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What is Domestic Violence or IPV

Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender; living together, separated or dating or formally together. Domestic violence or (IPV) can be any of the following abuses:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Economic
  • Psychological

Actions or threats of actions that influence another person; this includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or threaten to hurt the victim, the victims’ family, friends, children or pets.

For years many people have used the term “Domestic Violence” to describe a pattern of behavior that includes one or many of the abuses listed above. Because the term “Domestic Violence” implies a family situation, many people will use “Intimate Partner Violence” (IPV) to capture all aspects of violence in intimate relationships.

The following is a partial list of the different types of abuse of domestic violence or IPV. This is by no means a complete list and most importantly, you do not have to be experiencing all of the following, one is enough, but many people find that they are in relationships that contain more than one and some all. This is just information to help you understand the basics of domestic violence and IPV.

Physical Abuse:

Some examples of physical abuse are; hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, punching, tripping and strangulation/choking. Refusing access to medical care or medication or forcing alcohol and/or drugs on to her/him is also abuse.

Sexual Abuse:

Sexual abuse is coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, pressuring to have sex, pressured to do a sexual act that you do not want to do or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner. (www.justice.gov)

Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse can be very complicated because it is not something that the law defines or charges can be filed. Emotional abuse can be the most damaging to the spirit of the individual. Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children. The following is an extended list of what emotional abuse may look like:

  • Humiliating or embarrassing you when you are alone or in public.
  • Constant put-downs.
  • Hypercriticism.
  • Refusing to communicate or withholding affection as a form of punishment.
  • Ignoring or excluding you.
  • Infidelity.
  • Use of sarcasm and unpleasant tone of voice.
  • Unreasonable jealousy.
  • Moodiness.
  • Saying things like “If you don’t _____, I will_____.”
  • Domination and control.
  • Guilt trips.
  • Making everything your fault.
  • Isolating you from friends and family.
  • Constant calling or texting when you are not with him/her.
  • Threatening to commit suicide if you leave.

Economic Abuse:

Economic Abuse is marked by making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding a persons access to money, forbidding someone attendance at school or employment or sabotaging employment or school.

Psychological Abuse:

Fundamentals of psychological abuse include, but are not limited to, stalking, “gaslighting”, causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.

Domestic Violence or IPV can happen to ANYONE regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, class, marital status, living together, dating or once had a relationship and/or just left the relationship.

Domestic violence and/or IPV not only directly affects the person being abused, but if there are children they will be affected, could be used as pawns and/or hurt. Family members, friends, co workers, anyone witnessing the abuse and the overall community are all pulled into danger. Domestic violence can be one of the most dangerous calls Law Enforcement can go out on.


Domestic Violence


 What is “Gaslighting”?

Gaslighting is a term used to describe intentional psychological abuse used to create anxiety, doubt, and confusion in another person; inevitably the person will begin to doubt their own sanity. The term comes from the 1944 Movie titled Gaslight. In the movie Charles Boyer drives Ingrid Bergman insane by using a gaslight to make her think she is losing her mind; this is from where the term Gaslighting derives.

The goal of the perpetrator is to make the target start to self doubt, lose trust and make one think that one is losing their mind. It is a systematic method done to destroy the individuals self esteem, confidence and ability to trust them. The Gaslighter’s ultimate motive is power and control through manipulation.

The ultimate goal of the perpetrator is to control the individual, both mentally and emotionally. This is a very dangerous form of abuse and when exposed to this constant behavior over time, the victim will begin to deteriorate, lose their sense of self, question reality; the smallest decisions become impossible to make. The victim becomes dependant on the Gaslighter to determine and define reality.

Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Center for Victims of Crime, www.justice.gov and womensLaw.org.


From the National Center for Victims’ Rights Stalking Resource Center.  This is one of the best websites for helpful information related to stalking.   Website: www.victimsofcrime.org

Several murders of stalking victims have highlighted the fact that people who stalk can be very dangerous. Stalkers can threaten, attack, sexually assault and even kill their victims. Unfortunately, there is no single psychological or behavioral profile that can predict what stalkers will do. Stalkers’ behaviors can escalate, from more indirect ways of making contact (e.g. sending email or repeated phone calling) to more personal ways (delivering things to the victim’s doorstep or showing up at their work).

