Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What constitutes intimate partner violence? (26 November 2016)

Parveen Ali, Guest Editor

'By the time I was finally able to leave, I had been with Daniel for 30 years. He was never punished for the way he treated me and I have heard that he is now hitting his new girlfriend. I try not to think about him anymore. It was a very long and painful journey, but I now know that there is nowhere for me to go but up and I am looking to the future’ (Christine’s Story).

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of violence against women experienced by women. The World Health Organization (2012) defines it as ‘any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship’. It can take various forms such physical, psychological abuse and coercive behavior.

Physical abuse: Refers to the use of physical force to inflict pain, injury or physical suffering to the victim. Examples include slapping, beating, kicking, pinching, biting, pushing, shoving, dragging, stabbing, spanking, scratching, hitting with a fist or something else that could hurt, burning, choking, threatening or using a gun, knife or any other weapon Acts of physical violence, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and biting.

Sexual abuse: Refers to physically forcing a partner to have sexual intercourse who did not want it or forcing a partner to do something that they found degrading or humiliating.

Psychological abuse: Refers to the use of various behaviours intended to humiliate and control another individual in public or private. Examples include, name calling, constantly criticizing, blackmailing, saying something or doing something to make the other person feel embarrassed, threats to beat women or children, monitoring and/ or restricting movements, restricting access to friends and family, restricting economic independence and access to information, assistance or other resources and services such as education or health services.

IPV is a grave reality that women in all parts of the world face (Ali et al. 2014). I acknowledge that IPV can be perpetrated by women against their male partners, and that it can happen in same sex relationships, but the number of women affected by IPV resulting in injuries and other health consequences is far greater. The prevalence of IPV differs between countries and between studies due to the variations in the definition of IPV and the social and cultural context. Available evidence suggests that approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced IPV at some point in their life, athough, in some countries, the prevalence of IPV is reported to be 70% (World Health Organization 2013). A study conducted in 28 European countries, involving 42,000 women participants estimated that 13 million women experienced physical violence and 3.7 million women experienced sexual violence in one year. The study also reported that 43% experienced some form of psychological IPV (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2014).

IPV has extensive physical and psychological consequences, some with lethal outcomes. Preventing IPV requires an understanding of IPV risk factors pertaining to perpetrators and victims. Such understanding can help develop preventive strategies focusing on victims as well as perpetrators. It requires a multidisciplinary approach. Healthcare professionals, especially nurses are well placed to play an important role in prevention of IPV in contributing to early identification of IPV victims. This can be done by ensuring victims are provided with appropriate opportunities and supportive environment (privacy, confidentiality) to disclose their experiences of violence. Active listening, empathetic and nonjudgmental attitude and an awareness of one’s own values and beliefs related to IPV, prejudice and biases is necessary to provide appropriate care. Nurses and other health care professionals need to be appropriately prepared to identify, assess, respond and provide appropriate care to IPV victims.


Ali, P. A., Naylor, P. B., Croot, E., & O’Cathain, A. (2015). Intimate Partner Violence in Pakistan A Systematic Review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 3 299-315

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014). Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Available at (Accessed November 20, 2015)

World Health Organization (2012). Understating Violence against women. Intimate partner violence. Available at (Accessed November 20, 2015)

World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Available at (Accessed November 20, 2015)

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