Intimate Partner Violence

The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

A person rests their head in their hands in frustration while a friend looks at them

What does intimate partner violence look like?

Contrary to popular belief, intimate partner violence doesn’t all look the same. Often, intimate partner violence can go unnoticed by friends, family, and medical professionals. IPV refers to any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to those in the relationship and includes but is not limited to:

  • Physical Violence:  slapping, hitting, kicking and beating, etc.
  • Sexual Violence: forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion
  • Emotional Abuse:  insults, belittling, gaslighting,  constant humiliation, intimidation (e.g. destroying things), threats of harm, and threats to take away children.
  • Controlling behaviors (include but is not limited to): isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring their movements, and restricting access to financial resources, employment, education, or medical care 

What are some of the risk and protective factors for intimate partner violence?

While anyone can experience or perpetrate intimate partner violence, certain factors can put individuals or entire communities at higher risk.

Factors that Increase Individual or Relationship Risk

  • Having a lower socioeconomic status
  • Having a history of experiencing abuse
  • Being a young age- the majority of intimate partner violence is perpetrated against women between 18-24
  • Having a lower level of education
  • Heavy alcohol or drug use
  • Depression/Suicidality
  • Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy

Factors That Protect Individuals

  • Strong social support networks
  • Higher self-esteem

Factors that Increase Community Risk 

  • Belief in strict gender roles and norms
  • Communities with higher rates of poverty and have fewer educational and economic opportunities.
  • Communities with lower collective efficacy*

Factors That Protect Communities

  • High collective efficacy
  • Coordination and collaboration between local agencies and service providers
  • Access to stable housing, economic opportunities, and medical care

What is collective efficacy?

“Collective efficacy” occurs when communities have a sense of togetherness and a willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good. Creating communities where everyone works together to promote health and well-being can reduce violence.

What are the long term impacts of IPV? ​

Survivors often experience the impacts of IPV long after they have left an abusive situation. IPV is traumatic and can have long-term physical, emotional, and social impacts:

  • Depression and Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic Pain
  • Asthma
  • Heart problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Shorter Lifespan
  • Alcohol and Drug Misuse
  • Chronic Unemployment

Did you know?

  • In the US, 1 in 4 women reports experiencing intimate partner or domestic violence in their lifetimes.
  • Intimate partners committed 30% of female homicides.
  • Women account for 85% of victims of intimate partner violence, men account for approximately 15%.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  • 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetimes, for an average period of almost two years.

Studies show that people who have access to shelter services experience a 60 to 70% reduction in the number of incidences and the severity of re-assault compared to people who did not access a shelter. Shelter services lead to a more significant decrease in severe re-assault than seeking court or law enforcement protection or moving to a new location.

Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors, engage in risky sexual behaviors, or attempt or consider suicide. And individuals who are controlling of their partners are much more likely to be physically assaultive, which holds equally true for both male and female perpetrators.

Red flags of abusive relationships

  • You fear your partner will hurt you, your pets, or themselves if you leave the relationship.
  • You miss work, classes, or meetings because your partner prevents you from attending.
  • You feel confused about the rules of your relationship and responsible for your partner’s behavior.
  • You feel nervous around other friends or family about what your partner might say or do to embarrass or humiliate you.
  • You feel like your partner does not respect your sexuality.
  • You feel pressured to share passwords for email accounts, social networking sites or show your partner your cell phone.
  • You feel like your partner keeps track of you all the time.
  • You are embarrassed to tell your friends or family how your partner treats you.
  • You feel controlled.
  • Your partner is extremely jealous and uses it as an excuse to control who you talk to, your behavior, and your appearance.
  • Your partner pressures you to move the relationship faster than what feels natural (saying “I love you” right away, wanting to move in together, get married, have kids, etc.).
  • Your partner constantly accuses of you things that you haven’t done (like lying, stealing, or cheating).
  • Your partner is very possessive of your time and attention.
  • Your partner isolates you from your friends and family.
  • Your partner makes unreasonable demands.
  • Your partner has an explosive temper.
  • Your partner threatened to harm you or harmed you in the past but promised it wouldn’t happen again.
  • Your partner criticizes you or puts you down; most commonly tells you that you are “crazy,” “stupid,” “fat,” or makes other demeaning comments, or tells you that no one would ever want or love you.
Two women, one looks frustrated and holding one hand to her forehead.


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice; U.S. Department of Justice – Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence; July 2000.
  • The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence.
  • Campbell, JC, PhD, RN, FAAN. Anna D. Wolf, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Protective Action and Re-assault: Findings from the RAVE study.
  • Silverman, J.Raj A. et al. (2001). Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality. JAMA.286:572-579.
  • Felson, R., & Outlaw, M. (2007). The control motive and marital violence. Violence and Victims, 22 (4), 387-407. Tjaden and Thoennes. (1998) “Stalking in America,” National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, DC.