Intimate partner violence (IPV) describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner (CDC, 2016). It can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy. IPV is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of people in the United States and throughout the world. In many societies this type of violence is considered “normal.” It varies in frequency and severity and occurs on a continuum, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe battering (CDC, 2016; WHO, 2016).
There are four main types of IPV:
- Physical violence—the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm.
- Sexual violence (has five categories)
- Rape or penetration of victim
- Victim was made to penetrate someone else
- Non-physically pressured unwanted penetration
- Unwanted sexual contact
- Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences
- Stalking—a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone else (eg, family member or friend).
- Psychological aggression—the use of verbal and nonverbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally, and/or to exert control over another person (CDC, 2016, 2015, 2014b).
The CDC advocates use of a consistent definition of IPV, as above, to facilitate systematic data collection and meaningful comparisons and analysis of trends (CDC, 2016, 2015).
Just as intimate partner violence can be thought of as a continuum, domestic violence may also encompass child abuse when children are physically and psychologically harmed when IPV occurs, and elder abuse when the perpetrator is an intimate partner.
Although women can be violent to men, the vast majority of intimate partner violence is perpetrated by men against women. From 1994 to 2010, U.S. Department of Justice statistics showed that IPV declined by more than 60% for both males and females (Catalano, 2012), but a study of nonfatal domestic violence for 2003–2012 shows that females (76%) still experienced more domestic violence victimizations than did males (24%) (Morgan & Truman, 2014; CDC, 2014).
The rate of fatal incidents of intimate partner violence—sometimes referred to as intimate homicide—fluctuated during the period from 1980 to 2008 in the United States. The rate for both black and white males remained about 5% after 2002, while for females it rose from all-time lows in 1995 to 43% for black females and 45% for white females in 2008 (Cooper & Smith, 2011).
Violent crime statistics gathered in 2013 and 2014 reflect a continuing decrease in violent crime overall, including domestic violence and intimate partner violence, since 2005 (Truman & Langton, 2015). However, while the overall rate of homicide has declined, women continue to be 64% of the victims of intimate partner homicide, and, considering all murder victims, “women are six times more likely than men to be killed by a current or former partner” (Zweig, 2014).
Statistics gathered in the first Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) in 2010 showed that 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. In Kentucky it is 37.5% of women and 31% of men, while percentages in other states range from 26 to 48 for women and 17 to 40 for men (CDC, 2011). The NISVS is being administered annually and will be used to track trends in IPV as well as sexual violence and stalking (CDC, 2014).
Broad national survey data can be more telling than law enforcement statistics because of the reluctance of both women and men to report intimate partner violence. In the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) completed in 1996, most women and men who were physically assaulted failed to file a complaint, although women were more likely than men to report their victimization to the police (26.7% and 13.5%, respectively) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). However, a later review of studies found that reluctance to report can have many reasons, varies with the type of violence and the details of a given situation, and is not always correlated in the way people expect (Felson & Paré, 2005).
This reluctance to report intimate partner violence to authorities is also a problem internationally. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey of more than 24,000 women in ten countries, over half of the physically abused women surveyed reported that they had never sought help from a health service, shelter, legal service, or anyone in any position of authority such as religious leaders, police, or other government organizations (WHO, 2005).Back Next