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Understanding Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic or Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term "intimate partner violence" describes physical, sexual, 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.

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What is Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs between two people in a close relationship. The term "intimate partner" includes current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV exists along a continuum from a single episode of violence to ongoing battering. IPV includes four types of behavior:

Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

Sexual violence is forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent.

Threats of physical or sexual violence include the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate the intent to cause harm.

Emotional abuse is threatening a partner or his or her possessions or loved ones, or harming a partner’s sense of self-worth. Examples are stalking, name-calling, intimidation, or not letting a partner see friends and family.

Often, IPV starts with emotional abuse. This behavior can progress to physical or sexual assault. Several types of IPV may occur together.

Intimate Partner Violence as a Public Health Problem
IPV is a serious problem in the United States:

  • On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States--more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.
  • IPV resulted in 2,340 deaths in 2007—accounting for 14% of all homicides. Of these deaths, 70% were females and 30% were males.
  • The medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity (e.g., time away from work) cost of IPV was an estimated $5.8 billion in 1995. Updated to 2003 dollars, that’s more than $8.3 billion.

These numbers underestimate the problem. Many victims do not report IPV to police, friends, or family. Victims may think others will not believe them or that the police cannot help.

How Does IPV Impact Heath
IPV can affect health in many ways. The longer the violence goes on, the more serious the effects.

Many victims suffer physical injuries. Some are minor like cuts, scratches, bruises, and welts. Others are more serious and can cause death or disabilities. These include broken bones, internal bleeding, and head trauma.

Not all injuries are physical. IPV can also cause emotional harm. Victims may have trauma symptoms. This includes flashbacks, panic attacks, and trouble sleeping. Victims often have low self-esteem. They may have a hard time trusting others and being in relationships. The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some victims even think about or commit suicide.

IPV is linked to harmful health behaviors as well. Victims may try to cope with their trauma in unhealthy ways. This includes smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or having risky sex.

Who is at Risk?
Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. While men compromise a smaller number of survivors, male survivors are no less important.

Several factors can increase the risk that someone will hurt his or her partner. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that IPV will occur.

Risk factors for perpetration (hurting a partner):

• Being violent or aggressive in the past

• Seeing or being a victim of violence as a child

• Using drugs or alcohol, especially drinking heavily

• Not having a job or other life events that cause stress

Note: These are just some risk factors. To learn more, go to

How Can We Prevent IPV?
The goal is to stop IPV before it begins. There is a lot to learn about how to prevent IPV. We do know that strategies that promote healthy behaviors in relationships are important. Programs that teach young people skills for dating can prevent violence. These programs can stop violence in dating relationships before it occurs.

We know less about how to prevent IPV in adults. However, some programs that teach healthy relationship skills seem to help stop violence before it ever starts.

Source Centers for Disease Control:

Ohio Resources

  • Ohio Domestic Violence NetworkExternal Web Site Icon
    Offers training and resources for victims of domestic violence.

  • Ohio Legal ServicesExternal Web Site Icon
    This site provides information on domestic violence and stalking, including information on the law and community resources available to help you stay safe, and complete the court papers necessary to get legal protection.

Additional Online Resources

  • American Institute on Domestic ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon
    Offers on-site workshops and conference presentations that address the corporate cost of domestic violence in the workplace.

  • Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon
    A national network that works to raise awareness in Asian and Pacific Islander communities about domestic violence; expand leadership and expertise within Asian and Pacific Islander communities about prevention, intervention, advocacy, and research; and promote culturally relevant programs, research, and advocacy by identifying promising practices.

  • Communities Against Violence NetworkExternal Web Site Icon (CAVNET)
    CAVNET provides an interactive, online database of information; an international network of professionals; and real-time voice conferencing with professionals and survivors, throughout the world, using the Internet.

  • Corporate Alliance to End Partner ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon (CAEPV)
    CAEPV is a national, nonprofit alliance of corporations and businesses throughout the United States and Canada, working to prevent partner violence.

  • FaithTrust InstituteExternal Web Site Icon
    Formerly known as The Center for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, FaithTrust Institute is an interreligious, educational resource that addresses sexual and domestic violence issues.

  • Family Violence Prevention FundExternal Web Site Icon (FVPF)
    For more than two decades, FVPF has worked to end violence against women and children around the world.

