What Is Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence (IPV), also referred to as domestic abuse or domestic violence, is a form of abuse that occurs in romantic relationships, by current or former partners or spouses.
Intimate partner violence involves abusive or aggressive behavior that is meant to frighten, hurt, manipulate, or control someone. It may involve a series of episodes over several years or a single episode that can have a lasting impact.
Intimate partner violence is considered to be a major global public health issue. In fact, it is estimated that in the United States, it is the most common but least reported crime.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced some form of intimate partner violence during their lifetime.
The CDC also notes that approximately 20% of homicides are committed by intimate partners and that over 50% of the women murdered in the United States are killed by current or former male partners.
This article explores the types, signs, causes, and impact of intimate partner violence.
If you or a loved one are a victim of intimate partner violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Types of Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence can take many different forms, which can include:
- Sexual abuse: Forcing an intimate partner to participate in a sex act without their explicit consent. Sexual abuse also includes any sexual contact between an adult and a partner who is below the age of 18.
- Physical abuse: Hurting or attempting to hurt someone by punching, kicking, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, burning, strangling, grabbing, choking, or shoving them. Physical abuse also includes actions such as throwing things, banging doors, or punching walls.
- Emotional abuse: Undermining the person’s self-worth by criticizing them constantly, gaslighting them, calling them names, isolating them from their family and friends, monitoring their activities, and trying to prevent them from working or doing things they enjoy.
- Psychological abuse: Terrorizing the person, playing mind games with them, or threatening to harm them or their loved ones.
- Financial abuse: Maintaining control over joint finances, withholding access to money, and tracking the person’s spending. Financial abuse also includes preventing an intimate partner from working, studying, or taking other steps to become financially independent.
- Stalking: A pattern of behavior intended to harass, annoy, frighten, or harm the person. Stalking can involve behaviors such as phoning the person repeatedly, mailing them letters or gifts, following them as they go about their day, or finding ways to spy on them while they’re at home or work.
- Online abuse: Using email, social media, dating apps, and other digital platforms to harass, abuse, stalk, threaten, bully, or manipulate an intimate partner.
13 Red Flags in Relationships
Signs of Intimate Partner Violence
These are some of the indications that someone is a victim of intimate partner violence:
- Being agitated or visibly upset
- Displaying drastic or sudden changes in behavior
- Becoming unresponsive and withdrawing into themselves
- Displaying changes in personality such as lower self-esteem and confidence
- Always checking in with their partner
- Being excessively worried about pleasing their partner
- Skipping out on social or work activities without a reason
- Seeming nervous or scared around their partner
- Having injuries like black eyes, bruises, cuts, wounds, broken teeth, or fractured bones
- Making excuses for their injuries such as “I fell,” or “I bumped into the door”
- Bleeding or having bruises, bloodstains, or torn clothing around genital areas
What Is Abuse By Proxy?
Causes of Intimate Partner Violence
These are some of the factors that can lead to intimate partner violence, according to a 2018 study:
- Cultural factors: Historically, many cultures have granted men a sense of ownership when it comes to women, allowing them to chastise or beat women if they deem necessary. In intimate relationships particularly, men were considered the custodians of women’s sexuality and the family’s honor, therefore any acts by a woman that were perceived as violating this sense of honor were considered punishable.
- Social factors: Victims are often blamed for being abused, which can make it hard for others to speak up about being abused. Furthermore, women’s voices continue to be underrepresented in media, politics, the judicial system, and other positions of power.
- Legal factors: Police and other law enforcement agencies sometimes hesitate to intervene and help victims of intimate partner violence, and it is often considered to be a private family matter. Abusive partners are allowed more leniency than strangers who have committed similar crimes.
- Economic factors: Lower economic status is linked to a greater risk of intimate partner violence.
- Environmental factors: Growing up in an abusive environment and having witnessed or experienced domestic abuse can make someone more likely to be abusive toward their intimate partners. This phenomenon is known as the cycle of abuse.
- Substance use: Frequently using substances such as drugs and alcohol can make someone more likely to be a violent or aggressive partner.
9 Reasons the Cycle of Abuse Continues
Impact of Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence can cause physical and psychological damage that persists long after the abuse ends.
These are some of the effects of intimate partner violence:
- Injuries, which can be serious or fatal in some cases
- Hearing or vision loss
- Lasting physical damage
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Unwanted pregnancies, which can result in dangerous complications due to unsafe or illegal abortions
- Mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders
- Physical health issues such as heart problems, digestive difficulties, reproductive issues, nervous system conditions, and muscle and bone disorders
- Low self-esteem and a feeling of being unwanted, powerless, hopeless, and ashamed
- Trust issues, difficulty with relationships, and a tendency to engage in risky behaviors
- Difficulty functioning at work or school
How Witnessing Domestic Violence Affects Children
A Word From Verywell
Intimate partner violence is a major issue not just in the United States but around the world. It can be traumatic to experience and cause long-lasting physical and psychological damage—or even lead to death.
