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Women's Health

Understanding intimate partner violence

January 01, 2021

The pandemic may be making life harder for those in abusive relationships, but help is available.


A woman experiencing abuse at the hands of an intimate partner often feels isolated and alone. But the truth is, she has a lot of company. As many as one in three women in the United States has experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), which is violence involving a current or former spouse, partner, significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend, says Eve M. Valera, an associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This number includes women from all different ages and backgrounds.

Those who experience IPV may be left with lingering health effects, including mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. IPV is also linked to a number of physical symptoms and conditions, according to the federal Office on Women's Health, such as digestive problems, migraine headaches, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, sexual problems, and heart problems. Another area of growing concern for many researchers is the potential for cognitive changes caused by traumatic brain injuries linked to abuse, says Valera.

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