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Does Marriage Make Women Safer?

Does being married make women less vulnerable to abuse? Does marriage make it harder to get away from a violent partner?

The relationships between marriage, violence, economic and legal ties are complicated. But the recent discussion has sparked questions about how marriage factors into domestic violence homicide in Washington State. Here is a snapshot of what we know about these cases. (Click on the charts to see the full size version.)

In 45% of domestic violence related homicides committed by male perpetrators in Washington, the victim and her abusive partner had been married.

Married and Marriage Status stats


When we compare homicides where the victim was married to the perpetrator with those who were never married, a few differences stand out.


1. Relationship Status1. Relationship Status
In cases where the victim and perpetrator had been married at any point, they were more likely to be in a current relationship at the point of the homicide, and more likely to be in the process of breaking up. Compared with those who had never married the perpetrator, victims who had been married were less likely to have ended the relationship completely.

2. Children In Common2. Children In Common
Not surprisingly, in cases where the abuser and victim were married, they were much more likely to have a child in common. When victims have children in common with an abusive partner, it is much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to end the relationship safely.

3. Living Together3. Living Together
In cases where the victim and abuser had been married, they were much more likely to live together or to have recently lived together.