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Intimate partner violence is defined as a pattern of assaultive, coercive behaviors that may include inflicted physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive social isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation, and threats. These behaviors are perpetrated by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent individual and are aimed at establishing control by one partner over the other.1

Intimate partner violence and abuse is the preferred alternative for previously used terms such as spousal abuse, wife battering, and domestic violence. The new term more accurately reflects the fact that this type of abuse occurs not only in adult heterosexual married relationships but also in relationships between cohabiting, separated, gay and lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals as well as in adolescent dating relationships.

Intimate partner violence and abuse occurs in every racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic, and religious group, and it affects individuals of all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds worldwide. Although men are affected, the overwhelming burden of victimization from intimate partner violence is borne by women.2–4

Effects extend beyond the abused individual. Others affected include family members, friends, coworkers, other witnesses, and the community at large.5 Children who grow up in violent homes may be physically or emotionally abused or neglected, and witnessing violence can have short- and long-term adverse health consequences.5,6 In 30% to 60% of families in which either child maltreatment or spousal abuse is identified, it is likely that both forms of abuse exist.7 Children may be incidentally injured or injured when they try to intervene in a struggle.8 Children exposed to violence in the home may develop significant behavioral difficulties, including depression, abusive behaviors, and drug abuse. Frequent exposure to violence in the home may teach children that violence is a normal way of life. This increases the risk of continued violence in the next generation, in that they may abuse others or be abused themselves. Perpetrators of violence, in particular severe violence, may be at risk for suicide, committing murder, or being murdered by a family member.9

Victims of intimate partner violence and abuse present to health care agencies twice as often as they report violence to police.10,11 Health care providers should ask about a history of intimate partner violence or abuse during health care encounters. Failure to recognize and intervene in situations of intimate partner violence may have serious consequences for the survivor and family. Such consequences may include continued violence, physical and psychological health problems, and injury or even death.12–16

Abused individuals want providers to be nonjudgmental, sensitive, and direct. They also want to be assured of confidentiality. They want the provider to have an understanding of the complexity of intimate partner violence and the difficulty of achieving a “quick fix.” Women value the reassurance that their experiences with intimate partner violence and abuse ...

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