It’s important to identify intimate partner violence and take steps to prevent it because the victims are our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. While we may stereotype victims of intimate partner violence, it’s important to remember that anyone can be a victim, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, faith, or class.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing intimate partner violence.
United Nations. What is domestic abuse?
Li S, Zhao F, Yu G. Childhood maltreatment and intimate partner violence victimization: A meta-analysis. Child Abuse Negl. 2019;88:212-224. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.11.012(Video) Why domestic violence victims don't leave | Leslie Morgan Steiner
City Government of Annapolis, Maryland. Myths about domestic violence.
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Types and signs of abuse.
Patra P, Prakash J, Patra B, Khanna P. Intimate partner violence: Wounds are deeper. Indian J Psychiatry. 2018;60(4):494-498. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_74_17
Greene CA, Haisley L, Wallace C, Ford JD. Intergenerational effects of childhood maltreatment: A systematic review of the parenting practices of adult survivors of childhood abuse, neglect, and violence. Clin Psychol Rev. 2020;80:101891. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2020.101891
Nemours Foundation. Abuse.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Emotional and verbal abuse. Updated February 15, 2021.
Department of Human Services. Domestic violence crisis and prevention.
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What Is Intimate Partner Violence? ›
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners.What is meant by intimate partner violence? ›
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners.What are the 4 main types of intimate partner violence? ›
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies four types of intimate partner violence—physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression.What is the meaning of intimate partner? ›
(32) The term “intimate partner” means, with respect to a person, the spouse of the person, a former spouse of the person, an individual who is a parent of a child of the person, and an individual who cohabitates or has cohabited with the person.What is the main cause of intimate partner violence? ›
Economic factors: Lower economic status is linked to a greater risk of intimate partner violence. Environmental factors: Growing up in an abusive environment and having witnessed or experienced domestic abuse can make someone more likely to be abusive toward their intimate partners.What is the most common type of intimate partner violence? ›
Psychological violence is estimated to be the most common form of intimate partner violence (IPV).Is intimate partner violence serious? ›
Intimate partner violence is a serious public health problem in the United States that can have a profound impact lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being. CDC works to understand the problem of intimate partner violence and prevent it. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)How do you prevent IPV? ›
Prevention efforts should ultimately reduce the occurrence of IPV by promoting healthy, respectful, nonviolent relationships. Healthy relationships can be promoted by addressing risk and protective factors at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels.What are the 5 cycles of emotional abuse? ›
The 5 cycles of emotional abuse, as listed in Sarakay Smullens' “Five Cycles of Emotional Abuse: Codification and Treatment of an Invisible Malignancy” are enmeshment, extreme overprotection and overindulgence, complete neglect, rage, and rejection/abandonment.What are the stages in the cycle of intimate partner violence? ›
There are three phases in the cycle of violence: (1) Tension-Building Phase, (2) Acute or Crisis Phase, and (3) Calm or Honeymoon Phase. Without intervention, the frequency and severity of the abuse tends to increase over time.
What are examples of intimate partner? ›
Any person who has one or more children in common with another person, regardless of whether they have been married, in a domestic partnership with each other, or lived together at any time, shall be considered an intimate partner.What is an example of an intimate relationship? ›
In a romantic relationship, it might include holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and sex. Your relationship doesn't have to be sexual or romantic to have physical intimacy. A warm, tight hug is an example of physical intimacy with a friend.What is one example of intimate? ›
intimate adjective (PERSONAL)
The restaurant has a very intimate atmosphere. He's become very intimate with an actress. The disease is spread through intimate sexual activity. They shared an intimate physical experience.
Approximately 20% of IPV survivors reported experiencing a new onset of psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a wide range of substance use disorders.Who are victims of intimate partner violence often? ›
Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner. 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon. Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior. Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.Which characteristic is most likely to be found in an abusive person? ›
Abusers frequently have the following characteristics: Often blow up in anger at small incidents. He or she is often easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really very angry. Are excessively jealous: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser may claim that jealousy is a sign of his or her love.How much does intimate partner violence cost? ›
The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year in the United States. Survivors of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8.0 million days of paid work each year.Which group of men is most likely to experience IPV? ›
While overall rates of physical and nonphysical IPV were similar, men aged 18-55 were twice as likely to be recently abused (14.2%, SE=2.6%) than were men aged 55 and older (5.3%, SE=1.6%).Who is the most vulnerable population for IPV? ›
Women are undoubtedly the main victims of violence. They may be attacked by anyone, from an intimate partner to a colleague, a friend, or an acquaintance.Why does IPV go unreported? ›
Most cases of intimate partner violence go unreported for a variety of reasons — including fear, threats, coercion, or a lack of resources to survive without the support of their abuser. Partners may also love or hold a deep attachment to their abuser and make excuses for his or her behavior.
