Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) occurs when a current or former partner uses behaviors or threats that can make you feel scared, controlled, or intimidated. A relationship in which IPV occurs is known as an abusive relationship.
IPV could include any of the following:
Relationships can be complicated in general. A relationship with IPV can be overwhelming and confusing. Sometimes it can be hard to know if you have experienced IPV. The following questions give some examples of unsafe behaviors that can happen in a relationship.
You are not alone. IPV can happen to anyone no matter how much education or money they have. IPV happens to people of all racial, ethnic, or cultural groups, and of any religion or sexual orientation. An estimated 22% to 31% of American women report experiencing IPV at some point in their lives.
You may not realize it, but the impact of IPV can reach far beyond the actual or threatened abuse. Here are some general examples:
Only you know what is safest for you and your children. What you may do to keep yourself safe may change over time. Whether or not you are in an abusive relationship, safety planning is something you can do now to help improve your safety situation. Some important safety practices are as follows:
If you have children in your home, here are some things you can do to to keep them safe and protect them from IPV as much as possible:
Many people who have experienced IPV have a hard time talking about it. Experiencing IPV can bring up feelings of shame and low self-esteem. These feelings can make it hard to seek help. Also, since violent partners often try to control and keep their partners away from their loved ones, experiencing IPV can make you feel alone. If you have been threatened, even indirectly, with harm to you or your loved ones, you might feel afraid of what could happen if you tell about your experiences or try to get help. It can take a lot of time and courage to decide to seek help.
Remember that although you cannot stop your partner's behavior (only he or she can do that), you can find support for yourself and your children. Stay connected to friends and family who support your health and safety. Also, many professional resources and providers are available and well-trained to help you in a private and respectful manner.
Some people who are in relationships with IPV may not have had much experience in safe, healthy relationships. They may not believe that healthy safe relationships actually exist. They do. While no relationship is perfect, here are some behaviors that are commonly found in healthy relationships:
If you find that you would like to build or increase these behaviors in your current and future relationships, you may consider consulting with a health care professional about how to find support in doing so.
If you have children in your home, you have likely worked very hard to keep them safe and protect them from IPV as much as possible. Sometimes parents hope that their children do not know that IPV is happening. However, in many families where IPV is occurring, the children are aware of it. They often report that they have heard or seen the abuse even when the adults in their home did not realize it.
Like you, children will be affected by IPV, even if they do not show it right away. After witnessing IPV, children often feel angry, insecure, worried, alone, frightened, powerless, confused, or they believe that they are to blame. They may have mixed feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent. They may think the violence is their fault, or that they are responsible for stopping it.
Children often show distress physically, so they may complain of things like headaches or stomachaches. They may have bad dreams or nightmares, wet the bed, act younger than their age, have social and learning difficulties at school, act aggressively, or they may withdraw from others. Some children will want to stay home because they are afraid of what may happen to their parent if they go out.
Many parents stay in a violent relationship because they believe keeping the family together provides children with a sense of security. In reality, children will likely feel more secure with one adult in a safe home than with two adults in a home with violence and fear.
Friends and family often worry about their loved ones who are in unsafe, fearful situations. They sometimes wonder how they might be able to help. Here are some suggestions for friends and family:
Women Veterans and active duty military personnel are even more likely than non-Veterans to have experienced IPV. Among women Veterans, 39% report having experienced IPV at some point in their lives. In active duty women, 30% to 44% report having experienced IPV during their lifetimes.
Estimates of IPV committed by Veterans and active duty servicemen range between 13.5% and 58% and these rates have been found to be up to three times higher than seen among civilians.
VA has a number of resources available for those who have experienced IPV. At each VA Medical Center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to assist women Veterans. This person can help coordinate all the services you may need related to IPV or other kinds of care, including help with safe housing or shelter.
In addition to the Women Veterans Program Manager, there are other VA resources that can help you. For housing or shelter, contact your nearest VA facility and ask for the Social Work Services department or the VA homeless coordinator (or point of contact). Any of these contacts can discuss what options are available in your area. Your VA mental health provider can also help connect you to community resources related to parenting, child, and family services.
Military sexual trauma survivors are at increased risk of having experienced other forms of violence, such as IPV, in the past and are at increased risk of future violence as well. Also, sometimes assaults that occur in the military are committed by current or former intimate partners. If relationship violence occurred while you were in the military, you can contact your nearest VA facility to speak with the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinator. Every VA facility has providers knowledgeable about treatment for the aftereffects of MST. Many have specialized outpatient mental health services focusing on sexual trauma.
The following phone numbers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It may be helpful to memorize them in case of emergency.
National toll-free 24-hour Domestic Violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault hotline: 1-800-656-4673