October 31, 2021

In our culture where “live your own truth” is the worldview of a seemingly ever-increasing number of Americans, women and children in the U.S. are especially in danger.  This is because, as pop-culture “philosopher” Cameron Diaz put in 2013, on marriage and sex, tens of millions of Americans have decided it’s best to “make our own rules.”  As Americans have shunned marriage at a record pace, co-habitation among U.S. couples has exploded.

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In 2019, Pew Research reported that in the U.S., among people age 18 to 44, a significantly larger share “have cohabitated at some point than have been married (59% to 50%).”  Feminism and family expert Suzanne Venker notes that “cohabitation, or ‘shacking up,’ has skyrocketed in the U.S.  Specifically, it has increased over the past half-century by more than 1,500 percent.  ‘Living in sin’ is in vogue.” 

This is the situation in which Gabrielle Petito found herself just prior to her widely publicized death.  As Fox News reported in early September:

Gabby Petito, 22, set out on a road trip with her boyfriend in a converted camper van in early July to tour National Parks, according to her family, but she disappeared in late August and they haven’t heard from her in more than two weeks[.] … Nicole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, told Fox News that the last conversation she had with her daughter was on Aug. 25[.] …

Schmidt said that Petito and her boyfriend started their road trip in early July, traveling first from Florida to New York. They then left New York and eventually got to Salt Lake City, Utah, in August, but were leaving the city amid heavy wildfire smoke.

As mountains of data have long revealed, one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman is in a cohabitating (unmarried) relationship.  In addition to its emotional, financial, and sexual disadvantages, cohabitating women are far more likely to suffer domestic violence than are married women.  Research by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite in the late 1990s and early 2000s found that cohabitating women were more than three times more likely to suffer domestic violence than were married women.

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Additionally, Waite reported that those in cohabitating relationships were much more likely to be unfaithful (despite the expectation of faithfulness) than those in marital relationships.  Cohabitating women were five times more likely to report “secondary sex partners” than were married women.  No doubt this contributes to more conflict in cohabitating relationships.

In 2006, researchers Catherine T. Kenney and Sara S. McLanahan noted that

[o]ne of the more consistent (and potentially alarming) findings in the emerging literature is the higher rate of intimate-partner violence and intimate-partner homicide among cohabitating couples than among married couples (Anderson 1997; Brownridge and Halli 2002; Stets 1991; Stets and Straus 1989; Wilson, Daly, and Wright 1993; Wilson, Johnson, and Daly 1995; Yllo and Straus 1981).

In 2016, researchers Wendy D. Manning, Monica A. Longmore, and Peggy C. Giordano reported:

In recent years, a majority of young adults experience cohabitation. Nevertheless, cohabitation is a risk factor for intimate partner violence (IPV)[.] … Serial cohabitors along with cohabitors who experienced both low commitment and high relational constraints experienced the greatest risk of IPV.