ATrain Education


Continuing Education for Health Professionals

Kentucky: Domestic Violence

Module 3

Types of Intimate Partner Violence

According to Kentucky law (KRS 403.720), “domestic violence and abuse” means:

. . .physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault between family members or members of an unmarried couple.

“Family member” means a spouse, including a former spouse, a parent, a child, a stepchild, or any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.

“Member of an unmarried couple” means each member of an unmarried couple which allegedly has a child in common, any children of that couple, or a member of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes four types of intimate partner violence—physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and psychological/emotional violence. Stalking and cyberstalking are increasingly being included as another type of intimate violence.

Physical 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, or shoving
  • Throwing, grabbing, or biting
  • Choking, shaking, slapping, punching, or burning
  • Use of a weapon
  • Use of restraints or one's body, size, or strength against another person

Physical violence also includes coercing other people to commit any of the above acts (CDC, 2008).

Research has shown that physical violence is often accompanied by psychological abuse and in one-third to one-half of cases, by sexual abuse (Heise & Garcia-Moreno, 2002). The violence is usually not limited to one instance. A National Violence Against Women (NVAW) survey found that women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner averaged 6.9 physical assaults by the same partner, while men averaged 4.4 assaults.

Women experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners than do men. The NVAW survey found that more than 40% of women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner were injured during their most recent assault, compared with about 20% of the men (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

Most injuries, such as scratches, bruises, and welts, were minor. More severe physical injuries may occur depending on severity and frequency of abuse. Physical violence can lead to death. In 2005 in the United States, 329 males and 1181 females were murdered by an intimate partner.

Between 2001 and 2005, for nonfatal intimate partner violence:

  • 27% of female victims and 15% of male victims reported that the offender threatened to kill them.
  • 23% of male victims were threatened with a weapon and 7% had an object thrown at them.

About 1 in 10 female and male victims reported that the offender tried to hit, slap, or knock them down (US DOJ, 2007).

* Based on 10 or fewer samples cases
Source: Catalano, 2007.

Female injuries sustained in nonfatal intimate partner violence, 2001–2005


Average annual



Total intimate partner victim



Not injured






Serious injury (gunshot wound, knife wounds, internal injuries, broken bones, knocked unconscious)



Rape/sexual assault without additional injuries



Minor injuries only



Injuries unknown




*Based on 10 or fewer samples cases
Source: Catalano, 2007.

Male injuries sustained in nonfatal intimate partner violence, 2001–2005


Average annual



Total intimate partner victims



Not injured






Serious injury



Minor injuries



Rape/sexual assault without other injuries



Injuries unknown



Children are sometimes injured during incidents of intimate partner violence between their parents; there is a large overlap between IPV and child maltreatment. One study found that children of abused mothers were 57 times more likely to have been harmed because of IPV between their parents, compared with children of non-abused mothers (Parkinson et al., 2001).

Sexual Violence

A sexual act is defined as contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object (Saltzman, 2001).

Abusive sexual contact is intentional touching directly, or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person against his or her will, or of any person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to be touched (Saltzman, 2001).

Sexual violence involves:

  • 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
  • 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, for example, because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure
  • Abusive sexual contact (CDC, 2008)

Sexual and physical abuse is often accompanied by controlling behaviors. In a World Health Organization survey of more than 24,000 women in ten countries, those who experienced one or more of the following controlling behaviors ranged from 20% in Japan to 90% in urban United Republic of Tanzania:

  • Keeping her from seeing friends
  • Restricting contact with her family of birth
  • Insisting on knowing where she is at all times
  • Ignoring or treating her indifferently
  • Getting angry if she speaks with other men
  • Often accusing her of being unfaithful
  • Controlling her access to healthcare (WHO, 2005)

Threats of Physical or Sexual Violence

Threat of physical or sexual violence is defined as the use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury, or physical harm. This includes the use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to compel a person to engage in sex acts or abusive sexual contact when the person is either unwilling or unable to consent. A person threatening physical or sexual violence may use words such as:

  • “I’ll kill you.”
  • “I’ll beat you up if you don’t have sex with me.”

Or actions such as:

  • Brandishing a weapon
  • Firing a gun into the air
  • Making hand gestures
  • Reaching toward a person’s breasts or genitalia (Saltzman, 2001)

Psychological and Emotional Violence

Psychological/emotional violence involves trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics. It is considered psychological/emotional violence when there has been prior physical or sexual violence or prior threat of physical or sexual violence. Psychological and emotional abuse involves trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics, such as those listed below (CDC, 2008).

Psychological/emotional abuse can include:

  • Deliberately humiliating, diminishing, or embarrassing the victim
  • Controlling what they can and cannot do
  • Withholding information
  • Getting annoyed if they disagree with you
  • Using the victim’s money
  • Taking advantage of or disregarding what the victim wants
  • Isolating the victim from friends or family
  • Prohibiting access to transportation, telephone, money, or basic resources
  • Getting the victim to engage in illegal activities
  • Using the victim’s children to control their behavior
  • Threatening loss of custody of children
  • Smashing objects or destroying property
  • Tarnishing the victim’s reputation (Saltzman, 2001)

Coercive control and intimidation by the abusive partner is considered an underlying component of all of these types of violence. The abusive partner’s ability to control relies on the abused person’s belief that if she or he does not comply with the abusive partner’s demands, the victim, the victim’s children, or other persons or things the victim cares about will be harmed. Often, threats are alternated with acts of kindness from the perpetrator, making difficult for the victim to break free of the cycle of violence (CDC, 2009).

The ten-country World Health Organization survey and other research has consistently shown that emotional abuse can have a more profound and negative effect than physical violence. Between 20% and 75% of women across all the countries surveyed reported being the recipient of emotional abuse within the previous 12 months (WHO, 2005).

Stalking and Cyberstalking

In addition to the four types of intimate partner violence described above, stalking and cyberstalking have become increasingly common. Stalking generally refers to “harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property” (CDC, 2008).

According to the National Violence against Women survey, stalking by intimates is more prevalent than previously thought. Almost 5% of surveyed women and 0.6% of surveyed men reported being stalked by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime; 0.5% of surveyed women and 0.2% of surveyed men reported being stalked by such a partner in the previous 12 months (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

According to these estimates, more than 500,000 women and 185,000 men are stalked by an intimate partner annually in the United States. These estimates exceed previous estimates of stalking prevalence in the general population. The findings suggest that intimate partner stalking is a serious criminal justice problem, and each state should develop constitutionally sound and effective anti-stalking statutes and intervention strategies (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

Today stalkers have at their fingertips a wide array of computers and equipment including the Internet, global positioning systems, cell phones, and tiny digital cameras. In many states, general stalking statues have not kept up with these new technologies. However, in 2009 the governor of Kentucky signed into law HB 315, which made cyberstalking a crime and defines it as “intentionally alarming, annoying, intimidating, or harassing a person with no legitimate purpose through electronic communication” (Noll, 2009). Additional information for identifying and dealing with cyberstalking is available from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office and website at

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