Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): Recognizing Patterns and Dangerousness

Intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence) is a type of abuse perpetrated by a current or past spouse or partner. Domestic violence can refer to violence against a child, elderly relative, or other family member.

Since most people don’t report it, it’s hard to know how common intimate partner violence is but national studies indicate 1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. For mixed race and Native American women, this number is 1 in 3. IPV happens among individuals of all ages, gender, religions, income levels and education. It also occurs in LGBTQ relationships.

What Does An Abusive Relationship Look Like?

It’s not easy to identify an abusive partner early in the relationship as abusers are often charming and groom their partner for a time before the abusive behavior begins. Early clues such as possessive and controlling behaviors may be attributed to jealousy but usually intensify as the relationship grows. IPV doesn’t look the same in every relationship, but there are common methods the abusive partner uses to gain power and control over their partner.

Signs of an abusive relationship may include:

  • Insults, demeaning and embarrassing put downs
  • Physical violence with or without injuries
  • Sexual violence and rape
  • Control over what you do, who you talk to, where you go – including family and friends
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Control over finances, including taking your money, making you ask for money or refusing to give you money
  • Making all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs
  • Threats to take away your children
  • Destruction of your property, including threats to kill pets
  • Intimidation and threats with objects such as guns, knives or other weapons
  • Threats to commit suicide and/or kill you
  • Acting as if abuse isn’t a big deal and is your fault
  • Attempts to force you to drop criminal charges
  • Birth control sabotage, refusing to wear condoms, making decisions about pregnancy
  • Checking or monitoring your cell phone, email or Facebook

Danger Assessment: Some power and control tactics signify an increased risk that you may be seriously injured or killed by your partner. These include:

  • Being strangled (choked)
  • Being threatened or assaulted with a weapon such as a gun or knife
  • Abuse during pregnancy
  • Having a child that is not your partner’s
  • Your partner abuses drugs or alcohol
  • Threats to kill
  • A gun in the house
  • History of separation/estrangement
  • Violent and constant jealousy
  • Being forced to have sex

Relationship to health problems: Past or current IPV is related to a number of health problems including:

  • Depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic pain including fibromyalgia
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Increased health care usage, surgeries, hospitalizations
  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders

Path to Safety

Safety is the most important issue for women experiencing IPV. A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning also involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, how to take legal action and more.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has several safety plans:

Safety While Living With An Abusive Partner

Safety Planning With Children

Safety Planning With Pets

Safety Planning During Pregnancy

Emotional Safety Planning

The first step in getting help is to tell someone you trust. Consider talking to your health care provider.

If anything you read raises a red flag about your own relationship or that of someone you know, do not hesitate to chat or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also call your local battered women’s shelter or advocacy program. If you are hurt by your partner call 911.

Tips for Accessing Resources – National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Safety Plan for a Friend, Relative, or Co-Worker Who Is Being Abused by an Intimate Partner – National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

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