidents examined occurred during the dating period of an intimate relationship.

Sorenson and Spear collected data by analyzing narrative descriptions of the domestic violence cases documented on more than 30,000 Philadelphia Police Department forms from 2013. 

"Current boyfriends or girlfriends were more likely than current spouses to injure their victims," Sorenson said to Penn News. "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,” she added. “We were not expecting to find this.”

Last year, the Ortner Center released research showing that the involvement of guns in domestic violence actually decreased the chances of injury. 

In an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, Sorenson said the data demonstrated that the perpetrator was less likely to physically harm their partner if a gun was involved in the situation. She added that the weapon was more often used to threaten the victim than to hurt them physically. 

Federal protections currently prevent certain individuals convicted of domestic violence from obtaining firearms, and these protections, enacted in 1994 through the Violence Against Women Act, have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Sorenson noted to Penn News that these new findings might imply that Congress must do more to prevent partner violence among dating couples.

While the act prevents married, cohabiting, and parental partners who have been convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing and carrying firearms, it does not necessarily cover dating couples.

“We know that abuse occurs in addition to those kinds of relationships,” Sorenson said to Penn News. “Unfortunately, the policy doesn’t address that, and the policy is from nearly a generation ago by now.”

The Violence Against Women Act will be put to a reauthorization vote before Congress later this year. 

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