  • Health Resource Center on Domestic ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon
    For more than a decade, the Center has supported health care practitioners, administrators and systems, domestic violence experts, survivors, and policy makers at all levels as they improve health care’s response to domestic violence

  • Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American CommunityExternal Web Site Icon
    Seeks to create a community of African-American scholars and practitioners who address violence in the African-American community.

  • Minnesota Center Against Violence and AbuseExternal Web Site Icon (MINCAVA)
    MINCAVA is an electronic clearinghouse with educational resources about all types of violence, including higher education syllabi, published research, funding sources, upcoming training events, individuals or organizations that serve as resources, and searchable databases with more than 700 training manuals, videos, and other education resources.
  • National Center for Victims of CrimeExternal Web Site Icon (NCVC)
    NCVC is a nonprofit organization that serves victims of all types of crime, including intimate partner violence.

  • National Center on Domestic and Sexual ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon (NCDSV)
    Develops and provides innovative training and consultation, influences policy, and promotes collaboration and diversity in working to end domestic and sexual violence. NCDSV consults with the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA) program in CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.

  • National Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon (NCADV)
    NCADV is a membership organization of domestic violence coalitions and service programs.

  • National Domestic Violence HotlineExternal Web Site Icon
    The National Domestic Violence Hotline connects individuals to help in their area by using a nationwide database that includes detailed information about domestic violence shelters, other emergency shelters, legal advocacy and assistance programs, and social service programs.

  • National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic ViolenceExternal Web Site Icon (the Alianza)
    The Alianza is a group of nationally recognized Latina and Latino advocates, community activists, practitioners, researchers, and survivors of domestic violence.

  • National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant WomenExternal Web Site Icon
    The Network coordinates national advocacy efforts aimed at removing the barriers battered immigrant women and children face when they attempt to leave abusive relationships.

  • National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)External Web Site Icon
    NNEDV is a membership and advocacy organization of state domestic violence coalitions and provides legislative and policy advocacy and provides training, technical assistance, and funds to domestic violence advocates through the NNEDV Fund.

  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)External Web Site Icon
    NSVRC identifies and disseminates information, resources, and research on all aspects of sexual violence prevention and intervention. The NSVRC website features links to related resources and information about conferences, funding, job announcements, and special events. Additional activities include coordinating national sexual assault awareness activities, identifying emerging policy issues and research needs, issuing a biannual newsletter, and recommending speakers and trainers.

  • National Violence Against Women Prevention Research CenterExternal Web Site Icon
    The center provides information to scientists, practitioners, advocates, grassroots organizations, and any other professional or lay person interested in current topics related to violence against women and its prevention.

  • Prevention Connection: The Violence Against Women Prevention PartnershipExternal Web Site Icon
    Prevention Connection, a project of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, features an online public Listserv and bi-monthly web-based forums that provide prevention experts with a vehicle for analyzing and discussing ongoing efforts to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National NetworkExternal Web Site Icon (RAINN)
    Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
    RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN's national hotline works as a call-routing system.

  • The Stalking Resource CenterExternal Web Site Icon
    An established clearinghouse of information and resources to inform and support local, multidisciplinary stalking response programs nationwide; developed a national peer-to-peer exchange program to provide targeted, on-site problem-solving assistance to VAWO arrest grantee jurisdictions; and organized a nationwide network of local practitioners who represent VAWO grantee jurisdictions to support their multidisciplinary approaches to stalking.

  • Violence Against Women Electronic NetworkExternal Web Site Icon (VAWnet)
    VAWnet provides a collection of full-text, searchable resources on domestic violence, sexual violence, and related issues as well as links to an "In the News" section, calendars listing trainings, conferences, grants, and access to the Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month subsites.

  • Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource CenterExternal Web Site Icon
    This project offers information on the Internet for the benefit of those interested in providing effective workplace responses to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking.

  • World Health Organization/TEACH-VIPExternal Web Site Icon
    A comprehensive injury prevention and control curriculum which has been developed through the efforts of WHO and a network of global injury prevention experts.

  • World Health Organization/World Report on Violence and Health Adobe PDF file [PDF 222 KB]External Web Site Icon
    This report, produced by the World Health Organization, is written mainly for researchers and practitioners. Its goals are to raise global awareness about the problems of violence and show that violence is preventable. The report includes a chapter specifically on intimate partner violence (Chapter 4).