Authors: Leila Alkhayat

Close your eyes and imagine a busy street. You are strolling down the sidewalk, the faces of countless strangers passing you by as you do. Now imagine that 1 in 4 women there – walking, talking, going about their daily routines – have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) at least once since they turned 15 (FRA 2012c). For these women this is not a mere thought experiment. This is their reality.

What is IPV?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines IPV as “any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship” (WHO 2012). This definition covers violence by both current and former partners and spouses.

IPV can manifest in drastically different forms. While some victims may experience a single, traumatic episode of violence for example, others can face chronic and severe episodes over a long period of time (CDC 2019). Generally however, IPV includes four types of behavior (WHO 2012):

  1. Acts of physical violence, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating
  2. Sexual violence, such as forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion
  3. Emotional/Psychological abuse, such as insults, belittling, humiliation, intimidation and threats of harm or to take away children
  4. Controlling behaviors, such as isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring their movements and restricting their access to financial resources, employment, education or medical care
How big is the problem?

IPV is more common than many of us may dare to think. In fact, while certain features – such as a low level of education or previous exposure to violence between parents (WHO 2012) – make an individual more vulnerable to becoming a victim of IPV, this type of violence is not restricted to specific settings and is prevalent among all socio-economic, religious and cultural groups. Compared to men however, women bear the brunt of its global burden (WHO 2012).

In 2012, an EU-wide study conducted by the FRA on the prevalence of abuse and violence found that 1 in 4 women in the Netherlands had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner since the age of 15 (FRA 2012c). Furthermore, half of the Dutch women questioned had been forced to endure psychological abuse by a partner in the same time span (FRA 2012a). Finally, a further 38 percent of women reported having experienced controlling behaviors by their partner in at least one previous intimate relationship (FRA 2012b).

The Bottom Line

IPV represents a violent breach not only of a partner’s trust, but further of their fundamental rights to freedom and even life. And while the number of known cases of IPV is breathtaking, it is perhaps even more staggering to consider the number of unreported cases – and with them the thousands of men and women whose pain and suffering goes unacknowledged.


CDC (2019). “Violence Prevention Fast Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At

FRA (2012a). “Experiencing any form of psychological violence by a partner since the age of 15.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2012). At

FRA (2012b). “Experiencing psychological abuse which involved controlling behaviour by a partner since the age of 15.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. At

FRA (2012c). “Physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. At

WHO (2012). “Intimate Partner Violence.” World Health Organization (2012). At;jsessionid=514ECEC4B64E67867386EB88F564E5FA?sequence=1.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

You May Also Like