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Intimate Partner Violence Learn what domestic violence really is.

Violence within intimate relationships (also known as domestic violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, and/or partner abuse) has been documented as a national and international epidemic. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can be defined as a pattern of abusive, violent, and/or coercive behaviors that are used by one person in an intimate relationship to manipulate or control the thoughts, beliefs or behavior of their partner or to punish them for resisting that control. This pattern is used to gain and maintain power, dominance, and control in a relationship.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

Intimate partner violence is a deliberate and escalating pattern of abuse in which one partner in a significant or intimate relationship attempts to exercise power and maintain control over the other partner.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is about control and coercion. Through a variety of tactics, IPV can lead to serious physical health, mental health, and social consequences for a survivor/victim, as well as their families and communities. IPV is not a bad mood after a long day, an anger management problem or a relationship with “ups and downs.” Although anger may be involved, it is absolutely not the reason a person abuses their partner.

IPV does not conform to stereotypes. It is estimated to occur in 33% of all relationships, regardless of race, religion, age, physical ability, ethnicity, culture, financial status, social status, sexual orientation or gender identity of those involved.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data estimates that 85% of all intimate partner violence victims are female and abusive partners are most often male. However, males can also be victims and females can also be abusive. It is important to recognize that IPV is just as prevalent among individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ+).

Red Flags of Abusive Relationships

  • You fear your partner will hurt you, your pets, or themselves if you leave the relationship
  • You miss work, classes or meetings because your partner prevents you from attending
  • You feel confused about the rules of your relationship and responsible for your partner's behavior
  • You feel nervous around other friends or family about what your partner might say or do to embarrass or humiliate you
  • You feel like your partner does not respect your sexuality
  • You feel pressured to share passwords to email accounts, social networking sites, or to show your partner your cell phone
  • You feel like your partner keeps track of you all the time
  • You are embarrassed to tell your friends or family how your partner treats you
  • You feel controlled
  • Your partner is extremely jealous and uses it as an excuse to control your behavior (who you talk to, what you wear, where you go, etc.)
  • Your partner pressures you to move the relationship faster than what feels natural (saying “I love you” right away, wanting to move in together, get married, have kids, etc.)
  • Your partner consistently accuses of you things that you haven’t done (ex. Cheating)
  • Your partner is very possessive over your time and attention
  • Your partner isolates you from your friends and/or family
  • Your partner makes unreasonable demands
  • Your partner has an explosive temper
  • Your partner threatens to harm you or has harmed you in the past but promised it wouldn’t happen again
  • Your partner criticizes you or puts you down; most commonly tells you that you are "crazy," "stupid" and/or "fat," or that no one would ever want or love you

Cycle of Abuse

People in an abusive relationship do not experience abusive behavior all the time, which is partly why they may stay in the relationship. Many abusive relationships follow a pattern. Abuse happens in many different ways, and a relationship can go through this cycle many times before becoming physical. In some relationships the cycle will include only abuse and tension.

Types of Abuse

Because physical abuse is the most visible tactic of abuse, it may be easier for others to recognize. However, abusive partners often use a combination of many different actions and behaviors to control victims. Emotional abuse may be more difficult to recognize, but it can be just as painful. It can happen in person, over the phone, in letters or email, texting, or by other means. Relationship violence often starts as emotional or verbal abuse and can quickly escalate into physical or sexual assault. Each of these tactics link together to reinforce power and control in a relationship.

Who are victims?

Anyone can be a victim, regardless of income, education, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Studies have shown no characteristic link between personality type and being a victim. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, help is available.

Who are abusive partners?

Like victims, abusive partners come from all backgrounds. However, abusive partners do share some characteristics in that they tend to justify abusive behaviors, fail to take responsibility for the abuse and use similar tactics to gain and maintain power and control over their partners.

Abusive partners typically present a different personality outside of their relationship than they do to their intimate partner, which complicates victims' ability to describe their experience and seek assistance.

Pay attention to the "red flags" and trust your instincts. Survivors of domestic violence frequently report that their instincts told them that there was something wrong early on but they disregarded the warning signs or didn’t know that these signs were indicative of an abusive relationship. Always take time to get to know a potential partner and watch for patterns of behavior in a variety of settings. You can lower your risk of being involved in an abusive relationship if you keep in touch with your support system, maintain your own identity, and practice good self-care.

Are you in a dangerous relationship?

Signs and Symptoms

It is easier to identify intimate partner violence when there is physical abuse, such as hitting or kicking. However, that is not usually the first sign that a person is abusive. The abuse may be mental or verbal in the beginning and may never become physical, which can make it more difficult to recognize. Use this checklist to identify if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship. The more behaviors that you check, the more dangerous the relationship may be. Even if you only identify with one of these statements the relationship may potentially be abusive.

You might be in an abusive relationship if you:
  • Believe your partner is the only person who can make you feel good about yourself.
  • Feel nervous around friends or family about how your partner might embarrass you.
  • Fear your partner will hurt you, your pets, or themselves if you leave the relationship.
  • Make up excuses for bruises and injuries or for behavior towards you.
  • Feel confused about the rules of your relationship and responsible for your partner's behavior.
  • Miss work, classes or meetings because your partner prevents you from attending or leaving their sight.
  • Feel like your partner does not respect your sexuality.
  • Feel pressured to share passwords to email accounts, social networking sites, or to let your partner look through your cell phone.
  • Feel like your partner keeps track of you all the time.
  • Feel embarrassed to tell your friends or family how your partner treats you.
  • Feel controlled.

Pay attention to the "red flags" and trust your instincts. Survivors of domestic violence frequently report that their instincts told them that there was something wrong early on but they disregarded the warning signs or didn’t know that these signs were indicative of an abusive relationship. Always take time to get to know a potential partner and watch for patterns of behavior in a variety of settings. You can lower your risk of being involved in an abusive relationship if you keep in touch with your support system, maintain your own identity, and practice good self-care.

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