Intimate Partner Violence

What is it?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) can be defined as a deliberate and escalating pattern of abusive behavior, where one partner attempts to gain power and maintain control over another partner through a variety of tactics. IPV can take the form of physical, psychological, emotional/verbal, or financial abuse. 

Facts about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

  • It almost always gets worse over time - which means that the types of abuse occurring become more frequent and severe in the relationship over time
  • Intimate partner violence is often referred to as domestic violence, dating violence, abuse, or relationship violence
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime
  • Domestic violence is not about an anger management problem or a bad temper -- it is about power and control

Some Common Myths & Truths

Myth: The victim must have done something to deserve the abuse

  • Truth: No one ever deserves to be the victim of domestic violence. Everyone deserves a relationship free from all forms of violence. 

Myth: Domestic violence only happens to certain kinds of people

  • Truth: Domestic violence can happen to any person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status or other identity factors. However, certain communities may experience additional barriers to finding safety and support based on cultural or identity factors.

Myth: Domestic violence is only physical abuse
  • Truth: Domestic violence can include emotional, psychological, verbal, financial and sexual abuse as well as physical abuse. It is important to recognize that abuse is harmful no matter the type that occurs because it takes a person's control over their own life and experience. 

Power and Control Wheel

The power and control wheel is helpful in understanding the pattern of abusive and violent behaviors which are used by abusers to establish and maintain control over their partner. Often, one or more of the violent incidents involve multiple types pf abuse and over time, a pattern of intimidation and control is established within the context of the relationship. 

 power and control wheel

Cycle of Violence

All relationships go through cycles. However, in abuse relationships, the cycle may take a certain form that is important to identify.

  • Honeymoon/Loving phase: During this phase, which often escalates very quickly in abusive relationships, partners often feel positive feelings, have good experiences, and experience the exciting feelings that come with new relationships. In abusive relationships, this phase is often characterized by saying "I love you" very early on, engaging in an intense sexual relationship, sharing very intimate details about one's life, moving in/away together, and other behaviors that take time to develop in most healthy relationships. It is important to note that healthy relationships can develop quickly as well.
  • Tension: Although stress is common in all relationships, in abusive relationships tension is overshadowed by feelings of anxiety or "walking on eggshells," where victims of abuse often feel fearful of what is going to happen next or what their partners will do.
  • Abuse: One or more abusive behaviors can happen during this phase.