Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a substantial public health problem for
Americans that has serious consequences and costs for individuals, families, communities,
and society.1,2 Recent efforts have been made to increase resources to address
gaps in knowledge and to improve services for victims, perpetrators, and child witnesses.3,4,5
IPV is actual or threatened physical or sexual violence, or
psychological/emotional abuse. Some of the common terms that are used to describe intimate
partner violence are domestic abuse, spouse abuse, domestic violence, courtship violence,
battering, marital rape, and date rape. Intimate partners include current or former
spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends (including heterosexual or same-sex partners). Readers
should consult the references cited here for their exact definitions of IPV, which may
vary from that described above.
Many experts consider the following figures to be underestimates of IPV,
because victims may underreport IPV on surveys and because data sources may lack
information identifying victim-perpetrator relationships.1,4 Further,
definitions and research methods vary across studies, leading to different estimates of
Non-lethal intimate violence: Data
from a household survey on criminal victimization, the National Crime Victimization
Survey, between 1992 and 1996 indicate:
million incidents of non-lethal IPV occurred each year from 1992 to 1996; 85% of victims
On average each
year from 1992 to 1996, approximately 8 in 1,000 women and 1 in 1,000 men age 12 or older
experienced a violent victimization perpetrated by a current or former spouse, boyfriend,
or girlfriend. 2
On average each
year between 1992 and 1996, approximately 12 per 1,000 black women experienced violence by
an intimate partner, compared with about 8 per 1,000 white women. These rates are not
adjusted for socioeconomic status, which may account for the higher rates in black women.
The number of
violent victimization's by an intimate partner has been declining for women. In 1996,
women reported 840,000 violent victimization's by an intimate partner, down from 1.1
million in 1993. 2
1992-1993, 92% of rapes of women were committed by known assailants. About half of all
rapes and sexual assaults against women are committed by friends or acquaintances; 26% are
by intimate partners. 2
Top of Page
Lethal intimate violence: Data from
FBI Uniform Crime Reports between 1992 and 1996 indicate:
For men and for blacks, murders by intimate
partners have decreased 2
In 1996 about 2,000 murders were attributed
to intimate partners, down from 3,000 two decades earlier.2
In 1996, 30% of all female murders were
perpetrated by husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends. Three percent of all male murder
victims were killed by wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends.6
Top of Page
Pregnancy: A 1996 review of the
literature indicated that estimated proportions of women experiencing IPV during pregnancy
ranged between 0.9% and 20.1%. The proportion of pregnant women who had experienced IPV at
any time in the past ranged between 9.7% and 29.7%.7
Stalking: A term that generally
refers to repeated harassing or threatening behavior, stalking is more prevalent in the
U.S. than previously thought. In a national study in which the definition of stalking
required the victim to report a high level of fear, an estimated 1 million women and
370,000 men were stalked annually. Most victims were women (78%) and most perpetrators
were men (87%).8
Studies of emergency department (ED) visits by women have found:
Women account for nearly 40% of all ED
visits for violent victimization in 1994.9
In 36% of all ED visits by women for violent
victimization's, intimate partners were identified as the perpetrators.9
Women account for 84% of those treated for
injuries by intimate partner, which includes spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends.9
In one study of ED visits by women, over
half of all women in the study had experienced IPV at some time in their lives, while 11%
of those with current husbands or boyfriends gave IPV as the reason for the visit.10
As a consequence of severe intimate partner violence, female victims are
more likely than male victims to need medical attention, take time off from work, spend
more days in bed, and suffer more from stress and depression.11
Psychological consequences for victims of intimate partner violence can
include depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, lowered self-esteem, alcohol and other
drug abuse, and post- traumatic stress disorder.3
Top of Page
Income: Women in families with incomes below $10,000 are
more likely than other women to be victims of violence by an intimate partner.1
Age: Women age 19 to 29 are more likely than other women to be victims
of violence by an intimate partner.1
Top of Page
children have been abused by a parent or other caretaker are at increased risk for IPV.12
frequency of violence toward a spouse is associated with increased risk of the violent
spouse (particularly a husband) also being abusive to the child.13
Each year more
than ten million American children witness IPV within their families.14
violence is stressful and it is a risk factor for long-term physical and mental health
problems such as alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse and IPV.14
Top of Page
Alcohol and other drugs:
Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey indicate an association between IPV and
alcohol or other drug use. Among IPV victims who were able to describe alcohol or drug use
by the perpetrator, 75% reported offender alcohol or other drug use at the time of the
The nature of the relationship between IPV and substance abuse is not yet
clear. Many assaults against intimate partners do not occur in the context of substance
abuse, and many substance abusers are not violent with their intimate partners.3
Top of Page
Stalking and other forms of violence: Data
from the National Violence Against Women Survey of 1995-96 indicate a strong association
between stalking and other forms of violence in intimate relationships: 81% of women who
were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner were also physically
assaulted by that partner; 31% were also sexually assaulted by that partner.7
Top of Page
Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1992 and 1996
intimate violence results in financial losses to women victims that are conservatively
estimated to be $150 million per year.
