8 Warning Signs That You May Be In Danger of IPV (Intimate Partner Violence)

By: Mindy Barnes

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined by the CDC as, “violence occurring between current and former spouses or dating partners and includes not only physical and sexual abuse, but also threats and emotional abuse” (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p. 309). According to Allen, “European statistics show that one in four women experience domestic violence and the World Health Organization multi-country study revealed prevalence figures between 15% and 71% for lifetime prevalence of physical and/or sexual abuse for women (Garcia-Moreno et al. 2006)” (2012, p. 245). While it is true that women make up the majority of IPV victims, it is important to note that men can be victims as well, as “men experience approximately 2.9 million assaults (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000)” per year (Murphy & Ouimet, 2008, p. 309). It is also imperative that one views IPV through an intersectional lens, as it can affect men and women of all social classes, races/ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations (Laing & Humphreys, 2014, pg. 7). One of the most difficult aspects of IPV is recognizing the warning signs, not just for social workers but for the victims themselves. So, I would like to take the time now to highlight the characteristics of IPV found on the power and control wheel (John Vassello, 02/09/2016, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence). If you can identify with any of these attributes, you may be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, and you should seek help as soon and as safely as possible:

1. Intimidation- uses actions, looks, and gestures such as breaking things or displaying weapons to make you afraid or to get you to obey

2. Emotional Abuse- uses mind games, name calling, and humiliation to make you feel guilty, crazy, or bad about yourself

3. Isolation- controls many or all aspects of your life such as who you talk to or where you go, to limit your involvement with other people and activities and claiming jealousy as a justification for this behavior

4. Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming- minimizes or makes light of the abuse, denies that the abuse happened, blames you for the abuse or abusive behavior


5. Using Children- uses the children as pawns to insight guilt or fear, threatens to take them away 

 6. Using Male Privilege- is in charge of defining male and female roles, dominates the household, makes all the major decisions 


7. Economic Abuse- prevents you from having access to the finances, keeps you from working, gives you an allowance or makes you ask for money 

8. Coercion and Threats- threatens to cause you harm or does cause you harm, threatens to leave or cause self-harm, makes you do things you shouldn’t do or don’t want to do

Remember, not all relationships have to be toxic. Below is a list of traits that constitute a healthy relationship, taken from the wheel of equality (John Vassello, 02/09/2016, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence):


 1. Non-threatening behavior- behaves in a way that makes you feel safe and comfortable 

2. Respect- listens to you, values your opinions, and is non-judgmental and understanding  

3. Trust and Support- supports you in your life goals, trusts you and respects your right to have you own opinions, feelings, and relationships with others

4. Honesty and Accountability- communicates openly, acknowledges and admits wrong doing, accepts personal responsibility

 5. Responsible Parenting- is a good parent and role model for the children, does not use violence against them

6. Shared Responsibility- makes decisions with you and agrees with you to do a fair distribution of work

7. Economic Partnership- makes financial decisions with you and makes sure that financial arrangements are fair and benefit you both

8. Negotiation and Fairness- is willing to compromise and is willing to seek mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict

As social workers, it is important to educate the public about what IPV looks like. Many IPV victims may not even know that they are in a dangerous relationship, so education can save lives. However, it is ultimately up to the IPV victim to advocate for her–or him–self, and to choose to break the cycle of violence. You are a survivor and you are strong, but you also don’t have to go through this alone. If you are a victim of IPV or if you know of someone who may be, please know that there is help out there. Social workers, physicians, and police officers are your friends. Their job is to do whatever they can to protect individuals, like you, from harm. Never be afraid to ask for help.


Allen, M. (2010). Is there gender symmetry in intimate partner violence?. In Child & Family Social Work, 245-254. doi: 10.1111/j/1365-2206.2010.00735.x

Laing, L., & Humphreys, C. (2014). Introduction: Key concepts in social work and domestic violence. In Social Work & Domestic Violence: Developing critical & Reflective Practice (pp. 1-16). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Murphy, S., & Ouimet, L. (2008). Intimate Partner Violence: A Call for Social Work Action. In Health & Social Work, 33(4), 309-314.

Vassello, John. (02/09/2016). SW250 class PowerPoint, Week 3: Intimate Partner Violence.

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