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Intimate Partner Violence

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.


Intimate partner violence

is also known as domestic violence. The abuser knowingly harms his or her partner. This person tries to control or overpower the relationship by using intimidation, threats, or physical force. Most victims of domestic violence are women, but men may also be victims. There may be a pattern of an ongoing or on and off abuse. The abuser may beg for forgiveness, promise to change, or try to make up for the wrongdoing. The abuser may also act as if the violence never happened.

Types of intimate partner violence:

  • Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, pushing, choking, pulling hair, or burning. Physical violence may also include stalking or using physical restraints, knives, or guns. Physical violence may become life-threatening.
  • Emotional abuse includes insulting, threatening, humiliating, intimidating, degrading, or harassing through words or actions. This may also involve not trusting you, acting jealous or possessive, or isolating you from family or friends. Control of your finances or refusal to share money or properties may also cause emotional abuse.
  • Sexual abuse is when your partner has sexual contact with you without consent. Sexual abuse includes forcing sex when you are sick, tired, or ignoring your feelings about sex. Inviting other people to join in sexual activities with you, or forcibly using objects during sex is also a sexual abuse.

Signs and symptoms of intimate violence:

  • Physical and sexual violence:
    • Repeated falls or injuries, or old injuries that were not treated when they happened
    • Bruises, especially on the upper arms
    • Scratches, bite marks, or marks from objects used for restraining, such as belts, ropes, or electrical cords
    • Cuts or scars
    • Broken or dislocated bones
    • Scars or burns from cigarettes, irons, or hot water
    • Blood or discharge coming from your nose, mouth, or genitals
  • Emotional violence:
    • Feeling disturbed or frightened
    • Feeling anxious, shy, depressed, or withdrawn
    • Hopelessness or low self-esteem
    • Sleep problems
    • Sudden changes in mood or eating patterns
    • Desire to hurt yourself or other people

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You fear for your life or the lives of your children.
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You feel that you cannot cope with the abuse, or your recovery from it.
  • You have trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your symptoms are getting worse.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


When you are ready, help is available. You may be able to stay in a safe shelter or have home care. Special services may be offered to keep you safe and healthy. Treatment may also include any of the following:

  • Counseling may be recommended. Intimate partner violence may cause you to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a counselor to talk about how you are feeling.
  • Medicines may be given to help ease your pain. You may need antibiotic medicine or a tetanus shot if you have an open wound. Medicines may also be given if you have other medical conditions.
  • Surgery may be needed to return bones to their normal position if you have a broken bone. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity or treat other injuries.


  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Tell your healthcare provider if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Apply ice and heat as directed:
    • Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, your healthcare provider may have you use heat. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Report physical or emotional abuse. It may be hard to report physical abuse, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help you if you are at risk for or are a victim of intimate partner violence.
  • Go to follow-up visits. Your healthcare provider may talk to you, your family, friends, or the person responsible for intimate partner violence. This may include what may happen if the abuse does not stop.

Protect yourself:

  • Create a safety plan:
    • Prepare a bag with clothes, money, and important papers in case you need to leave your house quickly.
    • Hide an extra set of house and car keys.
    • Have a secret way to let your family or friends know you need urgent help.
    • Plan where you can go if you need to leave.
    • If you do not have a cell phone, ask your healthcare provider about emergency cell phones for 911 calls only.
    • When you are attacked, avoid rooms with one entrance (such as bathrooms) and stay out of the kitchen.
  • Contact the police. Call the police if your life or a child's life is at risk. The police can remove your abuser. Your abuser can be kept away from you if that is what you choose.
  • Think about spending one or more nights in a shelter. A women's shelter can give you a safe place to stay when you need it.
  • Ask for names and phone numbers. Get a list of phone numbers for people who can help you. People at these phone numbers can answer your questions, and tell you where to go to get help.
  • Ask about a domestic violence advocate. This is a trained healthcare provider who will talk to you about your choices. Contact with this healthcare provider is private. This person may also help you in an emergency to make sure that you are safe from your abuser.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    PO Box 90249
    Austin , TX 78709
    Phone: 1- 800 - 799-7233
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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