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What is Intimate Partner Abuse?

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Intimate partner abuse occurs between two people in a close relationship. The term “intimate partner” includes current or former spouses, spouses in the process of separating, and dating partners. Partner abuse exists along a continuum from a single incident of abuse to ongoing battering. Abuse can be one-way or mutual.

Partner abuse includes four types of behavior:

  1. Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  2. Threats of physical or sexual violence include the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate an intent to cause physical harm.
  3. Emotional abuse is threatening a partner or his or her possessions or loved ones, or harming a partner’s sense of self-worth. Examples are name-calling, being controlling, intimidation, giving a person the “silent treatment,” or not letting a partner see friends and family.
  4. Sexual violence is forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent.

Often, the pattern starts with emotional abuse. Sometimes this behavior can progress to physical aggression or sexual assault.  Several types of partner abuse may occur together.

Centers for Disease Control: Understanding Intimate Partner Violence. 2009.

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