Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence

Current projects

Center faculty and students conduct research that is relevant to policy and to practice as well as of basic scientific interest. Multiple projects are under way and three are highlighted below. Check back for the occasional update.



Communication technology in the household is associated with the rejection of violence against wives


Sometimes the private sector creates unintended consequences. We are investigating the possibility of one with global consequences – the proliferation of information and communication technology.


Our preliminary work, based on cross-sectional data collected in 20 low- and middle-income countries that participated in UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys during 2006 through 2014, assesses the association between such technologies and justifications for wife beating. The 133,843 women participants were asked whether a husband is justified in beating his wife under five circumstances: if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, argues with him, refuses to have sex, or burns the food. 

Household ownership of a radio, computer, fixed phone, or mobile phone was associated with a higher likelihood of rejecting wife-beating; the largest effect was having a computer. These findings were not related to finances – independent of both country development and household wealth, the more such technologies, the more likely women were to reject justifications for wife-beating.

In March 2017, the paper reporting this research – Cardoso LF, Sorenson SB. Violence against women and household ownership of radios, computers, and phones in 20 countries – was accepted for publication in the American Journal of Public Health.



Closing the “boyfriend loophole”


Should abusive boyfriends be treated differently than abusive husbands? That’s the question being posed by those who would like to close the “boyfriend loophole” in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA prohibits abusers from purchasing and possessing firearms if they have ever been married to, lived with, or had a child with the victim. Unfortunately, abuse is not limited to these relationships.


Using data from over 30,000 incidents to which police responded, we are undertaking research that will shed light on gun use by intimate partners who are currently married, formerly married, currently dating, and formerly dating. We anticipate that this work will be relevant to upcoming policy development. VAWA, authored in 1994 by then-Senator Joe Biden with the support and assistance of a broad coalition of advocacy groups, is up for reauthorization in 2018.



Desperate parents, desperate teens


Conflict between parents and their adolescent children is expected, but sometimes it exceeds what either can handle. In this project, we are examining over 3,000 such disputes to which police were called. Most of these calls are for verbal disputes. Initial analyses suggest that most often a parent is listed as the victim but when a parent is the offender the incident tends to be more violent and to result in greater physical harm. 

Although there is long-standing and substantial interest in the abuse of children by a parent, there is virtually no literature concerning the nature and frequency of incidents that are not deemed to constitute child abuse although a parent is the offender against a minor child. This work begins to fill that gap.