What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate Partner Violence
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Intimate partner violence: Overview

If you want to save this information but don't think it is safe to take it home, see if a trusted friend can keep it for you. Plan ahead. Know who you can call for help, and memorize the phone number.

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Intimate partner violence—a type of domestic abuse—is different from an argument now and then. It is a pattern of abuse that one person may use to control another person's behavior. It may start with threats and name-calling. Then, it may lead to more serious acts, like pushing and slapping. The abuse also may occur in other areas. For example, the abuser may withhold money or spend a partner's money without their knowledge.

Abuse can cause serious harm. You are more likely to have a long-term health problem from the injuries and stress of living in a violent relationship. People who are sexually abused by their partners have more sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. Anyone who is abused also faces emotional pain. Anyone can be abused in relationships. In some relationships, both people use abusive behavior.

If you are pregnant, abuse can cause problems such as poor weight gain, infections, and bleeding. Abuse during this time may increase your baby's risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and death.

Intimate partner violence: How can you care for yourself?

  • If you do not have a safe place to stay, discuss this with your doctor before you leave.
  • Have a plan for where to go, how to leave your home, and where to stay in case of an emergency. Do not tell your partner about your plan. Contact:
    • The National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 1-800-799-7233. They can help you find resources in your area.
    • Your local police department, hospital, or clinic for information about shelters and safe homes near you.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or neighbor, a counselor, or a faith leader. Do not feel that you have to hide what happened.
  • Teach your children how to call for help in an emergency.
  • Be alert to warning signs, such as threats, heavy alcohol use, or drug use. This can help you avoid danger.
  • If you can, make sure that there are no guns or other weapons in your home.

Who is at risk of becoming a victim of intimate partner violence?

If you want to save this information but don't think it is safe to take it home, see if a trusted friend can keep it for you. Plan ahead. Know who you can call for help, and memorize the phone number. Be careful online too. Your online activity may be seen by others. Do not use your personal computer or device to read about this topic. Use a safe computer, such as one at work, a friend's home, or a library.

Intimate partner violence affects people of every gender, ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, social status, and religion.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Stress about money problems can increase conflict in a relationship. That conflict sometimes leads to violence.
  • Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk of intimate partner violence.
  • The risks can increase when a partner is thinking about leaving the relationship. This might cause the other person to feel as if they are losing control. A person is at increased risk of being a victim of stalking, attempted murder, or murder after leaving an abusive relationship.

Other things that can put you at risk include having a partner who has lost a job or who has medical or mental health conditions.

How can you follow the intimate partner violence safety instructions?

Make a plan for your safety

  • If you decide to stay with your abusive spouse or partner, you can do the following to increase your safety:
    • Decide what works best to keep you safe in an emergency.
    • Know who you can call to help you in an emergency.
    • Decide if you will call the police if you get hurt again. If you can, agree on a signal with your children or neighbor to call the police for you if you need help. You can flash lights or hang something out of a window.
    • Choose a safe place to go for a short time if you need to leave home. Memorize the address and phone number.
    • Learn escape routes out of your home in case you need to leave in a hurry. Teach your children different ways to get out of your home quickly if they need to.
    • If you can, hide or lock up things that can be used as weapons (guns, knives, hammers).
    • Learn the number of a domestic violence shelter. Talk to the people there about how they can help.
    • Find out about other community resources that can help you.
    • Take pictures of bruises or other injuries if you can. You can also take pictures of things your abuser has broken.
    • Teach your children that violence is never okay. Tell them that they do not deserve to be hurt.

Pack a bag

  • Prepare a bag with things you will need if you leave suddenly. Leave it with a friend, a relative, or someone else you trust. You could include the following items in the bag:
    • A set of keys to your home and car.
    • Emergency phone numbers and addresses.
    • Money such as cash or checks. You can also ask a friend, a relative, or someone else you trust to hold money for you.
    • Copies of legal documents such as house and car titles or rent receipts, birth certificates, Social Security card, voter registration, marriage and driver's licenses, and your children's health records.
    • Personal items you would need for a few days, such as clothes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and any medicines you or your children need.
    • A favorite toy or book for your child or children.
    • Diapers and bottles, if you have very young children.
    • Pictures that show signs of abuse and violence. You may also add pictures of your abuser.

If you leave

  • If you decide to leave, you can take the following steps:
    • Go to the emergency room at a hospital if you have been hurt.
    • Think about asking the police to be with you as you leave. They can protect you as you leave your home.
    • If you decide to leave secretly, remember that activities can be tracked. Your abuser may still have access to your cell phone, email, and credit cards. It may be possible for these to be traced. Always be aware of your surroundings.
    • If this is an emergency, do not worry about gathering up anything. Just leave—your safety is most important.
    • If your abuser moves out, change the locks on the doors. If you have a security system, change the access code.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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