INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE ‘
Intimate partner violence (IPV, which may also be referred to as domestic violence) is found among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic classes, and it is estimated that more than 2 million people—1.5 million women and 834,732 men—are victims of IPV each year (Gazmararian et al., 2000; Tilley & Brackley, 2005; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000;
Tonelli, 2004). The numbers of unreported IPV incidents are much higher. In fact, a national study found that 29% of women and 22% of men had experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime (Coker et al., 2002). Many women and men are killed by their violent partners—76% of IPV homicide victims were women, whereas 24% were men (Fox & Zawitz, 2004).
Victims of IPV experience both physical and psychological symptoms, and the symptoms depend on both the frequency and severity of the violence (J. C. Campbell et al., 2002). Common psychological symptoms, similar to those experienced by victims of other coercive sexual behaviors, include depression, antisocial behavior, increased anxiety, low self-esteem, and a fear of intimacy (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Physical symptoms may include headaches, back pain, broken bones, gynecological disorders, and stomach problems.
Defining Intimate Partner Violence and Coercion
Intimate partner violence is coercive behavior that uses threats, harassment, or intimidation. It can involve physical (shoving, hitting, hair-pulling), emotional (extreme jealousy, intimidation, humiliation), or sexual (forced sex, physically painful sexual behaviors) abuse. Some offenders even are violent toward pets, especially pets
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that are close to the victim. Generally there is a pattern of abuse, rather than a single isolated incident.
As the accompanying Personal Voices, “Why Women Stay” indicates, many women in abusive relationships claim their relationship started off well. They believe the first incidence of violence is a one-time occurrence that won’t happen again. They often excuse their partner’s behavior and accept their partner’s apologies. In time, the abuser convinces his partner that it is really her fault that he became violent and if she changes it won’t happen again.
Most women in this situation begin to believe that the problems are indeed their fault, so they stay in the abusive relationship. Many actually believe that it’s safer in the relationship than outside of it. Things that may make it more difficult for a woman to leave include issues such as finances, low self-esteem, fear, or isolation.
This type of violence and abuse also occurs among college students. One 21-year – old college student talks about her relationship:
No one could understand why I wanted my relationship with Billy to work. After all, no relationship is perfect. He didn’t mean to slam me that hard. Why would he want to leave bruises on me? Look at him. He’s a big guy. Anyone can tell he might have trouble seeing his own strength. He means well. He gives the best hugs, like a big sweet bear. He always says he’s sorry. He loves me and tells me this in letters all the time. He thinks I’m sweet, pretty, and kind. Maybe my friends are just jealous. After all, he is a really good-looking guy. I know a lot of girls who want him. He tells me girls throw themselves at him every day. Why would he lie? (Author’s files)