Intimate Partner Abuse (Domestic Violence)

What is Intimate Partner Abuse?

Intimate partner abuse (domestic violence) describes the injuries that come from abuse in a domestic relationship. Often called domestic violence, it takes the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse by one partner in the relationship. While men are more commonly the abusers in intimate partner abuse, women can also be abusers.

Domestic violence occurs in relationships between people of all ages and backgrounds. An estimated 5 million women are in relationships where their partner abuses them in some way.

What are the Symptoms of Intimate Partner Abuse?

Signs of domestic abuse can be varied depending the situation. Victims of domestic violence may have obvious physical signs such as bruising, scrapes and burn marks. In other cases, there are no apparent physical signs. Emotional abuse can be damaging to the victim but leave no physical marks.

Other symptoms may include anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, sexual dysfunction and suicidal behavior.

Abusers may have some factors in common, including low self esteem, tendency to abuse drugs or alcohol, anger and hostility, antisocial or borderline personality traits, and a history of violence or abuse.

Intimate Partner Abuse Causes

There is no single cause for intimate partner abuse. A number of factors can cause this behavior and the continuation of the abuse cycle. In some cases, there was no warning before the abuse began. However, in most cases, there are a number of risk factors that can influence the start of domestic violence. One of the most common causes of domestic violence is a woman attempting to leave an intimate partner. This is the factor that leads to 45% of the murder of women by intimate partners. Another risk factor of this behavior is becoming a parent at a young age. When women become mothers before the age of 21, they double their risk of domestic violence. Men who become fathers by that age are three times more likely to become domestic abusers.

Alcohol and drug abuse by the perpetrator is also a risk factor. During domestic violence incidents, more than two-thirds of the abusers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Living in poverty is another risk factor. Poverty places stress on a household, and this stress may lead to domestic violence. Unemployment is a related issue that can create household stress and is a risk factor for intimate partner abuse.

How is Intimate Partner Abuse Treated?

Intimate partner abuse can be treated by leaving the relationship, although that can be difficult in some situations. Many communities have resources for abused women to leave an abusive relationship, with or without children.

Abusers can sometimes be willing to change through therapy. For the person receiving the abuse, however, it may be safer to leave the relationship while the abuser works through their issues.

Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention

Preventing intimate partner abuse should begin in the early years of both men’s and women’s lives. There are programs that teach and promote healthy relationship behaviors. In addition, teaching teens about domestic violence and how to recognize the signs of it are important factors in preventing the behavior later. These preventative teachings can be promoted by the community, by families and by schools. In addition, modeling healthy relationships can help children see when a relationship behavior is unhealthy and more likely to result in violence. Starting early is not a sure way to prevent intimate partner abuse, but it can lower the probability of young people becoming victims and perpetrators later.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
March 09, 2018