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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Intimate Partner Violence

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Domestic Violence, also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), is a pattern of violence in any intimate relationship where one person inflicts physical or emotional pain on their partner in order to control them.

IPV can happen to people of any gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age or ability. It can happen between married couples, ex-partners, families.

Examples of intimate partner violence may include unwanted:

  • Name calling, taunts, constant criticism or put-downs.
  • Insisting on knowing the other person's whereabouts at all times.
  • Making all the important decisions.
  • Isolating the victim from family and friends, and possibly putting them down.
  • Controlling finances, like taking wages or putting someone on an allowance.
  • Ridiculing religious faith, or using religion as a means of control.
  • Intimidation through words, threats or acts of violence.
  • Threatened or completed violence towards a person's body, possessions, pets or children.
  • One person insisting on sex when and how they want it, or forcing the other person to have sex.

For perpetrators of IPV, a system of threats and abuse are used to maintain power and control, potentially taking the form of physical, sexual, economic or emotional abuse.

Abuse in relationships usually, but not always occurs in a cycle of building tension leading up to an instance of abuse, followed by a make-up or honeymoon phase that might include apologies for the abusive behavior, promises that the violent behavior will stop, and/or gift giving. See image below.

The cycle can take as little as a week or up to several years to complete, and over time the cycle tends to escalate in violence and the time between phases decreases.

People stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Love and/or pity for the abuser
  • Pressure to stay together for the sake of the children
  • Pressure from family or religion to keep the relationship together
  • Denial of the situation and minimization of the violence
  • Belief that the situation will get better
  • Blaming the abuse on themselves and feeling responsible to save the relationship
  • Internalization of low self-worth
  • Fear of being "outed" and socially outcast
  • Fear of racial discrimination from police or people in authority
  • Fear of physical/emotional retaliation by the abuser if they leave
  • Economic dependence on the abuser
  • Fear of stigmatization
  • Linguistic isolation (if the victim cannot speak English it may be hard or impossible to tell the authorities)
  • Isolation from friends and family (abuser is the only family)