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Intimate partner violence: Diagnosis and screening

Amy Weil, MD, FACP
Section Editor
Joann G Elmore, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans [1]. IPV affects both sexes but women are more often victims than men. Lifetime estimates for IPV involving women in the United States range from 22 to 39 percent [2,3]. In countries around the world, 10 to 69 percent of women report physical assault by an intimate partner at some time in their life [4].

The term "intimate partner violence" describes actual or threatened psychological, physical, or sexual harm by a current or former partner or spouse. IPV can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

All too frequently, IPV is undiagnosed since patients often conceal that they are in abusive relationships. The clues pointing to abuse may be subtle or absent. Many groups advocate screening all patients, or all female patients, for intimate partner violence.

This topic will discuss the clinical presentation and diagnosis of intimate partner violence and issues related to population screening with recommendations of various groups. The epidemiology and health consequences of IPV and management of patients in whom IPV is identified are discussed separately. Elder mistreatment is also addressed separately. (See "Intimate partner violence: Intervention and patient management" and "Intimate partner violence: Epidemiology and health consequences" and "Elder mistreatment: Abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation".)


Victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) are found among people of all ages, socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual preferences. While certain risk factors have been identified (younger age, female, lower socioeconomic status, family history or personal history of violence), IPV should be considered in all patients who present with a history or findings consistent with undisclosed violence. (See "Intimate partner violence: Epidemiology and health consequences".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 12, 2016.
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