Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health
problem affecting more than 32 million Americans (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000).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
IPV can vary in frequency and severity. It occurs on a continuum, ranging
from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe
battering. Repeated abuse is also known as battering.
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There are four main types of intimate partner violence (Saltzman et al.
Physical violence isthe intentional use of physical force with the
potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm. Physical violence
includes, but is not limited to, scratching; pushing; shoving; throwing;
grabbing; biting; choking; shaking; slapping; punching; burning; use of a
weapon; and use of restraints or one’s body, size, or strength against another
Sexual violenceis divided into three categories: 1) use of physical
force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will,
whether or not the act is completed; 2) attempted or completed sex act
involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the
act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the
sexual act, e.g., because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol
or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure; and 3) abusive sexual
contact. Learn more about sexual violence.
Threats of physical or sexual violence use words, gestures, or
weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury, or
Psychological/emotional violence involves trauma to the victim caused
by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics. Psychological/emotional abuse
can include, but is not limited to, humiliating the victim, controlling what
the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim,
deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed,
isolating the victim from friends and family, and denying the victim access to
money or other basic resources. It is considered psychological/emotional
violence when there has been prior physical or sexual violence or prior threat
of physical or sexual violence.
In addition, stalking is often included among the types of IPV.
Stalking generally refers to repeated behavior that causes victims to feel a
high level of fear (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000). Learn more about stalking.
IPV is a serious problem that is common in our society. Violence by an
intimate partner is linked to both immediate and long-term health, social, and
economic consequences. Factors at all levels—individual, relationship,
community, and societal—contribute to the perpetration of IPV. Preventing IPV
requires a clear understanding of those factors, coordinated resources, and
empowering and initiating change in individuals, families, and society.