Susan R. Madsen: Be aware of the seven basic types of intimate partner violence

A focus on abuse to the body can blind us to many other forms of violence.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month each October, I often speak about intimate partner violence (IPV). When we think about IPV, most of us think of physical abuse. And that is definitely a huge problem. I am always shocked by the fact that 40% of adult homicides in Utah are domestic violence related.

But when we only focus on abuse to the body, it can make us blind to the many ways that violence can manifest. Experts generally concur that there are seven basic types of intimate partner violence.

• Physical violence and psychological abuse: About a fourth of women and one tenth of men experience some kind of bodily violence from an intimate partner, which related to the most obvious category of IPV. The rates of psychological abuse are staggering, with over 43 million women and 38 million men experiencing some type of psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

• Coercion and controlling behaviors: Power and control are at the heart of all IPV, and studies show that controlling behaviors by men are linked to a higher likelihood of physical and sexual abuse. And over time, repeated controlling behavior can be just as or more threatening than physical harm. This can manifest in many ways: demanding to know a partner’s location at all times; constant suspicion of infidelity; ignoring a partner; limiting a partner’s contact with family or friends.

• Sexual abuse and rape: Approximately half of those who experience physical assaults by an intimate partner also experience sexual assaults by that partner, which is the third category of IPV. And of course, where there is sexual violence there is also emotional abuse, revealing that many of these categories overlap. Sexual assaults often involve humiliation and degradation and may include: nonconsensual or coerced sex acts; denial of contraception; economic support linked to sex; and insisting on sex during illness, menstruation, or after childbirth.

• Reproductive coercion: New studies are showing that among young women, this fourth area is shockingly common and may provide a link between teen pregnancy and adolescent partner abuse. In one study of abused 15 to 20-year-old women, one fourth reported that their male partners repeatedly tried to get them pregnant through coercion or manipulation of birth control. This may look like the male partner: demanding unprotected sex; sabotaging birth control; rape; abuse during pregnancy with intent to harm fetus.

• Stalking: Some people ignore stalking, which is the fifth type of IPV, unless it leads to physical assaults, yet it often does. Stalkers assaulted 22% of women they stalked. Stalkers can do it in person (63%), telephone contact (52%), or via mail (30%). It can also include spreading rumors and showing up or waiting near places where the victim will be.

• Economic abuse: This is one of the most pervasive forms of IPV, overlapping with most other types. Escaping abuse is easier if you have resources. One study found that 99% of the women they surveyed at a shelter reported being subjected to some form of economic abuse. Tactics may include things like preventing education or employment; controlling transportation, childcare, sleep; spending assets; and keeping partners from those who would support them.

• Isolation: This last type of IPV is often hard to nail down, but it is a common control tactic designed to keep a woman from connecting to others. It might look like keeping a woman from her friends and family, confinement in the home, interrupting employment/school, surveillance, and restricting access to resources.

A number of Utah entities provide shelters and resources for women and men who are in need of help related to IPV/domestic violence, including YWCA Utah, South Valley Services, YCC Family Crisis Center, Safe Harbor Crisis Center and The Refuge Utah. To learn more about domestic violence in Utah, visit the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition website. If you or someone you know is in danger, call the 24-hour statewide LINKLine at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) for assistance. People care and want to help.

Susan R. Madsen

Susan R. Madsen, Ed.D., is the Inaugural Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership and director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University.