Intimate Partner Violence

What is intimate partner violence?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, intimate partner violence (IPV) is “abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. ‘Intimate partner’ refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV can vary in how often it happens and how severe it is.” (2021). Intimate partner violence can include the following types of behavior: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression. We encourage discourse to shift from using the term “victims” to using the term “survivors” when referring to those who have endured intimate partner violence; “survivors” is a more empowering and accurate term that highlights the strength it takes in being subject to such harrowing experiences. While women are statistically more likely to be survivors of intimate partner violence than men, it is important to note that countless men are also survivors of intimate partner violence. 


  • About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact (CDC, 2021).
  • Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (CDC, 2021).
  • Over 1 in 3 women in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2020).
  • Negative health outcomes concerning the heart, digestive system, reproduction system, the muscles and bones, and nervous systems are  all associated with intimate partner violence (CDC, 2020).
  • Survivors are also more likely to exhibit depression and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (CDC, 2020).
  • While abuse among the LGBTQ+ community occurs at similar rates as heterosexual couples,   LGBTQ+ people face forms barriers and/or prejudices based on their gender expression or sexuality (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2020).
  • Studies show that people with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse than people without them and people with disabilities often face specific barriers to accessing help (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2020).
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2020).
  • It is often more dangerous for victims of abuse to try to leave the abuser (Campbell et. al, 2003).

How to help.

Maintaining a strong and understanding support system is crucial in moving towards a life devoid of abuse; developing a safety plan that entails one’s support system is also strongly recommended. A safety plan may look like locking doors and windows, sharing our location on our phone with trusted loved ones, having designated contacts if we feel unsafe, and calling 911. 

When looking for a mental health professional to provide psychiatric or therapeutic help, it is important to find a clinician who is trauma-informed, as survivors of intimate partner violence have undergone traumatic events; trauma-informed clinicians will approach clinical care in a way that is sensitive to the survivor’s experience such that they won’t be retraumatized in any way during the course of treatment. Psychiatrists can assist in diagnosis and medication management for those suffering from the clinical ramifications of abuse; those who seek psychiatric services often find that their symptoms are imposing in various realms of their lives and make it difficult to function. 

Therapists can help survivors process their experience in a safe environment while also providing tools to recover from such experiences. Therapeutic work addressing intimate partner violence often entails psychoeducation on the cycle of abuse, safety planning, and other important topics. Further, therapy can be conducted individually or in a group setting with other individuals who share similar experiences. One study found group therapy to be beneficial for the participants by showing a decrease in clinical symptoms, a lower tolerance to violence, enhanced self-esteem, stronger social support, and no present violence in their relationships (Santos el al., 2017).



Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M. A., Gary, F., Glass, N., McFarlane, J., Sachs, C., Sharps, P., Ulrich, Y., Wilt, S. A., Manganello, J., Xu, X., Schollenberger, J., Frye, V., & Laughon, K. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American journal of public health, 93(7), 1089–1097.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Fast facts: Preventing intimate partner violence |violence prevention|injury Center|CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Preventing intimate partner violence. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2020). Domestic violence. Retrieved from

National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020, December 15). The Hotline. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

Santos, A., Matos, M., & Machado, A. (2017). Effectiveness of a Group Intervention Program for Female Victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Small Group Research, 48(1), 34–61.