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“Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return.”

-Dianne Feinstein (


  • Intimate partner violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, and abusive behaviors inflicted by one partner in an intimate relationship.

  • IPV is associated with multiple long- and short-term physical and mental health consequences.

  • Nurses should screen for violence and its related consequences and provide counseling and referrals to IPV survivors.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and violence, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners. Often referred to as domestic violence, IPV occurs between current or former dating, married, and cohabitating relationships of individuals of all sexual orientations. Violence-related injuries lead as a cause of death in the United States and cost more than $406 billion in medical care and lost productivity each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013). Globally, 5.8 million people of all ages and economic groups die each year from both unintentional and violence-related injuries (World Health Organization [WHO], 2010). This chapter provides the nurse with an overview of intimate partner violence.


Each year, women experience 4.8 million intimate partner—related physical assaults and rapes; men are victims of about 2.9 million intimate partner—related physical assaults (Black et al., 2011). Gender and age increase susceptibility to IPV. Women report more IPV than men and are more likely to sustain injuries (Archer, 2000). Younger individuals, ages 16 to 24, have the highest risk of non-fatal violence; women ages 35 to 49 have the highest risk of fatal violence (Rennison, 2001). Research documents the increased incidence of health problems such as injury, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, gynecological signs including sexually transmitted diseases, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder in survivors of IPV (Campbell, 2002).

Because IPV is a leading cause of injury, many survivors seek care in the emergency departments of hospitals and clinics. However, violence also leads to long-term physical- and mental-health consequences; survivors seek ongoing healthcare in primary care, pre- and post-natal areas, labor and delivery, pediatricians’ offices, mental health services, and other areas within most hospitals and clinics (Laughon, Amar, Sheridan, & Anderson, 2010). Each of these encounters provides nurses and other healthcare providers with opportunities to assess and intervene for IPV and health-related consequences (Sharps et al., 2001).

Intimate partner violence takes many forms (Amar, 2007):

  • Physical violence inflicts pain or bodily harm. It includes actions such as hitting, punching, kicking, choking, pushing, burning, and throwing ...

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