What is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)?
Well, according to the National Center for PTSD website, this is what it entails: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/domestic-violence.asp
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) occurs when a current or former partner uses behaviors or threats that can make you feel scared, controlled, or intimidated. A relationship in which IPV occurs is known as an abusive relationship.
IPV could include any of the following:
Physical violence: hitting, pushing, grabbing, biting, choking, shaking, slapping
Sexual violence: attempted or actual sexual contact without your consent
Threats of physical or sexual abuse: words, looks or gestures to control or frighten
Psychological or emotional abuse: humiliating, putting down, isolating, threatening
Stalking: following, harassing, or unwanted contact that makes you feel afraid
Relationships can be complicated in general. A relationship with IPV can be overwhelming and confusing. Sometimes it can be hard to know if you have experienced IPV. The following questions give some examples of unsafe behaviors that can happen in a relationship.
- Does your partner control all of the family income and budget? Control your work or your schooling?
- Does your partner keep you away from friends and family? Control you by questions and threats about what you do, where you go, and people you see?
- Does your partner put you down, or make you feel guilty or ashamed? Blame you for the abuse?
- Does your partner make or carry out threats to hurt your body or your feelings, or those of someone you love? Threaten to ruin your reputation? Threaten to take your children away?
- Does your partner scare you by breaking or destroying objects, or punching holes in walls? Hurting or threatening pets?
- Does your partner physically or sexually assault you or your children?
How common is it?
You are not alone. IPV can happen to anyone no matter how much education or money they have. IPV happens to people of all racial, ethnic, or cultural groups, and of any religion or sexual orientation. An estimated 22% to 31% of American women report experiencing IPV at some point in their lives.
How might IPV affect me?
You may not realize it, but the impact of IPV can reach far beyond the actual or threatened abuse. Here are some general examples:
- Experiencing IPV may mean that you have more physical health problems. Women with a history of IPV report 60% higher rates of health problems when compared to women with no history of abuse.
- Experiencing IPV may mean that you have more problems with your mood. IPV can lead to depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety or worry, feeling emotionally numb, problems with alcohol or drugs, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. Your health care provider may assess you for posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and depression.
- Experiencing IPV may also affect your job or career. Women who had experienced IPV were found to be more likely to have periods of no work than those who had not experienced IPV.
Only you know what is safest for you and your children. What you may do to keep yourself safe may change over time. Whether or not you are in an abusive relationship, safety planning is something you can do now to help improve your safety situation. Some important safety practices are as follows:
- If you think that you or your children are in danger, leave the situation right away.
- Make a note of safe places within your home to go when conflicts begin to heat up. Avoid rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen) or with no exits (such as closets, bathrooms).
- Consider finding a code word to use as a distress signal to family members, children, and friends. Inform them in advance that if they hear you use the code word, they should get help right away.
- Pack a suitcase with items to take with you when you leave. Make copies of important legal documents (such as driver's license, social security cards, birth certificates, medical records showing previous injuries) and set some money aside. Hide these items in a place where your partner will not find them.
- Make a list of people and agencies you can call or go to in case of an emergency. Learn key phone numbers (such as the number for your local shelter, even if you think you won't need it).
- Talk with someone you trust. Even if you do not want to discuss the details of your situation, simply telling one person that you trust that you have experienced IPV and that you may need their support in the future can help.
- Consider talking to neighbors about calling police for you if they hear loud noises or fighting.
- Consider sharing your situation with your supervisor at work so that they might be able to help you with safety planning in your workplace.
What if I have children in my home?
If you have children in your home, here are some things you can do to to keep them safe and protect them from IPV as much as possible:
Ask your children straight out if they have ever been abused or experienced violence. Studies have shown that in 40% to 60% of families where there is IPV, child physical abuse is also present.
Develop a safety plan with and for your children:
- Tell your children about safe places to go in the home when conflicts heat up. Practice escape routes with your children.
- Teach your children whom to call for help in emergencies. Help them to learn important emergency phone numbers by heart. Very clearly explain to them how and when they should call for help.
- Some children may try to stop a fight or argument in order to protect their parent. They may get hurt as a result. Teach your children not to get in the middle of a fight. Teach them what to do instead when a fight occurs. (They could go to a safe place or call emergency numbers.)
Many people who have experienced IPV have a hard time talking about it. Experiencing IPV can bring up feelings of shame and low self-esteem. These feelings can make it hard to seek help. Also, since violent partners often try to control and keep their partners away from their loved ones, experiencing IPV can make you feel alone. If you have been threatened, even indirectly, with harm to you or your loved ones, you might feel afraid of what could happen if you tell about your experiences or try to get help. It can take a lot of time and courage to decide to seek help.
Remember that although you cannot stop your partner's behavior (only he or she can do that), you can find support for yourself and your children. Stay connected to friends and family who support your health and safety. Also, many professional resources and providers are available and well-trained to help you in a private and respectful manner.