Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

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A Program of the ATS

Intimate Partner Violence

Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of a romantic partner is called intimate partner violence (IPV). IPV can occur between heterosexual or homosexual partners regardless of the intimacy of the relationship. IPV affects more than 32 million Americans, male and female, each year, which is over 10% of the total population. IPV can vary in frequency and severity occurring continuously, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic and severe battering. Battering occurs in all socio-economic, cultural, racial, and religious groups. IPV is a serious problem with long lasting consequences, but it is a preventable public health problem. 

Types of Violence

There are four main types of intimate partner violence including physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical and sexual violence, and psychological and emotional violence.  

Physical violence is the 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 person.

Sexual violence is 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.

Threats of physical or sexual violence use words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury, or physical harm.

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.


IPV results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths nationwide every year. Nearly 5.3 million incidents of IPV occur each year among U.S. women ages 18 and older, and 3.2 million occur among men. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S.; more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined (

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.

Physical consequences such as bruising, swelling, cuts, and fractures are the most obvious. However, severe internal problems also occur including gynecological disorders, central nervous system, gastrointestinal problems, etc.

Any type of IPV, whether sexual, physical, or emotion is associated with psychological consequences, that are harder to perceive than physical consequences, but no less important. Victims of IPV often have very low self esteem and find intimacy difficult. Depression and suicidal behavior is also a psychological consequence.

Social consequences manifest themselves in many ways. It is difficult for many victims to seek help from friends, neighbors, and health care providers. This may lead to strained relationships within social networks, and feelings of isolation. Victims of severe IPV lose nearly 8 million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs—and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity each year. If the victim is unemployed or the perpetrator is providing financial support, then when the victim escapes, he or she if often left with little to no monetary resources. As a result sometimes even their most basic needs of healthcare, housing, and food cannot be met.

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Associated pages

*Prevention Strategies
Risk Factors
Additional Resources
*Groups at Risk