One form of domestic violence occurring between current or former dating partners or spouses is intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence (IPV), according to the CDC, affects one out of every four women and one out of every seven men. IPV includes psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or stalking. Many victims of IPV experience sexual and/or physical violence or stalking before age 18.
Behaviors associated with psychological or emotional abuse include name-calling, controlling finances, restricting access to family or friends, controlling where or when you go places, dictating what you can or cannot wear, public embarrassment, and calling you “crazy” or “worthless.”
Sexual abuse includes forcing or convincing the other partner to engage in any sexual activity without consent or against their will. This abuse includes non-sexual acts such as sexting or sharing sexually explicit images against the other partner’s will.
Physical abuse, probably the most recognizable behavior associated with IPV, is when one partner uses physical force to harm the other partner and includes hitting, hair pulling, choking, slapping, kicking, restraining, pinching, and more. Victims of IPV should never believe that the actions of their partner are their fault.
Stalking is the frequent or continuous unwanted contact by one partner that creates fear in the victim or fear for another person close to the victim. Some behaviors associated with stalking include sending unwanted items or gifts, a current or former partner showing up at places you go without notice, accessing your email or social media accounts without your consent, and knowing your daily schedule.
While IPV occurs across race, gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and religion, the New England Journal of Medicine notes that marginalized groups and minorities are often affected disproportionately. Many people affected by IPV are often so financially intertwined or dependent on their partner that they cannot remove themselves from these dangerous situations, since they do not have the financial resources available to establish a new residence.
The addition of COVID and lockdown orders to situations where victims are already afraid to leave or have limited access to resources has caused greater hardship for IPV victims. COVID lockdowns have forced alternative housing and shelters to either reduce available capacity or close. In addition to lockdowns and travel restrictions, couples are finding themselves thrust
into spending more time with their abuser, with companies utilizing remote work to prevent exposure.
Victims of IPV are often limited in their interactions with others by the abusive partner. Utilize any resource you can to seek help if you are a victim of IPV. If you have a close friend you can speak to away from your partner’s controlling eye, create a safe word that only your close friend recognizes as a call for help. Use medical appointments to seek help. Often, medical facilities will use periods where patients are alone with healthcare providers to question for abuse. Take any opportunity with a healthcare provider to seek assistance. Most healthcare providers are aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse and are willing to help victims. Many hospital emergency rooms have protocols in place to see patients away from family members, giving victims a safe place to report abuse.
If you find yourself in danger of imminent harm, isolate yourself in a safe place in your home, and call law enforcement.
For information and resources available to protect you and your family from IPV or other types of domestic violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or if you are in the Piedmont-Triad area, visit the Guilford County Family Justice Center for additional resources.