Intimate partner violence
Intimate partner violence refers to physical, sexual or psychological harm carried out by a current or former relationship partner or spouse. Intimate partner violence includes domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. These acts can take place among romantic or sexual partners of the opposite or same sex, whether they live together or not.
At the core of intimate partner violence, the abusive partner uses various strategies to maintain power and control within the relationship. Examples of these strategies include:
- Intimidation – making someone afraid of being harmed, or having their things harmed, including pets and children.
- Coercion and threats – this can include threats to leave the relationship, harm themselves or others, tell secrets and other acts to get the partner to behave a certain way (do something sexual or illegal).
- Controlling finances – keeping money and other resources from their partner to reduce their ability to leave the relationship, find housing, transportation, etc.
- Isolation – keeping the partner away from friends, family, and even work to ensure that their partner has limited exposure to or support from others.
- Minimizing, denying or blaming – saying that the harms are not that bad, are being misperceived, or are caused by the non-abusive partner.
Stalking refers to a pattern of repeated unwanted attention and contact that causes the victim concern or fear for their own safety or for the safety of others. Stalking may take the form of texting, messaging, calling, following, watching, dropping by the home, or showing up at work or social outings of the victim repeatedly without invitation, even after being asked to stop. When asked to stop the stalker may get angry or upset, or may attempt to gain power or control over their victim.
Intimate partner violence follows a pattern known as the Cycle of Violence:
Calm – This stage is also called “the honeymoon stage.” During this stage abuse is minimal or not taking place. The abusive partner may be repentant for their actions, and the victim may be hopeful that the abuse is over.
Tension – During this stage, things are heating up. The power and control behaviors are happening to varying degrees. The victim is trying to keep the abuser calm, and it feels like they are walking on eggshells.
Crisis – During this stage an incident of physical, sexual or emotional abuse takes place.
This cycle can repeat itself many times in an abusive relationship. It is very difficult to break the cycle.
Adapted from the concept first described by Lenore Walker in her book, The Battered Woman. (1979). New York: Harper and Row.