Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

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About Domestic Violence

Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse


Intimate partner sexual abuse is any form of sexual violence that takes place within a current or former intimate relationship. It often occurs alongside other forms of abuse or it may occur as the sole form of abuse in the relationship. Abusive partners who are physically abusive, are often also sexually abusive.

Intimate partner sexual abuse includes but is not limited to:

Intimate partner violence of all kinds, and sexual abuse in particular, is underreported - one study estimates that only 16% of all sexual assaults are reported. The harm of violence from an acquaintance or intimate partner is exacerbated if sexual abuse has also occurred; victims who have experienced both forms of abuse report higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and substance abuse. Intimate partner sexual abuse is also statistically associated with more severe and frequent emotional and physical violence, threats, stalking, unwanted pregnancy, abuse during pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, and risks to children. Additionally, intimate partner sexual abuse has consistently been identified as an indicator of increased risk of domestic violence homicide.1


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control launched the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey in 2010.

Findings for intimate partner sexual abuse include2:

Addressing Sexual Abuse with Survivors


  1. Campbell, J.C., Kub, J., Belknap, R., & Templin, T.N. (1997). Predictors of depression in battered women. Violence Against Women, 3(3),271-293; see also McCloskey, L.A., Treviso, M. Scionti, T., & dal Pozzo, G. (2002). A comparative study of battered women and their children in Italy and the United States. Journal of Family Violence, 17(1), 53-74.
  2. Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.