What qualifies as narcissistic abuse? ›
Some common examples of narcissistic abuse include:
When you don't do what an abuser wants, they may try to make you feel guilty or fearful. Insults: Verbal abuse like name-calling, harsh criticism, and other insults are ways for those with narcissistic personality disorder to chip away at a victim's self-esteem.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Misusing alcohol or drugs.
- Borderline personality disorder.
The Drama Triangle consists of three roles; two at the top of an inverted triangle, the persecutor and the rescuer at the top and one at the bottom is the victim. Although the roles are not static , people often have a natural leaning towards one of them initially in a relationship whether personal or professional.Which are the 3 main warning signs that someone may be an abuser? ›
- Controlling Behavior. Constantly questions who you spend your time with, what you did/wore/said, where you went. ...
- Quick Involvement. ...
- Unrealistic Expectations. ...
- Isolation. ...
- Blames Others for Problems. ...
- Blames Others for Feelings. ...
- Hypersensitivity. ...
- Disrespectful or Cruel to Others.
The feeling of being powerful and in control gives some abusers immense pleasure. Abusers may also derive pleasure from seeing you suffer. Narcissists, psychopaths, and sadists may be drawn to emotional abuse because of the pleasure they take in having power over others or seeing them suffer (Brogaard, 2020).What is generation abuse? ›
Intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment is the term that researchers use when parents who were victims of childhood maltreatment subsequently abuse or neglect their own children (Valentino, Nuttall, Comas, Borkowski, & Akai, 2012).What are the 4 types of intimate? ›
To strengthen your relationships you may want to work on four types of intimacy: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual closeness. Intimacy, in general, refers to the level of proximity between two people.What are signs of intimacy issues? ›
- have low self-esteem.
- have trust issues.
- experience episodes of anger.
- actively avoid physical contact.
- have trouble forming or committing to close relationships.
- have a history of unstable relationships.
- be unable to share feelings or express emotion.
- have insatiable sexual desire.
In addition to sexual and physical intimacy, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and experiential intimacy are all types of closeness that we can share with the person we love.What do you call a relationship without dating? ›
Less than a relationship, but more than a casual encounter or booty call, a situationship refers to a romantic relationship that is, and remains, undefined. "A situationship is that space between a committed relationship and something that is more than a friendship," explains psychotherapist and author Jonathan Alpert.
What is intimate behavior? ›
Intimacy involves feelings of emotional closeness and connectedness with another person. Intimate relationships are often characterized by attitudes of mutual trust, caring, and acceptance.What are the 8 levels of intimacy? ›
Volker and her women's group together developed a framework for eight types of intimate connections: affectional, emotional, social, intellectual, physical, aesthetical, sexual and spiritual.What is conflict intimacy? ›
Conflict Intimacy is focused on facing and understanding the differences couples may have, and being able to respect those differences. Conflict resolution is a skill that couples must learn in order to maintain conflict intimacy. All couples eventually experience times of conflict, hurt, and letting each other down.What are 3 side effects of emotional abuse? ›
- mental health conditions.
- neuroticism, or the tendency toward low mood and negative emotions like anger.
- chronic stress.
- physical health challenges like body aches and heart palpitations.
- attachment challenges.
- emotional disconnect or apathy.
Effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) and brain injury
Emotional disturbances such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression are common. Brain injury survivors can suffer some of the same issues, along with a range of cognitive, physical and behavioural changes.
The results of this research show that domestic abusers tend to obtain high points for some types of personality disorders, especially narcissistic, antisocial and borderline disorders. They also present symptoms of depressive disorders and consumption of drugs and alcohol.What are three forms of family and intimate partner violence? ›
It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.Which is not an example of intimate partner violence? ›
Intimate partner violence does not include domestic victimizations of child abuse, child against parent abuse, sibling abuse, or violence committed by a family member other than an intimate partner or spouse. Workplace violence, sexual harassment, and commercial acts targeting women are also not included.What are the four stages in the cycle of intimate partner violence in order? ›
The cycle of abuse often goes through four main stages: tension, incident, reconciliation, and calm.What are samples of partner violence? ›
This may include but is not limited to: Hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.