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Sunday, October 31, 2021

On Gabrielle Petito’s Tragic Death: An Important Lesson

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.

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.” 

Tragically, 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.

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,

One 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.

In 2017, research professors Scott M. Stanley (Univ. of Denver) and Galena K. Rhodes (Univ. of Denver) noted that “asymmetrical commitment”—where one member of a couple is significantly less committed “to the future” of “being a couple” than the other member—“is more likely to exist in cohabiting than dating relationships, and, among marrieds, to be more likely to exist when couples lived together prior to engagement or marriage.”

Additionally, Stanley and Rhodes reported,

Asymmetrical commitment may turn out to be one ingredient in the way cohabitation and aggression are linked. We have found that asymmetrically committed relationships are more prone to aggression and generally have low relationship quality. Many asymmetrically committed relationships contain one partner who is not committed enough to inhibit negative behaviors and another who, while relatively highly committed, will be massively frustrated by a growing awareness of their partner’s lower commitment. That sounds like a recipe for highly destructive conflict.

On violence during cohabitation, Marripedia reveals, “Women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than married or dating women to be the victims of violence or to perpetrate violence. Domestic violence in cohabiting unions tends to increase as the duration of the union increases.”

Of course, all of this research only reaffirms what Christianity has long taught: the only time men and women should be living together, the only rightful place for sex, is within a marital relationship. When men and women ignore this, they are ignoring one of the oldest and most important truths revealed by God. Thus, it should come as little surprise that those who rebel against the truths of marriage and sex place themselves in great danger.

Additionally, cohabitation, and other such rebellion, often results in children. As dangerous as cohabitation is for women, it is even more dangerous for children. This is especially the case when women with children live with men who are not the father of their children. According to Marripedia,

Children raised in cohabiting families are particularly vulnerable to abuse. According to the Fourth Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, children raised by their cohabiting biological parents are 4.3 times more likely to suffer from physical abuse and 5 times more likely to experience sexual abuse as compared to children raised by their married, biological parents.

The most dangerous family structure for a child is a cohabiting family in which one of the partners is not a biological parent. The same survey stated that children raised with one biological parent and their non-biological cohabiting partner are 10.3 times more likely to suffer from physical abuse and 19.8 times more likely to experience sexual abuse, as compared to children raised by their married, biological parents.

Ladies, if he won’t marry you, if he won’t commit to you in the way that God says he should, he is not the man for you! Have nothing to do with him!

(See this column at American Thinker.)

Copyright 2021, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the The Miracle and Magnificence of America

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