What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their current or former partners.

According to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, there are four types of abuse:

  1. Physical Abuse - This type of abuse is easier to recognize than other types of abuse because of the overt nature, sometimes coupled with visible results such as bruises. Examples of what abusers do include:
    • Scratch, bite, grab or spit at a current or former intimate partner
    • Shake, shove, push, restrain, or throw partner
    • Twist, slap, punch, choke or burn the victim
    • Throw objects
    • Lock partner in or out of the house
    • Refuse to help when the partner is sick, injured, pregnant, or withhold medication or treatment
    • Subject the partner to reckless driving
    • Withhold food as a form of punishment
    • Abuse the partner at mealtime, which disrupts eating patterns and can result in malnutrition
    • Abuse the partner at night, which disrupts sleeping patterns and can result in sleep deprivation
    • Attack partners with weapons or kill them


  2. Rape and Sexual Abuse - Rape and sexual abuse can be extraordinarily difficult for victims of talk about because of the personal nature of sexual contact and the violation of trust. The following are examples of what abusers might do:
    • Become jealously angry and assume the partner will have sex with anyone
    • Withhold sex and affection as a form of punishment
    • Pressure partners to have sex when they do not want to
    • Insist that partners dress in a more sexual way than they want to
    • Coerce sexual acts by manipulation or threats
    • Physically force sex or are violent during sex
    • Coerce partners into sexual acts that they are uncomfortable with, such as sex with a third party, physically painful sex, sexual activity they find offensive, or verbal degradation during sex
    • Inflict injuries that are gender specific
    • Deny the victim contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases

  3. Psychological Abuse - Psychological abuse becomes an effective weapon of control because the victims know from past experience that their abusers will at times back up the threats or taunts with physical assaults. It is the abusers' use of physical and sexual force or threats that gives power to the psychologically abusive acts. Some examples of this type of abuse are:
    • Breaking promises, not following through on agreements, or not taking a fair share of responsibility
    • Verbally attacking, constantly criticizing and humiliating a partner in public or in private
    • Attacking a partner's vulnerabilities, such as language skills, educational level, parenting skills, religious or cultural beliefs, or physical appearance
    • Playing mind games, such as undermining a partner's sense of reality
    • Forcing a partner to do degrading things
    • Ignoring a partner's feelings
    • Withholding approval or affection as a form of punishment
    • Regularly threatening to leave or telling a partner to leave
    • Harassing a partner about affairs the abuser imagines the partner is having
    • Always claiming to be right
    • Being unfaithful after committing to monogamy

  4. Economic Abuse - Batterers limit their partners' means of financial freedom. Some examples include:
    • Controlling money and financial decisions
    • Not allowing a partner to work outside the home or sabotaging a partner's attempts to work or go to school
    • Refusing to work and making the partner support the family
    • Ruining a partner's credit rating

Domestic Violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of repeated behaviors.