Violence against women is a substantial public health problem in the United States. According to data from the criminal justice system, hospital and medical records, mental health records, social services, and surveys, thousands of women are injured or killed each year as a result of violence, many by someone they are involved with or were involved with intimately. Nearly one-third of female homicide victims reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2001).
Intimate partner violence—or IPV— is violence committed by a spouse, ex-spouse, or current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. It occurs among both heterosexual and same-sex couples and is often a repeated offense. Both men and women are victims of IPV, but the literature indicates that women are much more likely than men to suffer physical, and probably psychological, injuries from IPV (Brush 1990; Gelles 1997; Rand and Strom 1997; Rennison and Welchans 2000).
IPV results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death (Gelles 1997; Kernic, Wolf and Holt 2000; Rennison and Welchans 2000; Sorenson and Saftlas 1994). The consequences of IPV can last a lifetime. Abused women experience more physical health problems and have a higher occurrence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide attempts than do women who are not abused (Golding 1996; Campbell, Sullivan and Davidson 1995; Kessler et al. 1994; Kaslow et al. 1998; Moscicki 1989). They also use health care services more often (Miller, Cohen and Rossman 1993).