One way to end violence against women? Married dads.

Posted By on June 12, 2014

Courtesy of cegoh on Creative Commons

Courtesy of cegoh on Creative Commons

The dramatic social media response to the UC-Santa Barbara shooting, captured by the hashtag #YesAllWomen, underlined an important and unpleasant truth: across the United States, millions of girls and women have been abused, assaulted, or raped by men, and even more females fear that they will be subject to such an attack. As Sarah Kliff wrote in Vox: a “national survey of American women found that a slight majority (51.9 percent) reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their life.”

This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact thatsome other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers. The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.

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Start with the threat that girls face from men. One of the most comprehensive portraits of sexual and physical abuse of girls (and boys) comes from the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. As the figure above indicates, children are more likely to be abused when they do not live in a home with their married father. What’s more: girls and boys are significantly more likely to be abused when they are living in a cohabiting household with an unrelated adult—usually theirmother’s boyfriend. Indeed, the report notes that “only 0.7 per 1,000 children living with two married biological parents were sexually abused, compared to 12.1 per 1,000 children living with a single parent who had an unmarried partner.” The results from this federal study are consistent with academic research (see here and here, as well) that indicates that “girls who are victimized are … more likely to have lived without their natural fathers,” and that the risk is especially high when a boyfriend or stepfather is in the picture.

Read the rest here.

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