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Part 1: What is intimate partner violence?

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Intimate partner violence/domestic violence occurs in an intimate relationship in which one person exerts a pattern of abusive behaviors and tactics over time in order to manipulate and control the other. It is about power and control and can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status or background, or education level. Intimate partner violence knows no limits or boundaries.

Intimate partner violence is NOT:

Caused by an anger management issue or a mental health issue. While these things can exist simultaneously, intimate partner violence is purposeful and calculated rather than sporadic and impulsive.

Caused by alcohol or substance use or misuse. Often, abusive partners will blame their abusive behaviors on being under the influence, saying things like “that wasn’t me, that was the booze”. This often excuses the behavior and makes it justifiable, not only for the abusive partner but also the victim and the victim's friends and family.

Provoked by the victim. Unfortunately, victims are blamed for the abuse they endure. Outsiders might make statements such as, “What did YOU do to upset them? You know it takes two…”. It is important to recognize that problems in the relationship don’t invite, justify, or make abuse of any kind acceptable or okay.

Limited to physical abuse. While physical abuse is prevalent and serious, intimate partner violence encompasses a wide variety of controlling tactics and behaviors, including verbal and emotional abuse, financial control, sexual abuse and coercion, isolation, and more. Often victims will not seek help if their partner isn’t physically abusive or isn’t physically abusive often. It is crucial to recognize all forms of abuse and take them all equally as seriously.

What does intimate partner violence look like?

Power and Control Wheel

Physical abuse: The use of physical force against another such as punching, slapping, choking, kicking, etc. Also includes “non-contact” physical abuse such as withholding food, water, medication/medical care, and exposing victim to extreme temperatures (i.e. locking them out of the house during a snow storm).

Sexual abuse: Sexual assault, rape, and sexual coercion and reproductive coercion (interfering with contraceptives, forced pregnancies, forced terminations, etc.)

Psychological abuse: Intimidation, threats of harm (to victim, self, and others) and isolating victim from friends, family, and other support systems

Emotional abuse: Name calling, undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth, gaslighting

Spiritual abuse: The misuse of spiritual or religious beliefs to manipulate or exert power

Legal abuse: Lying or threatening to lie to any legal entity to establish control (law enforcement, lawyers, courts, etc.)

Financial/economic abuse: Making the victim financially dependent on the abuser and/or creating financial instability for the victim. May include sabotaging victim’s ability to have a job, taking control of victim’s money, and/or taking out loans/credit cards/bills in the victim’s name without consent, ruining the victim's credit.

Why does someone stay in or return to an abusive relationship?

The choice to leave an abusive relationship is a complicated and often dangerous decision, and every victim's story is different. Some of the most common reasons individuals stay in an abusive relationship include:

Staying may be the safest option for the victim and their family. If the abuser has threatened to harm the victim and/or children, and the victim has learned that the abusive partner can and will follow through on their threats, staying may be the safest option. The year after a victim exits an abusive relationship is the most dangerous, as the abusive partner is losing control and often becomes desperate and more violent in an effort to gain back some of that control.

Financial dependence on the abusive partner. Abusive partners will often restrict a victim's ability to work or may take control of the victim's finances. Abusers may also take debt out in the victim's name, making it difficult for victims to exit the relationship and become financially independent.

Believing abuse is “normal” or abuse is not recognized, especially if physical violence is not present or is rare.

Cultural, familial, and/or religious beliefs about relationships, gender, and divorce

Love – not all survivors want to exit the relationship, they just want the violence to stop. The only person in the relationship that can stop the abuse is the abusive partner and survivors’ choices should be honored and respected.

Lack of effective and supportive systems and institutions, such as the courts and law enforcement. Systems that are in place to serve and protect victims are often inefficient and can and do cause more harm to victims as they try to seek justice.

Individuals with intersecting identities will face additional barriers to leaving (LGBTQIA+ survivors, survivors of color, survivors with disabilities, immigrant and refugee survivors, non-English speaking survivors).

Company Resource Downloads

The Impact of Violence on Workplace Communities PDF Violence affects the workplace in a number of ways. Absenteeism, impaired job performance, and loss of experienced employees are only some of the costs that companies bear as a direct result of violence. Download this document to learn more about how violence affects the workplace. 

Model Workplace Policy: Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and Stalking PDF Not sure how to develop a company policy to show your commitment to a safer and more supportive organization climate? Download this model policy to outline the appropriate measures to prevent and/or address violence. 

Confidentiality is Critical PDF Survivors of domestic and sexual violence and stalking are much more likely to report and seek assistance if they know that their privacy will be respected.  Download to learn more about the policies and procedures you can put in place so employees feel safe disclosing and seeking assistance without fear of reprisal. 

Advocacy Empowerment Wheel PDF  Created by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, this wheel depicts the major components which engender empowerment through advocacy. Download this one-sheet visual to post in a centralized location for all employees. 

Power and Control Wheel PDF This one-sheet infographic shows the eight primary ways a perpetrator can exert power and control over their victim. Download this PDF to post in a centralized location for all employees.

Incident Prevention and Response Strategies PDF This four page document outlines some employer initiatives to prevent and respond to domestic and sexual violence and stalking impacting the workplace. Download this PDF for safety planning tips, employee-centered threat assessments, and steps to take following an incident. 

Recognizing the Signs of IPV in the Workplace This two-page synopsis of how to identify signs of intimate partner violence in the workplace is a helpful and quick reference tool. Download to share with all employees in a centralized location or include in your company's employee handbook. 


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