What is intimate partner violence?

The term intimate partner violence (IPV) describes the abuse of power by one partner in a dating, common-law, married, or otherwise intimate relationship. This abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, social, cultural, or a combination of some or all of these.

This form of violence falls under the umbrella term/category of gender-based violence, which is a term used to more broadly encapsulate gendered violence such as sexual violence, human trafficking, rape, assault, stalking, etc. as well as IPV.

This violence can also be referred to as domestic violence and intimate partner abuse. Most often in heterosexual relationships, IPV is perpetrated by men against their female partners, and therefore is sometimes referred to as woman abuse. However, IPV can impact anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Like all forms of gender-based violence, IPV is rooted in power and control.

IPV is intentional

The perpetrator uses abuse to gain and maintain power and control over their partner.

They may do this by using physical or sexual force or by threatening to use that force. The abuser wants to control their partner’s behavior by creating and weaponizing fear.

Abuse does not occur because the abuser has “lost control.” Most men who abuse women are not violent or abusive to other people. Alcohol use, stress and mental health issues do not cause a man to be an abuser but may trigger or exacerbate an abusive episode. However, these are never excuses or causes of abuse.

The United Nations defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.” (UN).

IPV can happen to anyone and can occur within a range of relationships including marriage, dating, common law, couples living together, etc.

This violence can occur during an intimate relationship, during separation, or after they have separated.

The World Health Organization identifies IPV as a major global public health concern. This is because it impacts millions of people and negatively impacts mental, physical, economic, and social health.

A note on language: we honor and respect that different people will use different terminology and language to identify and describe their experience(s) and their identity. Survivors are not a homogenous group and experience abuse and support differently based on a variety of intersecting social locations.