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Intimate Partner Violence

Also called: Battery, Domestic violence, Partner abuse, Spousal abuse
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What is intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that happens in a romantic relationship. The intimate partner could be a current or former spouse or dating partner. IPV is also known as domestic violence.

IPV may include different types of abuse, such as:

  • Physical violence, when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence which involves forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in sexual activity when the partner does not or cannot consent. The sexual activity could include things like sex acts, sexual touching, or non-physical sexual events (e.g., sexting).
  • Emotional abuse, which includes threats, name-calling, put-downs, and humiliation. It can also involve controlling behavior, such as telling a partner how to act or dress and not letting them see family or friends.
  • Economic abuse, also called financial abuse, which involves controlling access to money.
  • Stalking, which is repeated, unwanted contact that causes fear or concern for the safety of the partner. This can include watching or following the partner. The stalker may send repeated, unwanted phone calls or texts.

Who is affected by intimate partner violence (IPV)?

It is hard to know exactly how common IPV is because it is often not reported.

But we do know that anyone can be affected by it. IPV can happen to anyone. It affects people with all levels of income and education.

What are the signs that someone is experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV)?

If you think that a loved one might be experiencing IPV, watch for these signs:

Does your friend or loved one:

  • Have unexplained cuts or bruises?
  • Avoid friends, family, and favorite activities?
  • Make excuses for their partner's behavior?
  • Look uncomfortable or fearful around their partner?

Does your friend or loved one's partner:

  • Yell at or make fun of them?
  • Try to control them by making all the decisions?
  • Check up on them at work or school?
  • Force them to do sexual things they don't want to do?
  • Threaten to hurt themself if the partner wants to break up?

What can I do if I am experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Your safety is the most important concern. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

If you are not in immediate danger, you can:

  • Get medical care if you have been injured or sexually assaulted.
  • Call a helpline for free, anonymous help. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). You can also chat with them through their website or through text by texting START to 88788.
  • Find out where to get help in your community. Contact local organizations that can help you.
  • Make a safety plan to leave. Intimate partner violence usually does not get better. Think about a safe place for you to go and all of the things that you will need when you leave.
  • Save the evidence. Keep evidence of abuse, such as pictures of your injuries or threatening emails or texts. Make sure that it is in a safe place the abuser cannot access.
  • Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a spiritual leader.
  • Consider getting a restraining order to protect yourself.

How can I help someone who is experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Let your loved one know that being treated this way isn't healthy and that they are not to blame. You should:

  • Call 911 if there is immediate danger.
  • Watch for the signs of abuse. Learn about the signs and keep track of the ones that you see.
  • Find out about local resources. Get the addresses and phone numbers of some local resources in your community. Then you'll be able to share the information if the person is ready for it.
  • Set up a time to talk. Make sure you can have your conversation in a safe, private place. Your loved one's partner may have access to his or her cell phone or computer, so be careful about sharing information over text or email.
  • Be specific about why you are worried. Describe the behaviors that concern you. Be as specific as possible when explaining why you are worried.
  • Plan for safety. If your loved one is ready to leave an abusive partner, help make a plan for getting out of the relationship as safely as possible. An intimate partner violence counselor can help with making a safety plan.
  • Be patient and do not judge. You should talk about your concerns with your loved one, but you need to understand that they may not be ready to talk about it. Let them know that you're available to talk at any time, and that you will listen without judging them.

Start Here

  • Domestic Violence (Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women)
  • Harmful Partnerships: When Someone You Love is Abusive From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
  • Intimate Partner Violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Related Issues

  • Abuse, Maltreatment and PTSD and Their Relationship to Migraine (American Migraine Foundation)
  • Building Social Bonds: Connections That Promote Well-Being From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
  • Common Reactions After Trauma (National Center for PTSD) Also in Spanish
  • Coping with Stress (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


  • Domestic Violence against Men: Know the Signs (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Domestic Violence against Women: Recognize Patterns, Seek Help (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Know Your Rights: Domestic Violence (American Bar Association) - PDF
  • Leaving an Abusive Relationship (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish
  • Violence and Abuse in Rural America (Rural Health Information Hub)

Statistics and Research

  • Fast Facts: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and HIV in Women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
  • Intimate Partner Violence (Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime) - PDF
  • Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2010 (Department of Justice) - PDF
  • National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Intimate Partner Violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
  • Violence against Women (World Health Organization) Also in Spanish

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

  • Article: Exposure to interparental violence and justification of intimate partner violence among...
  • Article: Exploring the intersection of brain injury and mental health in survivors...
  • Article: Psychological distress, intimate partner violence and substance use in a representative...
  • Intimate Partner Violence -- see more articles

Find an Expert

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Also in Spanish
  • Civil Domestic Violence Resources From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
  • Resources by State on Violence against Women (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish


  • Domestic Violence and Children (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)


  • Abuse: What You Need to Know (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
  • Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Is Your Teen in an Abusive Relationship? (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Sexual Harassment and Sexual Bulllying (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish

Patient Handouts

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.