Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV)

From a legal perspective, domestic violence includes child abuse, elder abuse, and intimate partner violence. Originally recognized as the severe physical abuse of wives by their husbands, IPV is — in some jurisdictions — legally recognized as any physical abuse of one heterosexual partner by another. In some jurisdictions, the definition has been extended to homosexual and transgendered relationships. To some extent, that "violence" may include emotional, physical, or psychological abuse as well as economic control and social isolation. Increasingly, the crime victim may be a date, an unmarried person, or a person in a terminated relationship.

From a criminal justice perspective, the in situ judgment of IPV events defines the crime’s boundaries. For example, an officer responding to a call may see a woman with no wounds and a man with bite marks on the inside of his forearm. The woman bit there to escape from a chokehold. Her bruises will not show up for many hours while his injury is obvious. Nevertheless, she is the victim. Training, policies, and enforcement norms help officers recognize that such defensive wounds are evidence of an IPV event. In general, the criminal justice approach encourages and even requires these crime victims to file charges, seek restraining orders, and document abuse for court proceedings.

From a social service perspective, IPV is commonly couched in terms of the full panoply of attacks that males perpetrate on females. This focus may arise from practicalities (e.g., no funds for a male facility), ideologies (e.g., homosexual relationships are not sanctioned), or priorities (e.g., women need options to protect their children). Social service providers have many approaches, such as moving survivors out of the relationship, using faith to resolve abusive situations, or focusing on the “innocent” survivors” rather than those who not merit assistance by virtue of, for example, having children out of wedlock (Taylor and Sorenson 2005). The most recent approach is an empowerment model that supports survivors in the establishment of their own life trajectory (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh, and Winstock 2000) although various technology-related concerns, among other factors, hamper full implementation (Rothman, Meade, and Decker 2009; Southworth, Finn, Dawson, Fraser, and Tucker 2007).

Sociologically, IPV is an umbrella term for a set of gender-related violence typologies (Johnson 2008) that continue to develop (Johnson 2009). In broad strokes, the two primary typologies are “intimate terrorism” and “situational couple violence.” Intimate terrorism manifests the patriarchal right of men to control all aspects of women’s lives. The obsessive, assumed right-of-control in these relationships commonly increases the frequency and danger of assaults; escape indicators carry a significantly increased risk of lethal reprisal. Situational couple violence entails occasional violence by both partners, and in these cases the violence is mutual and unlikely to increase in intensity. These typologies posit that intimate terrorism survivors are more likely to make their way to a shelter than are the situational couple violence survivors (Leone, Johnson, Cohan 2007). Obviously the typology borders are porous and the corollaries inconsistent. Broader gender role analyses provide additional distinctions among these typologies.

The cost of IPV

Domestic violence statistics

Why women don't leave


Johnson, M. (2008). "A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence." Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Johnson, M. (2009). Langhinrichsen-Rolling’s [sic] confirmation of the feminist analysis of intimate partner violence: Comment on “Controversies Involving Gender and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States”. Sex Roles. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-009-9697-2. Published online September 9, 2009.

Leone, J., Johnson, M., & Cohan, C. (2007). "Victim help seeking: Differences between intimate terrorism and situational couple violence." Family Relations. 56:427-439.

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2003.

Peled, E., Eisikovits, Z., Enosh, G., & Winstock, Z. (2000). "Choice and empowerment for battered women who stay." Social Work, 45(1):9-25.

Prah, P. (January 6, 2006). "Domestic Violence." CQ Researcher, 16 (1):1-24.

Rothman, E., Meade, J., and Decker, M. (2009). "Email use among a sample of intimate partner violence shelter residents." Violence Against Women, 15(6): 736-744.

Taylor, C., & Sorenson, S. (2005). "Community-based norms about intimate partner violence." Sex Roles, 53(7-8):573-589.