Recognizing Intimate Partner Violence

distressed woman with her head in her hands

The recent tragic death of Gabby Petito has highlighted the threat of violence women may face from their partners, usually called intimate partner violence (IPV). Despite being a common problem, stigma surrounding these situations leads to an unwillingness to speak of it publicly, resulting in under-recognition of a widespread, serious problem.

Intimate partner violence is common, affecting millions of people in the United States each year. Data from CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicate that 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. IPV often starts early in life, with many experiencing these forms of violence before the age of 18, and as early as adolescence.

IPV can result in physical injury severe enough to require hospitalization; about 35% of female IPV survivors and more than 11% of male IPV survivors experience some form of physical injury. Sadly, IPV can also result in death—in fact, this is a leading cause of fatal injury in the US, with data from crime reports suggesting that about 1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.

This is particularly true for women: over half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. In fact, a woman is far more likely to be injured or killed by her partner than a complete stranger, and are at highest risk immediately after ending an abusive relationship. The risk is even higher if firearms are stored in the house. In addition to personal violence, perpetrators of recent mass shooting incidents in the US have disproportionately had a history of previously committing IPV.

IPV affects women of all ages, backgrounds, races, cultures, and professions. More information can be found at websites for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Surgeons.

Sharmila Dissanaike, MD

Sharmila Dissanaike contributed this information as member of the Laura Bush Institute's Scientific Council

Sharmila Dissanaike, MD, is a University Distinguished Professor and Surgical Chairman at TTUHSC in Lubbock. She is a clinically active trauma, burn and acute care surgeon who has won over 50 awards for clinical, academic, and research excellence during her career. Dr. Dissanaike is internationally known as an advocate for the advancement and equality of women in surgery and the sciences.

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