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UNIFORM DEFINITIONS

Involved Parties and Relationships Between Them

Violence and Associated Terms

Terms Associated with the Consequences of Violence

 

Involved Parties and Relationships Between Them

Victim

Person who is the target of violence or abuse.

Perpetrator

Person who inflicts the violence or abuse or causes the violence or abuse to be inflicted on the victim.

Intimate Partners

Includes:

• current spouses (including common-law spouses)

• current non-marital partners

• dating partners, including first date (heterosexual or same-sex)

• boyfriends/girlfriends (heterosexual or same-sex)

• former marital partners

• divorced spouses

• former common-law spouses

• separated spouses

• former non-marital partners

• former dates (heterosexual or same-sex)

• former boyfriends/girlfriends (heterosexual or same-sex)

Intimate partners may be cohabiting, but need not be. The relationship need not involve sexual activities. If the victim and the perpetrator have a child in common but no current relationship, then by definition they fit in the category of former marital partners or former non-marital partners. States differ as to what constitutes a common-law marriage. Users of the “Recommended Data Elements” will need to know what qualifies as a common-law marriage in their state.

 

Violence and Associated Terms

Violence is divided into four categories:

• Physical Violence

• Sexual Violence

• Threat of Physical or Sexual Violence

• Psychological/Emotional Abuse (including coercive tactics) when there has also been prior physical or sexual violence, or prior threat of physical or sexual violence.

Physical Violence

The intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm. Physical violence includes, but is not limited to: scratching, pushing, shoving, throwing, grabbing, biting, choking, shaking, poking, hair-pulling, slapping, punching, hitting, burning, use of a weapon (gun, knife, or other object), and use of restraints or one’s body, size, or strength against another person. Physical violence also includes coercing other people to commit any of the above acts.

Sex Act (or Sexual Act)

Contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object.

Abusive Sexual Contact

Intentional touching directly, or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person against his or her will, or of any person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to be touched (e.g., because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure).

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is divided into three categories:

• Use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether or not the act is completed.

• An attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act (e.g., because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure).

• Abusive sexual contact.

Threat of Physical or Sexual Violence

The use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury, or physical harm. Also the use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to compel a person to engage in sex acts or abusive sexual contact when the person is either unwilling or unable to consent.

Examples: "I’ll kill you"; "I’ll beat you up if you don’t have sex with me"; brandishing a weapon; firing a gun into the air; making hand gestures; reaching toward a person’s breasts or genitalia.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

Trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics, such as those on the following list. This list is not exhaustive. Other behaviors may be considered emotionally abusive if they are perceived as such by the victim. Some of the behaviors on the list may not be perceived as psychologically or emotionally abusive by all victims. Operationalization of data elements related to psychological/ emotional abuse will need to incorporate victim perception or a proxy for it. Although any psychological/emotional abuse can be measured by the IPV surveillance system, the expert panel recommended that it only be considered a type of violence when there has also been prior physical or sexual violence, or the prior threat of physical or sexual violence.* Thus by this criterion, the number of women experiencing acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics that constitute psychological/emotional abuse may be greater than the number of women experiencing psychological/emotional abuse that can also be considered psychological/emotional violence.

Psychological/emotional abuse can include, but is not limited to:

Humiliating the victim

Controlling what the victim can and cannot do

Withholding information from the victim

Getting annoyed if the victim disagrees

Deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished (e.g., less smart, less attractive)

Deliberately doing something that makes the victim feel embarrassed

Using money that is the victim’s

Taking advantage of the victim

Disregarding what the victim wants

Isolating the victim from friends or family

Prohibiting access to transportation or telephone

Getting the victim to engage in illegal activities

Using the victim’s children to control victim’s behavior

Threatening loss of custody of children

Smashing objects or destroying property

Denying the victim access to money or other basic resources

Disclosing information that would tarnish the victim’s reputation

Violent Episode

A single act or series of acts of violence that are perceived to be connected to each other and that may persist over a period of minutes, hours, or days. A violent episode may involve single or multiple types of violence (e.g., physical violence, sexual violence, threat of physical or sexual violence, psychological/emotional abuse).

Most Recent Violent Episode Perpetrated by Any Intimate Partner

For victims who have had only one violent intimate partner, the most recent violent episode perpetrated by that intimate partner; for victims who have had more than one violent intimate partner, the violent episode perpetrated most recently, by whichever one of those violent partners committed it. Thus, the most recent violent episode perpetrated by any intimate partner may have been perpetrated by someone other than the victim’s current intimate partner. For example, if a woman has been victimized by both her ex-husband and her current boyfriend, questions about the most recent violent episode would refer to the episode involving whichever intimate partner victimized her most recently, not necessarily the one with whom she is currently in a relationship.

*At the March 1996 meeting of the 12-member expert panel, participants discussed the importance of capturing these behaviors as one component of IPV. They also recognized that psychological/emotional abuse encompasses a range of behavior that, while repugnant, might not universally be considered violent. The panel made the decision to classify psychological/emotional abuse as a type of violence only when it occurs in the context of prior physical or sexual violence, or the prior threat of physical or sexual violence. The panel suggested that “prior" be operationalized as "within the past 12 months."

Pattern of Violence

The way that violence is distributed over time in terms of frequency, severity, or type of violent episode (i.e., physical violence, sexual violence, threat of physical or sexual violence, psychological/emotional abuse).

 

Terms Associated with the Consequences of Violence

Physical Injury

Any physical damage occurring to the body resulting from exposure to thermal, mechanical, electrical, or chemical energy interacting with the body in amounts or rates that exceed the threshold of physiological tolerance, or from the absence of such essentials as oxygen or heat.

Disability

Impairment resulting in some restriction or lack of ability to perform an action or activity in the manner or within the range considered normal.

Psychological Consequences

Consequences involving the mental health or emotional well-being of the victim.

Medical Health Care

Treatment by a physician or other health care professional related to the physical health of the victim.

Mental Health Care

Includes individual or group care by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other counselor related to the mental health of the victim. It may involve inpatient or outpatient treatment. Mental health care excludes substance abuse treatment. It also excludes pastoral counseling, unless specifically related to the mental health of the victim.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Treatment related to alcohol or other drug use by the victim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content Source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
Page last modified: September 25, 2008