Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives
- Describe the definition and scope of intimate partner abuse, from the perspective of victimization, including problems inherent in measuring this form of abuse.
- Identify the various risk factors associated with intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization.
- Summarize the consequences of IPV for victims.
- Discuss the various intervention and prevention efforts that focus on IPV victims, including evidence of their effectiveness.
In this chapter, we examined the problem of IPV in adult relationships from the perspective of victims. We defined IPV as any threatened or completed acts of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse committed by a spouse, ex-spouse, or current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. This definition encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including economic abuse and coercive control, but we also discussed the challenges of measuring IPV and how the measures chosen affect estimates of IPV prevalence. Estimates of IPV also vary depending on the population from which the sample surveyed is selected (e.g., clinical populations vs. the general population).
Both women and men may be victims of IPV, but the majority of studies show that women are at greater risk of victimization, and men are at greater risk of perpetration. We discussed other social and demographic factors that are associated with IPV victimization,including age, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, immigration status, and military status. IPV may cause physical injuries and may even result in the death of the victim. IPV has many other direct and indirect consequences for victims that vary by the frequency, severity, and type of IPV experienced. These consequences include physical health problems, such as gastrointestinal illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome, and gynecological and obstetric disorders, as well as mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance use. IPV victims may also experience economic consequences, including unemployment, high debt, and homelessness. In light of these consequences, it is not surprising that IPV victims actively seek help from multiple informal and formal sources. Shelter and other victims’ services, which were virtually nonexistent only 30 years ago, are now widely available throughout the United States, although need still exceeds capacity. Shelters and other programs provide a variety of services to IPV victims, including hotlines, housing, and counseling, which we found have positive impacts on victims’ health, safety, and well-being.
The health care system’s response to IPV victims has also improved, although there is still reluctance among health care providers to screen patients for IPV and to intervene if IPV is disclosed. Even greater change has occurred in the legal system. Mandatory and preferred arrest policies, along with victimless and no-drop prosecution, have produced dramatic increases in arrests and prosecutions of IPV offenders. Supporters of these reforms argue that they send a powerful message that IPV is a crime that will be taken seriously by the criminal justice system and perpetrators will be held accountable. However, critics note that these policies have had negative impacts on some victims and have also largely failed to reduce recidivism.
Taken together, the research discussed in this chapter indicates that over the past three decades, significant improvements have occurred in the identification of IPV and in responses to victims, but that there continues to be room for considerable improvement.