Domestic Violence & Your Health

Intimate partner violence involves a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to establish and maintain power and control over the other. These behaviors can include physical, sexual, and psychological (emotional) abuse by a current or former partner (including common-law husbands/wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, and dating partners) in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships.

Intimate partner violence can cause serious short- and long-term health problems, including physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, and psychological suffering, such as anxiety or depression.

Physical intimate partner violence

  • the use of weapons
  • hitting, slapping, kicking
  • pushing, shoving

Sexual intimate partner violence

  • forced and/or unwanted sexual intercourse (rape) or sexual touching
  • threats of forced and/or unwanted sexual contact or violence
  • unwanted non-contact sexual acts, such as voyeurism, exploitation, and verbal or behavioral sexual harassment

If both partners have not given consent, sexual activity can be considered violence and unlawful. Active consent means that each person agrees to the sexual activity freely and knowingly. A person who has any or all of the following characteristics CANNOT give consent:

  • a person who has been threatened or coerced
  • a person whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • a person who is unconscious or asleep
  • a person who has a mental impairment that does not allow for full understanding of the sexual act
  • a person who is younger than 17 years of age

Psychological intimate partner violence

  • threatening to hit or to use weapons
  • threatening to hurt children, relatives, friends or pets
  • continually criticizing, name-calling, ridiculing
  • controlling access to family, friends, work, and money

Both men and women can experience IPV, but most reported cases occur among women and it is a leading cause of women’s injuries. In 2006, intimate partner violence sent nearly 4,000 women and men to the emergency departments in New York City (NYC). An estimated 93,000 women and 48,000 men in NYC report that they are afraid of their partner. It is likely that even more New Yorkers are victims of violence, since some may be too afraid or ashamed to tell anyone about what is happening to them.