Definition of Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence includes “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control.”7 It occurs when such abuse is “perpetrated by one intimate partner against another” and is marked by one “partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.”7

This control may manifest in a variety of forms, including economic and emotional abuse.7 Other specific forms of intimate partner violence may include homicide, physical and verbal assault, threats of violence, kidnapping, harassment, criminal trespassing, or stalking. Stalking “generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as sending the victim unwanted presents, following or laying in wait for the victim, damaging or threatening to damage the victim's property, appearing at a victim's home or place of business, defaming the victim's character or spreading rumors, or harassing the victim via the Internet by posting personal information.”8 Many advocates recognize that stalking behaviors may “[signal] particular risk, as it has been linked with repeat violence (including lethal violence), increased psychological distress and diminished physical and mental health.”9

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs’ Power and Control Wheel10 is a common framework for understanding the dynamics between abusers and victims of intimate partner violence. It is a common tool in counseling and advocacy groups to help women identify tactics their partners have used against them. The power and control wheel highlights various aspects to IPV, some of which health care professionals may not have considered to be a part of abusive relationships. An abusive partner may exhibit some of these patterns of behaviors but not others in order to maintain the power and control in the relationship.10

Figure 1. The Duluth Model.10
Diagram documenting the most common abusive behaviors or tactics that were used against these women.