Intimate Partner Violence

What You Need To Know

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence is also known as domestic violence. The abuser knowingly harms his or her partner. This person tries to control or overpower the relationship by using intimidation, threats, or physical force. Most victims of domestic violence are women, but men may also be victims. There may be a pattern of an ongoing or on and off abuse. The abuser may beg for forgiveness, promise to change, or try to make up for the wrongdoing. The abuser may also act as if the violence never happened.

What are the types of intimate partner violence?

Physical abuse:
This includes hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, pushing, choking, pulling hair, or burning. Physical violence may also include stalking or using physical restraints, knives, or guns. Physical violence may become life-threatening.

Emotional abuse:
This includes insulting, threatening, humiliating, intimidating, degrading, or harassing through words or actions. This may also involve not trusting you, acting jealous or possessive, or isolating you from family or friends. Control of your finances or refusal to share money or properties may also cause emotional abuse.

Sexual abuse:
This is when someone has sexual contact with his or her partner without consent. Sexual abuse includes forcing sex when you are sick, tired, or ignoring your feelings about sex. Inviting other people to join in sexual activities with you, or forcibly using objects during sex is also a sexual abuse.

What increases the risk intimate partner violence?

There are many things that may cause someone to abuse his partner. Poor or crowded living conditions may be one of the reasons why it occurs. The following are other possible causes and conditions that may increase your risk of domestic violence:

  • You have a history of intimate partner violence or other forms of family violence.
  • You have few friends or live far from other relatives.
  • You are a young woman who is single, separated, or divorced.
  • You depend on your partner for money or housing.
  • You partner drinks alcohol or uses illegal drugs.
  • Your partner has a personality disorder, depression, or another mental illness.
  • Your partner has a history of family violence, such as physical or sexual abuse.
  • Your partner has stress due to work, taking care of you, or financial problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of intimate violence?

Physical and sexual violence:

  • Repeated falls or injuries, or old injuries that were not treated when they happened
  • Bruises, especially on the upper arms
  • Scratches, bite marks, or marks from objects used for restraining, such as belts, ropes, orvelectrical cords
  • Cuts or scars
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Scars or burns from cigarettes, irons, or hot water
  • Blood or discharge coming from your nose, mouth, or genitals
  • Emotional violence:
  • Feeling disturbed or frightened
  • Feeling anxious, shy, depressed, or withdrawn
  • Hopelessness or low self-esteem
  • Sleep problems
  • Sudden changes in mood or eating patterns
  • Desire to hurt yourself or other people

How is intimate partner violence diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your body closely to look for injuries caused by physical or sexual abuse. Your healthcare provider may ask you if you have been hit, slapped, injured, or touched sexually without your consent. He may also want to know who is abusing you and how long the abuse has been happening.

You may need to answer written questions so your healthcare provider can learn more about your situation and find if you are a victim of intimate partner violence. You may also need any of the following tests:

Blood and urine tests: 
Blood and urine tests may be done to check for health problems, such as an

Culture and smear exam: 
A sample of discharge may be collected from your genitals, and sent to a lab
for tests.

Pelvic exam: 
Women may need to have this exam so healthcare providers can check for any injuries that may have resulted from the abuse.

These may be done to see if any bones have been broken or are displaced. X-rays of your chest and abdomen may also be taken.

CT scan:
This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your head and body. The pictures may show if bones have been broken or displaced. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is intimate partner violence treated?

You may need to leave your abusive partner. You may also be placed in a safe shelter or home care. Special services may be offered to ensure your safety and health. Treatment may also include any of the following:

Intimate partner violence may cause you to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a counselor to talk about how you are feeling.

Healthcare providers may give you medicine to help ease your pain. You may need antibiotic medicine or a tetanus shot if there is an open wound. Medicines may also be given if you have other medical conditions.

You may need surgery to treat injuries. Surgery may return bones to their normal position if you have a broken bone. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity or treat other injuries.

What are the risks of intimate partner violence?

When you report intimate partner violence, you may feel sad, blame yourself, or be afraid for your children and more violence. It may be difficult to be away from your family or friends, or to go to counseling.

If intimate partner violence is not stopped, you may develop serious health and mental problems. Examples include headache, body pain, sexually transmitted infection (STI), and diarrhea.

Intimate partner violence may lead to severe injuries or become life-threatening. You and your children may feel severe trauma, distress, anxiety, or depression.

Where can I find support and more information for Intimate Partner Violence?

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Phone: 1-800-799-7233
Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have new signs and symptoms since your last visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
  • When should I seek immediate care or call 911?
  • You fear for your life or the lives of your children.
  • Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You feel that you cannot cope with the abuse, or your recovery from it.
  • You have trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.