Screening for Intimate Partner Violence

The Learning and Wellbeing Team

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines intimate partner violence as physical violence, sexual violence, or psychological aggression (including stalking), manipulation or coercion by a current or former intimate partner, whether or not the partner is a spouse or romantic partner.  Estimates of the prevalence of partner violence in Canada and the United States show that between approximately 40% of women and 33% of men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 3 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

Research has identified a number of red flags and behaviours that are often associated with intimate partner violence. They include behaviours that are overtly controlling (e.g., telling you can and cannot do) but may appear as just being overly concerned (e.g., always wanting to know where you are at all times). They can also include behaviours that are overtly critical (e.g., criticizing your appearance, what you think, or your choices) but may appear as merely dismissive (e.g., saying that you are mistaken, just remember it wrong or misunderstood). Over time, all of this can wear you down, and leave you feeling at fault and at risk for increasingly frequent and severe forms of violence. aggression and intimidation.  

Intimate parenter violence questionnaire:

The Intimate Partner Violence Questionnaire, asks you about different elements of interpersonal violence that you may be or may have recently experienced with a current or past partner. Each of the items on the questionnaire would be considered an element of violence. 

Online resources on how to leave a relationship

If you are in an abusive relationship and need find more information on what to do or how to leave, it would likely be better if you visited these resources on a device that is different from your own computer or phone.  

How to leave a relationship (read more)
Helplines in Canada (read more)
Helpline in the US (read more)


What to do if you are being abused:

If you are in an abusive relationship and decide to exit that relationship, you will need to assemble as many people as you can who can support you and, if and when necessary, give you a place to stay or be with you to stay safe.  Even if you feel that the abuse you are experiencing is “not that bad,” you will do better if you have people you can talk to and be with. 

There are a number of people you may be able to talk to, including your parents, siblings, friends, your doctor or even some of the very well-trained people staffing helplines for intimate partner abuse. 

I am too embarrassed to talk about it:

Many individuals who have been abused don’t talk to others about it because they feel embarrassed, feel they should have done something sooner, tell themselves they can work it out, or feel stupid for letting this go on for so long. There is no shortage of thoughts and feelings that can keep you from getting help and some understanding. Keep in mind that thousands of people are going through this right now, just like you are. 

The first step is talking to someone and just saying something like:

A terrible thing has been happening to me, and I need some help with it. 

What to do when you want to leave but don’t feel you can:

If you are in a relationship and are not feeling safe, you may reach the point at which you need to leave. If you believe that leaving will place you at heightened risk for violence, harassment or abuse, then you will need to develop a careful plan that will include who to talk to, where to go, what to bring, and how to protect yourself from further violence and aggression after you leave. If your lives are closely intertwined (e.g., work together, go to school together, share bank accounts, or have the same friends), your exit plan will likely be complex and extensive. 

There is help out there. 

Because this has, unfortunately, become so commonplace, there is a lot of expertise out there on what to do. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure who to talk to or trust, start with your family doctor, nurse practitioner, or a registered mental health professional (e.g., a psychologist, psychotherapist, social worker or counsellor) on campus. 

They are bound by confidentiality agreements and cannot share what you tell them (but be sure to confirm this before you talk to them) and they will all know what to do and can walk you through it.  

Cotter, A. (2018). Intimate partner violence in Canada, 2018: An overview. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2023, from
Miller, E., & McCaw, B. (2019). Intimate Partner Violence. The New England Journal of Medicine, 380(9), 850–857.
US Preventive Services Task Force, Curry SJ, Krist AH, et al. Screening for Intimate Partner Violence, Elder Abuse, and Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: US Preventive Services Task Force Final Recommendation Statement. JAMA 2018; 320: 1678-87.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Intimate partner violence: definitions. 2017 (https://www .cdc .gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/definitions .html).
Breiding MJ, Basile KC, Smith SG, Black MC, Mahendra RR. Intimate partner violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements, version 2.0. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015.
Smith SG, Chen J, Basile KC, et al. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 state report. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 

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