The term “intimate partner violence,” (IPV) refers to a form of relationship violence that occurs within marriages or dating relationships. The abuse may occur during the relationship, as the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended. As we learned earlier in the course, domestic violence is a pattern of abusive, controlling, or coercive behavior used by one partner to exert power or control over another. The types of abuse are: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic. Intimate partner violence occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can vary in both frequency and severity. In this lesson, we will take a closer look into common expressions of the types of IPV and the prevalence of stalking in abusive relationships.

Types of Abuse

Physical: Physical abuse is any action that causes injury, illness, impairment, or death. This may include actions such as hitting, slapping, scratching, choking, restraining, or burning. It may also include using a weapon such as a knife or a gun. Physical abuse is usually what most people think of when they hear someone mention “domestic violence.” It is also typically the most visible form of abuse, and the most lethal.

Sexual: Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior or act that is not consensual between both parties involved. This includes unwanted touching, forced oral sex, and vaginal or anal rape. Sexual abuse also includes behaviors such as date rape, coercing someone into having sex, degrading sexual acts, controlling another’s reproductive protection or forced prostitution. Even if the parties involved are dating, or are married, these examples constitute abuse.

Emotional: Emotional abuse is the intentional infliction of emotional distress or anguish on a partner. This may be achieved through such means as threats, intimidation, humiliation, insults, withholding affection, or ignoring one’s partner.

Psychological: Psychological abuse is similar to emotional abuse and the two are often used interchangeably. However, psychological abuse can be defined as impairing another’s mental state and development as opposed to one’s emotions. Psychological abuse is the intentional altering of one’s mental state as a means to exert power and control. This may include isolation from friends and family, threatening physical harm to oneself or a partner, or stalking.

Economic: Economic abuse is the controlling of a partner’s finances to gain power or control. This type of abuse includes not allowing a partner to work, forbidding or restraining access to monies, credit cards, bank accounts, or other finances, controlling how the household income is spent, giving an allowance, crediting debt for a partner, or taking a partner’s monies or other assets. Economic abuse can easily cause a partner to become dependent on his or her abuser, making it more difficult to leave the abusive relationship.


Stalking is defined as repeated acts of harassing or threatening behavior towards another that induces concern for the victim’s safety. Stalking includes behaviors such as showing up at a current or former partner’s home or workplace uninvited; sending unwanted text messages, emails, or letters; constantly calling; tracking his or her internet activity; using the internet as a means of constant contact, or using other people to obtain information about or deliver unwanted messages to a partner.

Research has shown that, of all incidences of stalking, stalking a current or former partner is the most prevalent form. Stalking is more and more common, and between 4.8 and 14.5 percent of women over the age of 18 have reported being stalked by an intimate partner. This is only aggravated by continual advances in technology, providing us with constant access to one another on various social media platforms. Research has also found that women in college report the highest rates of being stalked.

Stalking can vary in both intensity and longevity, although the average duration of stalking by a partner is just over two years. Stalking typically occurs after a relationship has ended, but it can begin while still in the relationship. One study found that just over half of victims stalked by a former partner reported being stalked while still in the relationship. Stalking is also related to other forms of abuse: one study found that 74% of individuals who have been stalked by a former partner reported experiencing controlling and violent behaviors while they were still in the relationship.

Victims of stalking experience fear of their stalkers and concerns for their safety. This fear is validated, as partner stalkers are more likely to assault their victims than non-partner stalkers. Stalking is highly prevalent in cases of actual or attempted murder by a former partner. Stalking is often very traumatic for victims and may affect their ability to concentrate, sleep, and otherwise function normally. Stalking can also cause paranoia, depression, or a lack of the feeling of control over one’s own life.

If you experience stalking, there are steps that you can take to ensure your safety. First, you can call the police during an incident. You may also contact the police and report any previous incidences. In addition, you may obtain a temporary no-contact order, which will make it illegal for the stalker to contact you in any way, shape, or form, for some time. The next step is to pursue a more permanent restraining order, which will make it illegal for the stalker to contact or come within a certain perimeter of your person, home, or workplace. You may also want to tell your friends, family, co-workers, employers, or other trusted individuals about your stalker, and what you would like for them to do if they should see the stalker, such as calling the police.

In this lesson, we have learned about the types of intimate partner violence as well as the prevalence and danger of stalking in intimate relationships. In future lessons, we will learn about other types of domestic violence as well as its prevalence, why it exists, and more ways how to find help.