On this page, you will find educational information and resources about intimate partner violence (IPV). You can also read Yale’s official definition of IPV by visiting the Yale Sexual Misconduct Response & Prevention site.
General Information About IPV
Intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic or dating violence, can vary in frequency and severity and can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. IPV affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. IPV occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can occur between intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating. IPV may take various form, but the defining feature is always the same: abusers maintaining power and control over their intimate partners through fear and intimidation. IPV not only affects those who experience the abuse, but can often have an impact on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large.
Types of Harm
IPV may include various types of harm, such as (adapted from REACH Beyond Domestic Violence):
- Physical - This includes punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, strangling, or physically restraining a partner against their will. It can also include driving recklessly or invading someone’s physical space, and making someone feel physically unsafe in any other way.
- Sexual - While sexual abuse can be a form of physical abuse, we put it in a category by itself because it can include both physical and emotional/verbal components. It can involve rape or other forced sexual acts, or withholding or using sex as a weapon. An abusive partner might also use sex as a means to judge their partner and assign a value – in other words, criticizing or saying that someone isn’t good enough sexually or that sex is the only thing they’re good for. Because sex may often have emotional and cultural implications, there are ways that the feelings around it can be uniquely used for power and control. It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was illegal in all 50 states. Some people may still assume that sex is something a partner is entitled to, and not recognize it as a larger pattern of power and control.
- Emotional/Verbal - Some survivors have pointed out that while the signs of physical abuse might be noticeable to a friend or family member, the effects of verbal/emotional abuse are harder to spot, and harder to prove. As one survivor puts it, “My ex-husband used words like weapons; like shards of glass, cutting and slowly draining my life, until I had nearly none left. I didn’t think I was abused because he didn’t hit me- usually… I had begun to believe his awful lies- how worthless I was, how stupid, how ugly, and how no one would ever want me.”
- Mental/Psychological - Mental or psychological abuse happens when one partner, through a series of actions or words, wears away at the other’s sense of mental wellbeing and health. It often involves making a person doubt their own sanity. This is often referred to as “gaslighting.” We’ve heard stories of abusers deliberately moving car keys or a purse, dimming the lights, and flat-out denying that certain things had taken place. The result of this, especially over a sustained period of time – and often with the isolation that abusers also tend to use – is that the person depends more on the abuser because they don’t trust their own judgment. They may also hesitate to tell anyone about the abuse, for fear they won’t be believed.
- Financial/Economic - Because abuse is about power and control, an abuser may use any means necessary to maintain that control, and this may include finances. Whether it is controlling all of the budgeting in the household, denying someone access to their own bank accounts or spending money, or running up debts in someone’s name, this type of abuse can often be a reason why someone feels unable to leave the relationship.
- Cultural/Identity - Cultural abuse happens when abusers use aspects of a person’s cultural identity to inflict suffering or as a means of control. Not letting someone observe the dietary or dress customs of their faith, using racial slurs, threatening to ‘out’ someone as LGBTQ if their friends and family don’t know, or isolating someone who doesn’t speak the dominant language where they live – all of these are examples of cultural abuse.
Multiple types of harm may be present at various points in an IPV relationship. These types of abuse can also happen via technology (e.g. devices, social media, etc.). This is called “cyber abuse” or “technology-facilitated abuse.” You can read more about this by visiting our page on Cyber Abuse.
The Cycle of Violence
While the dynamics within an IPV relationship are complex in real life, research has developed a simplified overview of the pattern that often occurs. This three-stage “Cycle of Violence” shows how love for one’s partner, hope for an improved relationship without abuse, and fear of retaliation for ending the relationship, keeps the cycle in motion. The length of the cycle may vary, although the violence almost always escalates over time.
- Stage One: Tension Building
- Stage Two: Violence
- Stage Three: Honeymoon/ Seduction
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (“The Hotline”) describes a safety plan as “a set of actions that can help lower your risk of being hurt by your partner. It includes information specific to you and your life that will increase your safety at school, home, and other places that you go on a daily basis.”
The Hotline has an interactive safety planning tool available on their website that can help you start to think through some ways that you can promote your own safety and the safety of those around you. It is also helpful to speak to a trained professional about safety measures. The SHARE staff are available to provide support around safety planning and can include the Sensitive Crimes and Support Coordinator at the Yale Police Department in the conversation if you wish.
At SHARE, we want planning for your safety to be an empowering process and will support you in any decisions that you make. It is important to remember that while proactive safety planning can be a helpful step, abuse is always the responsibility of the person causing the harm.
The Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence has a 24/7 confidential hotline and provides services for individuals experiencing domestic violence and their children at two sites located in New Haven and Ansonia. All services offered are free of charge and confidential. Services support 170 different languages. The center is a member of the Connecticut Coalition against Domestic Violence (CCADV), which is the membership organization for Connecticut’s 18 domestic violence service agencies that provide critical support to victims including counseling, support groups, emergency shelter, court advocacy, safety planning, and lethality assessment, among other services.
The Hope Family Justice Center of Greater New Haven consists of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together, under one roof, to provide free wraparound services and care to victims, survivors and thrivers of domestic violence.
National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free, confidential 24/7 hotline for anyone in need of support around IPV. They also have a live chat feature.
The National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is working to cultivate a national culture in which we are all safe, empowered and free from domestic violence. Their website has a number of helpful resources and webinars.
REACH Beyond Domestic Violence is a comprehensive domestic violence service agency located in Waltham, MA.
Day One specializes in serving young people (up to age 24) who have experienced or are currently experiencing dating violence. They are located in New York City and have educational materials available on their website.
Love Is Respect is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline offering 24/7 information, support, and advocacy to young people between the ages of 13 and 26 who have questions or concerns about their romantic relationships.