What is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)?

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is defined slightly differently depending on who is using the term. For this course, we will use the House of Ruth Maryland standard definition, which focuses on the experience of the victim and address the victim’s need for support and services.


The two most important elements to remember about the definition of intimate partner violence are that it is a pattern of behaviors and there is a power imbalance between the intimate partners — one partner holds some power over the other.  

More commonly, you will hear the term “domestic violence” used when talking about intimate partner violence, but it is important to remember that not all partners live together and not all violence in a home is between partners. For example, the term “intimate partner” refers to any intimate relationship between people: long-term or short-term, formal or casual, public or private, serious or not.

Intimate partner violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or gender, and it can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. It impacts individuals, families, workplaces, and communities. Since intimate partner violence is framed within the global issue of violence against women, it is shaped and supported by societal, familial, and cultural norms and is complicated by the intersection of other cultural oppressions

What you can expect from this course…

Defining intimate partner violence is an important step in understanding the issue and how it is perceived, but definitions can only tell you so much. This course provides you with the foundational knowledge needed to recognize intimate partner violence and how to respond to victims of it. Specifically, by the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Identify essential elements of intimate partner violence
  • Identify how sexual assault connects to intimate partner violence
  • Recognize ways society impacts our views on violence against women
  • Determine appropriate responses to victims of intimate partner violence

Intimate Partner Violence Resources

Throughout this course, you will find a number of current and key resources about abuse, theories, case studies, and approaches that feature statistics about intimate partner violence. In some cases, the resources are available by downloading documents embedded in the course itself, and other times you will be given a link to follow on the open web to view or read resources currently available. 

The following resources are particularly helpful as you learn about and deal with victims of intimate partner violence:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites on: