What You Need to Know About Intimate Partner Violence

What You Need to Know About Intimate Partner Violence

Thankfully, there are resources available that can help you—or someone you know—safely leave a dangerous situation.

Homicide, or murder, is a leading cause of death for women under 45 years old, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About half of women and girls who die by homicide are killed by intimate partner violence, committed by a current or former male intimate partner. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a broad term that can include different forms of abuse committed by an intimate partner, such as physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse.

The report, which collected data from 10,018 female homicides between 2003 and 2014, revealed minority women are targeted most often. Black women experienced the highest rates of death by homicide, followed by American Indian or Alaskan Native women, Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and then women of Asian or Pacific Island descent.

To collect data, researchers looked at police reports, death certificates and medical examiner reports for women over age 18 in eighteen states across the United States. They found that women of all ages—from 18 to 100—were affected. Among women of childbearing age, 15 percent were pregnant or had given birth within six weeks of their death.

While many female victims were single or unmarried, over 55 percent were killed by a former or current male intimate partner. In fact, 79 percent of IPV homicides were committed by a current partner.

Recognizing the warning signs
The CDC stresses that IPV affects people of every age, gender, race, ethnicity and economic class. In fact, more than 36 percent of women and nearly 34 percent of men in the U.S. have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. That includes contact sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, published by the CDC in November 2018. (“Contact sexual violence” is a term that encompasses rape, being forced to penetrate another person, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact.)

When someone is in a violent partner dynamic, they don’t always have the resources or ability to seek help. But there are often red flags that signal they’re in danger. About one in ten women in the 2017 CDC report experienced violence, such as assault, sexual assault or rape during the month leading up to their death. Events like these are opportunities for others to intervene.

What can you do?
If you’re experiencing violence or abuse of any kind, know there are people and resources that can help. Here are some steps you can take to access safety: 

  • If you’re ever in a situation where your life or safety is immediately at risk, choose escape as your first option, rather than attempting to stay and fight. As soon as possible, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Create a safe escape plan by enlisting the help of professionals. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY). Operators are available 24 hours a day and offer services in a wide variety of languages. They can help you decide on a course of action and connect you with local resources, including shelters in your area.
  • Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 or 866-331-8453 (TTY) or chat online at  
  • Look up resources by state through
  • Refer to this safe packing checklist when leaving an abusive living situation.
  • Use a public computer (like at the library) and a disposable phone when planning an escape since an abuser could monitor your phone or computer history. 
  • Make an extra set of keys and hide them in case you need to flee. Once you’re safely away from active danger, search your car for tracking devices and remove them. Turn off the Find My iPhone feature on your mobile phone.
  • Create a code word or a symbol with a trusted friend for emergency situations. For example, you could tell your neighbor to call 9-1-1 if the porch light isn’t on at night.
  • • Read more about safe planning from the National Domestic Violence Hotline

If you suspect another person is being abused, here’s what you can do:

  • Listen more than you talk: You don’t know how they’re feeling and you can’t give them all the answers.
  • Tell them you’re their safety net: Let them know they’re not alone and that you’ll help however you can.
  • Don’t tell them what to do, but do offer specific help: For example, you could say you’ll pick the kids up from school or research shelters from the safety of your home computer.
  • Make an emergency plan together: Agree on a code word or signal that means they need immediate help. Know exactly what to do in that situation.
  • Understand they might not leave their abuser: Continue to support them and do everything you can to keep them safe anyway. 

If you’re not sure how you can help another person with their specific situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY).

This article was updated on April 9, 2019.

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