When Love Hurts: A Look at the Realities of Intimate Partner Violence
By Kendall Wolz
Mental Health and Wellness Manager at Mosaic Georgia
What is the difference between intimate partner violence and domestic violence?
The term intimate partner violence more broadly encompasses violence within relationships, whereas domestic violence typically applies to individuals living within the same household.
In the 1970s and 1980s, women’s rights groups elevated the voices and raised awareness of crimes committed against wives by their husbands. In response to the campaigns, domestic violence shelters opened for women seeking refuge from their abusive husbands. Largely, people viewed domestic violence as a gendered issue- one where married women were the victims.
Because violence in relationships is not limited to heterosexual, married couples, the term intimate partner violence was introduced. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines intimate partner violence as “behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors” and the definition covers violence by both current and former spouses and partners.1
Intimate partner violence and domestic violence apply to adult victims, while the term “teen dating violence” recognizes that minors and young adults also experience abusive patterns in relationships.
“But, he doesn’t hit me.”
Intimate partner violence includes but is not limited to acts of physical violence. The Power and Control Wheel visually depicts the various ways it shows up in relationships.2 The outer wheel recognizes physical and/or sexual violence as a common occurrence. But the spokes of the wheel describe intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, denying/minimizing/blaming, using the children, using privilege, economic abuse, and coercion/threats.
Abusers use various methods to exhibit power and maintain control in the relationship. Without intervention, the cycle outlined in the wheel perpetuates itself.
What is the prevalence of intimate partner violence?
Intimate partner violence is more common than people realize and accounts for 15% of all violent crime. And according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 25-50% of people in relationships experience at least one form of relationship violence.
- About 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men have experienced contact sexual violence by an intimate partner.
- 14% of women and 5% of men report having been stalked by an intimate partner.
- The cost of intimate partner violence over a victim’s lifetime is estimated at $103,767 for women.
Data from the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicate that among U.S. high school students, 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence and 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence within the previous year. Female students and those who identified as LGBTQ or were unsure of their gender identity experienced higher rates of dating violence.3
Lives of victims are affected in numerous and damaging ways.
Emotional pain is at the forefront. This can manifest as distress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, shame, guilt, internal tension, stress, anger or despair. Many victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD. In addition to physical injuries, emotional stress contributes to deteriorating health such as sleep and eating disorders, chronic pain, digestive issues, and weakened immune systems.
Humans are social beings, and their interactions fulfill a wide range of physical, emotional, psychological, and social needs.
Intimate partner violence causes a pattern interrupt.
Routine, healthy dynamics and interactions shift. A support network is crucial yet those living with intimate partner violence often lose the trust and esteem of loved ones which can cause isolation. Power imbalances also negatively affect relationships with children.
The broader societal implications of partner violence are extensive. For the victim, requiring sick leave and trouble focusing can lead to job loss. On the grander scale, there are public health costs such as strain on healthcare, social services, and the public safety and legal systems. Employers are affected through insurance costs and reduced employee productivity.
Effects on Young Bodies and Minds
Furthermore, intimate partner violence leaves lasting imprints on children who witness the abuse, and it places them at higher risk of being victimized also.
As many as 1 in 5 children witness intimate partner violence in their lifetime.4 One of the most concerning realities of the impact of intimate partner violence on children is that approximately 1 in 5 homicides of children aged 2-14 are related to intimate partner violence. Children growing up in homes where abuse and violence are normalized are more likely to use violence as a means of conflict resolution than their peers not exposed. Witnessing intimate partner violence as a child is an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Higher ACE scores are associated with a multitude of negative long-term outcomes including early death, chronic physical health issues, mental health challenges, and relationship struggles.
Shining a light on the realities of violence helps to bring about awareness. Intimate partner violence is all around us and needs to be exposed rather than shrouded in secrecy and kept behind closed doors. Talking about it, sharing (the uncomfortable) information, and modeling healthy behavior can help initiate a shift in the societal norms and attitudes that perpetuate violence in intimate relationships.
If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence, there is help available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.