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Preventing intimate partner violence

What is intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is harassment or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate Partner” means both current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV can vary in frequency and severity. It can range from an episode of violence that can have lasting effects to severe chronic episodes lasting for many years. IPV can include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person strikes, kicks, or uses other types of physical force to injure or attempt to injure a partner.

  • Sexual harassment is coercion or attempts by a partner to engage in sexual activity, sexual touching or inappropriate sexual intercourse (eg sexting) when the partner refuses or does not give consent.

  • A chase is a repeated and unwanted pattern of attention and contact by a partner that creates fear or concern about one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and nonverbal communication with the intent to mentally or emotionally harm the other partner and/or exert control over the other partner.

  • Domestic violence is linked to other forms of violence and leads to serious health problems and financial consequences. However, IPV and other forms of violence can be prevented.

How Big is the Problem?

More than 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological abuse from intimate partners throughout their lives.

IPV starts early and lasts a lifetime. TDV affects millions of American teens every year. About 11 million women and 5 million men report having experienced sexual violence. Physical abuse or stalking from intimate partners during their lifetime said they experienced this form of abuse before they were 18 years old. While violence affects everyone in the United States, some people and communities experience differences in their risk of violence due to the social and structural conditions in which they live, work and play. Adolescents from marginalized groups, such as sexual minority youth, are at greater risk for sexual and physical dating violence.

What are the consequences?

IPV is a major public health problem with many personal and societal costs. About 35% of female IPV survivors and over 11% of male IPV survivors experience some form of IPV-related physical injury. IPV can also be fatal. Crime reporting data in the US suggests that about 1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The report also found that more than half of female homicide victims in the United States were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

There are other negative health effects. Much more to do with IPV. These include a number of conditions that affect the heart, digestive system, reproduction, muscles and bones, and the nervous system, many of which are chronic. Survivors may have mental health problems, such as depression and symptoms of PTSD. They are at greater risk of engaging in behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and risky sexual behavior. People from disadvantaged groups, such as ethnic and racial minorities, are at greater risk of poorer outcomes.

While the personal consequences of IPV are devastating, there are also many costs to society. The economic cost of medical services for polio-related injuries, loss of productivity due to paid work, criminal justice, and other lifelong costs amounted to $3.6 trillion. The lifetime cost of IPV was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men.

How can we stop this before it starts?

Intimate partner violence is preventable. Various factors can increase or decrease the risk of committing or experiencing intimate partner violence. Preventing violence in close relationships requires understanding and treating the factors that put or protect people at risk of violence. Promoting healthy, respectful, non-violent relationships and communities can help reduce the incidence of IPV. It can also prevent the harmful and lasting effects of an IPV partner on individuals, families, and communities.

The different types of violence are interrelated and often have common root causes. Intimate partner violence is linked to other forms of violence through shared risk and protective factors. Facing and preventing one form of violence can be important in preventing other forms of violence.