expenses accounted for at least 40% of these costs, property losses for another 44%, and
lost pay for the remainder.
Prevention and Intervention
Increasing access to services for victims and perpetrators of IPV and their children
is a priority.16
One promising strategy, the use of coordinated community initiatives, may
strengthen safety networks for high-risk individuals and families.17
School-based prevention programs for IPV have focused both on teen dating
violence and on IPV among adult partners. Topics addressed have included exploration of
gender roles and expectations, personal safety, legal statutes, and social norms that
Home visitation services and interventions with child witnesses to
violence have shown some promise in prevention of IPV among high-risk families.18
Practice guidelines for health care providers include recommendations to
ask all women patients if they have experienced IPV.19,20 Health care providers
may also provide information to women at risk for IPV about community resources, such as
shelters for battered women and legal resources.
Top of Page
Bachman R, Saltzman LE. Violence against
women: estimates from the redesigned survey, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report.
Washington, DC: US Department of Justice; August 1995.
Greenfeld L, et al., editors. Violence by
intimates: analysis of data on crimes by current or former spouses, boyfriends, and
girlfriends. Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook Washington, DC: US Department of
Justice; March 1998. NCJ-167237.
National Research Council. Understanding
violence against women. Washington, DC: National Academy Press 1996:79-80.
Straus M, Gelles RJ. Physical violence in
American families: risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families. New
Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers; 1990.
Schecter S. Women and male violence: the
visions and struggles of the battered womens movement. Boston: South End Press,
FBI. Crime in the United States1996.
Uniform Crime Reports: 1996. p. 17.
Gazmararian JA, Lazorick S, Spitz AM, et
al. Prevalence of violence against pregnant women. JAMA 1996;275:1915-1920.
NIJ/CDC Research in Brief. Stalking in
America: findings from the National Violence Against Women
Survey. April 1998.
Rand MR. Violence-related injuries treated
in hospital emergency departments. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report.
Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, August 1997.
Abbott J, Johnson R, Koziol-McLain J, et
al. Domestic violence against women: incidence and prevalence in an emergency department
population. JAMA 1995;273:1763-1767.
Stets JE, Straus MA. Gender differences in
reporting marital violence and its consequences. In: Straus MA, Gelles RJ, editors.
Physical violence in American families: risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145
families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990: pp. 151-165.
McKibben L, DeVos E, Newberger E.
Victimization of mothers of abused children: a controlled study. Pediatrics
Ross S. Risk of physical abuse to children
of spouse abusing parents. Child Abuse and Neglect 1996;20:589-598.
Straus M. Children as witnesses to marital
violence: a risk factor for lifelong problems among a nationally representative sample of
American men and women. In Schwartz DF (ed):Children and violence: report of the
Twenty-third Ross Roundtable on critical approaches to common pediatric problems.
Columbus, Ohio: Ross Laboratories, 1992, pp. 98-104.
Greenfeld L, editor. Alcohol and crime: an
analysis of national data on the prevalence of alcohol involvement in crime. Prepared for
the Assistant Attorney Generals National Symposium on Alcohol and Crime. Washington,
DC: April 1998. NCJ-168632.
Rosenberg ML, Fenley MA. Violence in
America: a public health approach. New York: Oxford University Press; 1991.
American Medical Association. Family
violence: building a coordinated community response, a guide for communities. Chicago:
American Medical Association; 1996.
National Research Council/Institute of
Medicine. Violence in families: assessing prevention and treatment programs. Washington,
DC: National Academy Press; 1998.
American Medical Association. Diagnostic
and treatment guidelines on domestic violence. Chicago: American Medical Association;
Osattin A, Short L. Intimate partner
violence and sexual assault: a guide to training materials and programs for health care
providers. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention; 1998.