In This Article Intimate Partner Violence

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Guidebooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Legal Responses
  • Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence
  • Ethnically Diverse Communities
  • Same-Sex Relationships
  • Women with Disabilities
  • Interventions
  • Interventions with Victims
  • Interventions with Child Witnesses
  • Interventions with Offenders

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Social Work Intimate Partner Violence
Angelique Jenney, Cheryl Regehr
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0081


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is any behavior in an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to those in the relationship. It includes acts of physical aggression (slapping, hitting, kicking, or beating), psychological abuse (intimidation, constant belittling, or intimidation), forced sexual intercourse, or any other controlling behavior (isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring his or her movements, or restricting access to information, financial support, or assistance). This definition includes current and former spouses and dating partners, and it also includes people in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. This is differentiated from the earlier term “domestic violence,” which tended to refer to violence between spouses and in particular was often used synonymously with “woman abuse” and “wife battering” due to the fact that women have primarily been the victims of spousal violence throughout history. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (see Statistics Resources), intimate partner violence accounted for 22 percent of violent crimes against women between 2001 and 2005 in the United States and 4 percent of violent crimes against men. Thirty percent of homicides of women and 5 percent of homicides of men were committed by their intimate partners. On average between 2001 and 2005 children were residents of the households experiencing intimate partner violence in 38 percent of the incidents involving female victims and 21 percent of the incidents involving male victims. A 2005 survey of over twenty-four thousand women in fifteen countries conducted by the World Health Organization (see Statistics Resources) revealed that women who reported intimate partner violence also reported significantly poorer health status, emotional distress, and both suicidal ideation and attempts. In addition, the World Health Organization reports that globally one in three women has experienced intimate partner violence. In further response to such concerns, the WHO (2013) has released clinical and policy guidelines for responding to IPV and sexual violence against women.

Introductory Works

This section begins with some important historical works that provided early insights into the issue of intimate partner violence, including McLeod 1980; McLeod 1987; Davies, et al. 1998; Pleck 2004, and Walker 1999. Early writers in this area focused on the task of identifying domestic violence and in particular violence against women as a problem. These early books also identified the outcomes of the violence in terms of the mental health and the social functioning of victims, the subtle dynamics within the family that allowed the violence to continue, patterns of violence, and how these factors combined to trap abused women in their homes. A major task was identifying why women did not merely leave situations where they were abused. This includes analysis from multidisciplinary and multinational perspectives including intersectionality (Bograd 1999); analyses of issues faced by those who are representatives of minority groups (Alaggia and Vine 2012; also see Ethnically Diverse Communities) and those who have unequal rights under the law (see Legal Responses), and the issues faced by children who are exposed to domestic violence (Alaggia and Vine 2012; Jaffe, et al. 1990; also see Interventions with Child Witnesses). These resources have also begun to consider intervention in a much broader context than was originally envisioned and have moved from individual approaches to familial- and community-based approaches as well as social action (also see Interventions).

  • Bograd, M. 1999. Strengthening domestic violence theories: Intersections of race, class, sexual orientation and gender. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 25.3: 275–289.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1999.tb00248.xE-mail Citation »

    This theoretical article considers how contemporary domestic violence theories may be enhanced through the application of a lens of intersectionality which incorporates such primary aspects of social life as race, class, sexual orientation, and gender.

  • Davies, J., E. Lyon, and D. Monti-Catania. 1998. Safety planning with battered women: Complex lives/difficult choices. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    E-mail Citation »

    This seminal work, which has since been published in a 2013 second edition (Davies and Lyon, Domestic Violence Advocacy: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices, SAGE), highlighted the unique issues behind women’s need for safety and the complexity this entailed from multiple perspectives.

  • Jaffe, P. G., D. A. Wolfe, and S. K. Wilson. 1990. Children of battered women. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    E-mail Citation »

    This groundbreaking text was the first to identify and begin to address issues for children exposed to violence against their mothers.

  • McLeod, Linda. 1980. Wife battering in Canada: The vicious circle. Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

    E-mail Citation »

    This was the first attempt to estimate the incidence of wife assault in Canada and suggested that one in ten Canadian women were victims of intimate violence. Her work was instrumental in changing public policy in Canada and bringing about funding for shelters and programs for battered women.

  • McLeod, Linda. 1987. Other side of the mountain: Preventing wife battering in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

    E-mail Citation »

    Documents significant gains being made, “applauding our progress” in bringing the problem of woman abuse from the private sphere into the public domain. Nevertheless she identified that despite a dramatic rise in services, the problem was not diminishing, and the original formulation of wife battering did not fully account for the complexity of the battering relationship.

  • Pleck, Elizabeth. 2004. Domestic tyranny: The making of social policy against family violence from colonial times to the present. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1987. Pleck is a professor of history and human and community development and thus brings to the discussion of intimate personal violence a somewhat unique perspective that is important grounding for students and scholars in the field. Her work reviews legal, political, and medical campaigns against domestic violence from colonial times to the present.

  • Walker, Lenore E. A. 1999. The battered woman syndrome. New York: Springer.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book (first published as The Battered Woman 1979) was the first to consider patterns of abuse in relationships and to propose the concept of the cycle of violence. This book also gave rise to the notion of learned helplessness in battered women, which has been subsequently used as a legal defense strategy (see Legal Responses) in cases of battered women who kill their abusive husbands. A highly controversial, but important historical piece.

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