Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

What is intimate partner violence (IPV)?

Intimate partner violence takes many forms and it is an underreported phenomenon.Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. (source)

Intimate partner violence encompasses physical violence as well as psychological damage, coercive control and emotional abuse. There are many ways to belittle another and to make them suffer. Many of the methods used are subtle and not easily picked up by others outside the relationship.

On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. (source).

1 in 4 gay men, 1 in 3 bisexual men and 3 in 10 heterosexual men will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (source)

44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. (source)

Nearly 2 in 5 transgender people report having experienced intimate partner violence or other forms of coercive control and/or physical harm. (source)

53% of battered women still involved with the perpetrator experienced self-blame for causing the violence. (source)


At the moment, the high profile court case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is an example of some types of intimate partner violence. Both parties allege violence from the other and that’s for the court to decide.  Unfortunately, intimate partner violence is common. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.

The figures are staggering! Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.

The effect of the Covid pandemic on intimate partner violence

Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic impacts have increased the exposure of women to abusive partners and known risk factors, while limiting their access to services. Emerging data shows an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Intimate partner violence is the result of factors occurring at individual, family, community and wider society levels that interact with each other to increase or reduce risk (protective). Some are associated with being a perpetrator of violence, some are associated with experiencing violence and some are associated with both.

Risk factors for both intimate partner violence include:

  • lower levels of education (perpetration of sexual violence and experience of sexual violence);
  • a history of exposure to child maltreatment (perpetration and experience);
  • witnessing family violence (perpetration and experience);
  • antisocial personality disorder (perpetration);
  • harmful use of alcohol (perpetration and experience);
  • harmful masculine behaviours, including having multiple partners or attitudes that condone violence (perpetration);
  • community norms that privilege or ascribe higher status to men and lower status to women;
  • low levels of women’s access to paid employment; and
  • low level of gender equality (discriminatory laws, etc.).

Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include:

  • past history of exposure to violence;
  • marital discord and dissatisfaction;
  • difficulties in communicating between partners; and
  • male controlling behaviours towards their partners.

Factors specifically associated with sexual violence perpetration include:

  • beliefs in family honour and sexual purity;
  • ideologies of male sexual entitlement; and
  • weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

Gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are a root cause of violence against women. Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Men are also victims of intimate partner violence but the majority of victims are women, although this may change in the future.

Teen dating violence

IPV starts early and continues throughout the lifespan. When IPV occurs in adolescence, it is called teen dating violence (TDV). TDV affects millions of U.S. teens each year. 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 said that they first experienced these forms of violence before the age of 18.

Slow changes are being made. The police deal with IPV fare better than they used to – they take claims seriously and will prosecute.

For more information about IPV, SV, and Stalking among Men, please see Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking Among Men.

For information about SV and IPV among people with disabilities, please see Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence Among People with Disabilities.

USA help – The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or visit their website to chat online 24/7.

England Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
Online live chat
Web form
Northern Ireland Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline 0808 802 1414
Online live chat
Scotland Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline 0800 027 1234
Online live chat
Wales Live Fear Free 0808 80 10 800
Online live chat
UK-wide The Men’s Advice Line run by Respect is a confidential helpline specifically for male victims. 0808 801 0327




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