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intimate partner violence

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Intimate partner violence can occur in any kind of intimate relationship. It can involve people who are married, dating, or casual sexual partners. The relationship could be between different-sex partner, same-sex partners, monogamous, polyamorous, etc. When discussing intimate partner violence, gender-neutral language conveys the fact that people of all genders can abuse or be abused.

Intimate partner violence often overlaps with domestic violence, but they aren’t always the same. Domestic violence occurs in the context of a household and can involve non-romantic family members. In contrast, intimate partner violence can occur between people who do not live together. Like domestic violence, intimate partner violence can involve physical, financial, sexual, or emotional abuse.

The term “toxic relationship” is often used in the context of intimate partner violence, although it can cover interpersonal dynamics that don’t reach the level of abuse. There are no universal criteria for what makes a relationship toxic, so the label is subjective and rather vague. Alternatives like “contentious,” “unfulfilling,” “unhealthy,” “mutually harmful,” or simply “negative” are useful to consider. If someone uses the term “toxic” to describe a particular situation, using it in the context of the relationship rather than a person in it avoids implying that a person is inherently bad instead of someone who is engaging in harmful behavior.

Additional resources


Intimate partner violence refers to abuse that takes place between people who are romantically involved. When reporting on intimate partner violence as a phenomenon, gender-neutral language reinforces that it’s a form of harm that affects people of all genders.