Preventing Intimate Partner Violence

What is Intimate Partner Violence?
two women

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is violence or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. The term “intimate partner” includes current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV can vary in frequency and severity and occurs on a continuum, ranging from one episode that might or might not have lasting impact, to chronic and severe episodes over a period of years. IPV includes four types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.

Several types of IPV can occur together. IPV is associated with several risk and protective factors. It is connected to other forms of violence, and causes serious health and economic consequences. By using a public health approach that addresses risk and protective factors for multiple types of violence, IPV and other forms of violence can be prevented.

How big is the problem?

IPV is common.  It affects millions of people in the U.S. each year. Data from CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicate: 

  • About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact.
  • Over 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

IPV starts early and continues throughout the lifespan. Among victims, about 11 million women and 5 million men who reported experiencing contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime also indicated that they first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before the age of 18. A nationally representative survey of U.S. high school students also indicates high levels of teen dating violence, a risk factor for IPV in adulthood. Among students who reported dating, 9% of girls and 7% of boys had experienced physical dating violence and 11% of girls and 3% of boys had experienced sexual dating violence in the past 12 months.

How big is the problem?

What are the consequences?

IPV is a significant public health issue that has considerable societal costs. Approximately 41% of female IPV survivors and 14% of male IPV survivors experience some form of physical injury related to their experience of relationship violence. IPV can also extend beyond physical injury and result in death. Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that 16% (about 1 in 6) of homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and that nearly half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.

There are also many other negative health outcomes associated with IPV, including a range of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and nervous system conditions, many of which are chronic in nature. Survivors experience mental health problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are at higher risk for engaging in health risk behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, and HIV risk behaviors.

Although the personal consequences of IPV are devastating, there are also substantial societal costs. The lifetime economic cost associated with medical services for IPV-related injuries, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice and other costs, such as victim property loss or damage was $3.6 trillion (2014 US dollars). The lifetime per-victim cost was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men.

How can we stop it before it starts?

Supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships has the potential to reduce the occurrence of IPV and prevent its harmful and long-lasting effects on individuals, families, and the communities where they live. CDC has developed a technical package,  Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies, and Practices, with a variety of strategies and approaches that ideally would be used in combination in a multi-level, multi-sector approach to preventing IPV.

Consistent with CDC’s emphasis on primary prevention, the package includes multiple strategies intended to stop IPV before it starts in addition to approaches designed to provide support to survivors and lessen the short- and long-term harms of IPV.

How can we stop it before it starts?

  1. Breiding, M. J., Basile, K. C., Smith, S. G., Black, M. C., & Mahendra, R. R. (2015). Intimate partner violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements, Version 2.0. Atlanta (GA): National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Preventing Multiple Forms of Violence: A Strategic Vision for Connecting the Dots. (2016). Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Smith, S. G., Zhang, X., Basile, K.C., Merrick, M.T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M., Chen, J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 Data Brief—Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Queen, B. et al. (2018). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2017. MMWR Surveillance Summaries. Volume 67 (No. SS-8), 1-479.
  5. Breiding, M. J., Chen J., & Black, M. C. (2014). Intimate partner violence in the United States — 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. Cooper, A., & Smith, E. L. (2011). Homicide trends in the United States, 1980–2008. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 236018.
  7. Petrosky, E., Blair, J. M., Betz, C. J., Fowler, K. A., Jack, S., & Lyons, B. H. (2017). Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence – United States, 2003-2014. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 66(28), 741-746. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6628a1
  8. Black, M. C. (2011). Intimate partner violence and adverse health consequences: implications for clinicians. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 5(5), 428-439.
  9. Warshaw, C., Brashler, P., & Gil, J. (2009). Mental health consequences of intimate partner violence. In C. Mitchell & D. Anglin (Eds.), Intimate partner violence: a health-based perspective (pp. 147–170). New York: Oxford University Press.
  10. Breiding, M. J., Black, M. C., & Ryan, G. W. (2008). Chronic disease and health risk behaviors associated with intimate partner violence—18 U.S. states/territories, 2005. Annals of Epidemiology, 18(7), 538-544.
  11. Peterson, C., Kearns, M. C., McIntosh, W. L., Estefan, L. F., Nicolaidis, C., McCollister, K. E., & Florence, C. (2018). Lifetime Economic Burden of Intimate Partner Violence Among U.S. Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 55(4), 433–444.
  12. Niolon, P. H., Kearns, M., Dills, J., Rambo, K., Irving, S., Armstead, T., & Gilbert, L. (2017). Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies and Practices. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Page last reviewed: February 26, 2019