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What Is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IPV is a significant and preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.

An intimate partner is a person with whom one has a close personal relationship that can be characterized by the following:

  • Emotional connectedness
  • Regular contact
  • Ongoing physical contact and/or sexual behavior
  • Identity as a couple
  • Familiarity and knowledge about each other’s lives

A relationship does not need to involve all the dimensions outlined above. Examples of intimate partners include current or former spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, dating partners, significant others, or sexual partners. IPV can occur in heterosexual or same-sex relationships and does not require sexual intimacy. IPV exists on a continuum of severity and may range from a single transient episode to chronic and severe episodes spanning years and engendering significant physical and psychological trauma.*

*Breiding M, Basile K, Smith S, Black M, Mahendra R. Intimate Partner Violence Surveillance Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements Version 2.0. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2015. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2018.