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Intimate Partner Violence

Many terms (domestic violence, battering, relationship violence, spousal abuse, wife beating, and dating violence) have been coined to name the pattern of coercive and abusive behavior employed by one partner in a relationship to gain power and control over the other partner. We will use the term intimate partner violence (IPV) as it is more inclusive of all types of intimate relationships (husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, girlfriend-girlfriend, boyfriend-boyfriend, domestic partner, civil unions).

What is intimate partner violence?

  • A pattern of physical, sexual, economic, and/or psychological abuse or the threat of abuse used to get and maintain control over another person.

What are the signs of abuse?

Physical abuse:

  • pushing, hitting, choking, kicking, biting, cutting, burning, or spitting
  • throwing things at you
  • locking you in or out of the house
  • endangering you by driving wildly or recklessly

Psychological abuse:

  • ignoring your feelings
  • criticizing your beliefs
  • threatening to take your children
  • manipulating and lying
  • degrading women
  • name calling
  • making you feel inferior
  • isolating you from friends and family
  • threatening to leave or make you leave
  • threatening to hurt your family
  • hurting your children or pets

Economic abuse:

  • refusing to give you money for food or clothing
  • making you ask for money
  • forcing you to hand over money that you earn
  • not letting you have access to a checking account
  • not letting you be involved in making decisions about money

Sexual Abuse:

  • treating you like a sex object
  • thinking that you will have sex with anyone
  • forcing you to have sex
  • calling you a "whore" after sex
  • unwanted or uncomfortable touching
  • forcing you to have sex then telling you that "you wanted it"
  • bragging about sex with other people
  • searching for signs that you have had sex with someone

Who is affected by partner violence?

Although men can be survivors of intimate partner violence, women are typically the ones affected by it.  Women of all religions, socio-economic backgrounds, educational backgrounds and of different ages and disabilities may experience partner violence.

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Power and Control Wheel

In 1984, based on group interviews with women attending educational classes offered by the Duluth battered women's shelter, the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program began developing a framework for describing the behavior of men who physically and emotionally abuse their partners. More than 200 battered women in Duluth who participated in 30 educational sessions sponsored by the shelter designed the Power and Control Wheel, which depicts the primary abusive behaviors experienced by women living with men who batter. It illustrates that violence is part of a pattern of behaviors rather than isolated incidents of abuse or cyclical explosions of pent-up anger, frustration, or painful feelings.

power and control wheel

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 Signs of a Battering Personality

  • Jealousy - Abuser will say jealousy is a sign of love.
  • Controlling Behavior -Abuser might try to govern where you go, whom you go with, what you wear, etc.
  • Quick Involvement - One week you and he are dating and the next week he is expressing his love for you and after a month he is suggesting that the two of you move in together.
  • Unrealistic Expectations - Abuser expects partner to meet all of his needs, to know what those needs are without discussing them, to predict his needs before he has them.
  • Isolation - An abuser will try to cut you off from all resources, friends, and family.
  • Blames Others for Problems - Abusers confront problems with statements such as, "You made me mad."
  • Hypersensitivity - Abusers are famous for making mountains out of molehills. For instance, he might say that forgetting to call him means you hate him or that you were trying to hurt him.
  • Cruelty to Animals or Children - Abusers will punish animals brutally or will have extremely high expectations of children.
  • "Playful" Use of Force in Sex - The force or dominance that may happen is nonconsensual.
  • Verbal Abuse - Abuser degrades the other person, curses the other, runs down anything the other accomplishes.
  • Rigid Sex Roles - Batterer expects the woman to exist for him, to fulfill traditional roles assigned to women: female/passive, male/dominant
  • Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - One minute he's kind and the next he's exploding; he's charming in public and cruel at home.
  • Past Battering - Abuser may say he has hit other women in the past, but assure you that they provoked him.
  • Threats of Violence - Threats of physical force are often a precursor to future violence.
  • Breaking or Striking Objects - Again, breaking or striking other things is often a precursor of coming violence.
  • Any Force During an Argument - May involve an abuser holding his partner down, physically restraining her from leaving the room, any pushing, shoving, etc.
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Safe and Healthy Relationships


  • Decisions are made jointly, with input from each partner
  • Responsibilities are shared by each partner

Economic Equality

  • Freedom to decide issues of work, school and money
  • Neither partner restricts the other to gender roles

Emotional Honesty

  • Each partner feels safe admitting and sharing feelings of fear and insecurity
  • Each partner accepts responsibility for their own feelings while recognizing the validity of the other's feelings

Sexual Respect

  • Each partner respects the other's sexual values
  • Each partner honors the other's right to determine the course of their sexuality
  • Each partner accepts "no" and does not enforce sexual demands

Physical Safety

  • Each partner respects the physical space of the other
  • Physical force is never used to subordinate one to the other's will
  • Physical force is never used as a form of punishment

Support and Trust

  • Each partner listens and attempts to understand the other
  • Each partner's opinion is valued


  • Each partner respects the right to differing feelings, friends and activities
  • Each supports the other partner's goals

healthy wheel  

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What should I do if I am in an abusive relationship?

Call 911 and report the incident. Write down the police report/incident number and keep with your records.

  • Seek medical attention if necessary.  Document and photograph all injuries.
  • Go to a safe place, such as a domestic violence shelter
  • Tell a person you trust about the abuse.
  • Have a safety plan.
  • File a Protective Order and have it on you at all times

How do I develop a safety plan?

  • Come up with several believable reasons as to why you need to leave the house if you sense that your abuser is getting upset or may explode in anger or violence.
  • Identify safe areas of the house. Avoid tight, enclosed spaces without exits (e.g. closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (e.g. kitchen). Try to go to a room with a phone and a door or window.
  • Keep the car filled up with gas and face the car towards the driveway exit.  Leave the driver's door unlocked. Hide a spare key to the car in a place where you can get to it quickly. Keep emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents at a safe place, such as a friend or family member's house.
  • Practice escaping. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also.
  • Come up with a code word, phrase, or signal that you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you're in danger and the police should be called.
  • Make a list of emergency contacts. Ask people you trust if you can contact them in case of an emergency.
  • Know where the nearest public phone is located, and have change available so you can use it in an emergency. Also, try to keep cash on you in case you need to call a cab.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more help on creating a safety plan 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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How to Help a Friend

  1. Ask direct questions, gently. Give her ample opportunity to talk. Don't rush into providing solutions.
  2. Listen without judging.  Your friend may feel responsible, inadequate, and afraid of being judged by you.
  3. Tell her the abuse is not her fault.  Explain that abuse in relationships is never acceptable or excusable.
  4. Let your friend know that she is not alone.  Emphasize that when she is ready to get help, it is available.  Let her know that domestic violence tends to get worse and more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.
  5. Explain that relationship abuse is against the law.  She can seek protection from the police, courts, and local domestic violence programs.
  6. Suggest that she develop a safety plan for emergencies.  See above for advice on how to create a safety plan.
  7. Think about ways you might feel comfortable helping her.  If she decides to leave the relationship, she might need money, help in finding a place to live, somewhere to store belongings, or transportation to a domestic violence shelter.
  8. Get advice.  To find out more information on how to help someone that is in an abusive relationship, contact the Counseling Center or the Women's Resource Center.
  9. If she remains in the relationship, continue to be her friend while at the same time firmly communicating to her that she does not deserve to be in this violent situation.
  10. If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police, but because these assaults are often dangerous, do not physically intervene.
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Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence www.gcadv.org

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