3 Most Common Forms of Intimate Partner Abuse

These common forms of intimate parter abuse are more common than you think

Unfortunately, intimate partner abuse is much more common than one may assume. It affects millions of people in the United States each year and even more worldwide. These kinds of situations can have lasting psychological effects and some even turn deadly.

What is intimate partner abuse?

The CDC defines intimate partner violence as abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. An intimate partner is someone to whom you are married or dating. Intimate partner violence (IPV) can vary in severity and how often it occurs. 

A survey conducted by the CDC indicates that approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of intimate partner abuse at some point in their lifetime. 

Data also showed that over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression (emotional abuse) by an intimate partner.

In no particular order, the three most common forms of intimate partner abuse are physical, emotional, and sexual. Each of them has distinguishing characteristics. Some abusive partners can use more than one, too.

It is important to have an awareness of each of them not just for your own well-being, but also for a loved one who may be experiencing some form of intimate partner abuse.

Also, just to give a disclaimer, this article was not written by a medical professional, social worker, or psychologist. It is not intended to diagnose any situation and is meant solely for informational purposes. 

1. Physical Abuse

The first form of intimate partner abuse is physical. Physical abuse is defined as any sort of violence that uses physical contact or force. Some examples include hitting, punching, kicking, or burning. 

Physical violence is used as an intimidation factor. Even if no physical contact is made, making verbal threats or attempts to physically harm an intimate partner should still be taken very seriously. 

It is estimated that about 35% of female and more than 11% of male, intimate partner violence survivors experienced a form of physical injury related to abuse. Some cases of physical violence can also result in death.

U.S. crime report data estimates that about 1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The numbers are even higher for females. The reports also uncovered that over half of female homicide victims in the United States are killed by a current or former male partner. 

2. Emotional Abuse

The next form of intimate partner abuse is emotional. Emotional abuse constitutes as any form of aggression that affects the mind. The abuser uses verbal and non-verbal communication (such as text messages) to exert control and power. 

Some examples are name-calling, insulting, shaming, and berating the victim. Essentially, it is the act of trying to put them down and make them feel demeaned. 

Intimate partners who are emotionally abusive may also try and isolate the victim from seeing their family or friends and must know where they are at all times. They attempt to make them feel ashamed for wanting to do the things and activities that they enjoy. 

Most abusers are often very manipulative as well. The term “gaslighting” refers to an intimate partner making the other feel “crazy” or “sensitive” about a scenario that has upset them. The abuser will not acknowledge their feelings and try to flip the situation around on the victim. The end goal is to make it feel like it is the victim’s fault. 

It can be easy to overlook signs of emotional abuse, especially when you’re experiencing the excitement of a new romantic relationship. 

It is normal to argue a romantic relationship occasionally, but it’s also important to pay attention to how your partner handles the situation. 

Do they completely blow it out of proportion? Do they say things that deeply hurt you? Do they not show any remorse? These could potentially be early signs of what could lead to emotional abuse down the road. 

3. Sexual Abuse

The third and final most common form of intimate partner abuse is sexual. Sexual abuse affects many people in the United States. It is estimated that about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. 

By definition, sexual abuse is forcing or attempting to force an intimate partner to participate in an act of sex, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual scenario such as sexting. 

The key thing to acknowledge is “forcing” or “attempting to force.” Sexual abuse occurs when the partner on the receiving end does not or cannot consent, but the aggressor proceeds with the action regardless. 

Such acts may include oral sex, penetrative sex, unwanted sexual touching, or forcing a partner to send nude photos. 

Consent must be given verbally. If a partner is asleep, unconscious, or simply just not in the right frame of mind, they are unable to consent. If a partner says no to any sexual advances, they should not have to explain why. 

Regardless of the status of any romantic relationship, consent must be given by both parties during any sexual act that is initiated. Just because two partners are exclusively dating or married does not mean that one is entitled to sex whenever they want without the other’s consent. 

Offering Support to Survivors

Experiencing any form of intimate partner abuse can be traumatizing. A lot of survivors of abuse develop mental health problems such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

Many survivors do not speak up in fear of what their abusive partner might do or in fear of being ridiculed or shamed. Several things can be done to help survivors, but perhaps the most important is to let them know that they are heard, loved, and supported. 

Despite intimate partner abuse being common, many feel that they are alone. Listen to their feelings and experiences and assure them that they are not alone. Offering a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on goes a long way. 



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