Many victims struggle with how to respond to the stalker. Some victims try to reason with the stalker, try to “let them down easy” or “be nice” in hopes of getting the stalker to stop the behavior. Some victims tell themselves that the behavior “isn’t that bad” or other sentiments that minimize the stalking behavior. Other victims may confront or threaten the stalker and/or try to “fight back.”  These methods rarely work because stalkers are actually encouraged by any contact with the victim, even negative interactions.

Victims of stalking can not predict what stalkers will do but can determine their own responses to the stalking behavior. Personal safety and harm prevention is of the utmost importance for victims.  While victims cannot control the stalking behavior, they can be empowered to take steps to keep themselves, family and loved ones safe. The creation of a safety plan can assist victims in doing this.

Stalking Safety Plan – What is it?

A safety plan is a combination of suggestions, plans, and responses created to help victims reduce their risk of harm. It is a tool designed in response to the victim’s specific situation that evaluates what the victim is currently experiencing, incorporates the pattern of previous behavior, and examines options that will positively impact the victim’s safety. In a safety plan, the factors that are causing or contributing to the risk of harm to the victim and her/his loved ones are identified and interventions are developed.

Advocates and Stalking Safety Planning

While victims can make safety plans on their own, it is often helpful to enlist the assistance of trained professionals. These professionals, including advocates and law enforcement officers, can help a victim determine which options will best enhance their safety and will work to devise a safety plan to address each unique situation and circumstance. Victim advocates can be found in local domestic violence and rape crisis programs, as well as in victim assistance programs in local prosecutors’ offices and in some law enforcement agencies.

Stalking Safety Plans – What to Include

When safety planning, victims can consider what is known about the stalker, the people who might help, how to improve safety in one’s environment, and what to do in case of an emergency. The average stalking case lasts approximately two years, therefore safety planning must begin when the victim first identifies the stalking behavior and continue throughout the duration of the case. Safety plans need to be re-evaluated and updated continuously as the stalker’s behavior, the victim’s routines, and access to services and support changes.

Below are suggestions to consider when developing a stalking safety plan. This is not an exhaustive list. In a safety plan, any recommended strategy must focus on what the victim feels will work in her best interest at any given point in time.

Documentation of Stalking and Reporting to Police

Victims are encouraged to keep a log of all stalking behaviors including e-mails and phone messages. The log, as well as any gifts or letters the stalker sends the victim, can be collected and used as evidence. The evidence will help prove what has been going on if the victim decides to report the stalking to the police or apply for a protective order.  Sample Stalking Log

Rely on Trusted People

Many victims have found simple ways to make the stalking affect them less. They may ask someone else to pick up and sort their mail, get a second phone number given only to trusted people, or have people at work or school screen phone calls or inform the police if the stalker shows up. Relying on trusted friends and family is important for victims of stalking to help keep victims safer and also reduce the isolation and feelings of desperation that stalking victims may experience.

Technology Safety Planning

Stalkers use technology to assist them in stalking their victims in various ways. It is important to consider how victims may be harmed by stalkers’ use of technology. Stalkers use the Internet to contact or post things about the victim on message board or discussion forums. They may also verbally attack or threaten victims in chat rooms. Some stalkers will post threatening or personal information about the victim – including the victim’s full name and address. Often stalkers will e-mail the victim, or fill their in-box with spam and have been known to send viruses or other harmful programs to victims’ computers. These threatening messages should be saved, especially if the victim is considering contacting the police with the case.

If stalkers have access to a victim’s computer, they can track them by looking at the history or websites visited on the computer. Also, stalkers have been known to install Spyware software on computers (sometimes sent through e-mail) that sends them a copy of every keystroke made, including passwords, websites visited, and e-mails sent. Spyware is very difficult to detect and a victim will likely not know she has it on her computer. If a victim believes s/he has a Spyware program on her/his computer, it is important the victim talk to a trained advocate.

Stalkers use cell phones enabled with Global Positioning System (GPS) to track victims. GPS technology can also be used to track or follow victims by placing them in the victim’s car and will be able to tell everywhere the car travels. When safety planning with a victim about technology issues, ask a victim if her stalker has ever had access to her phone or computer. If so, it may be important to stop using the phone or computer, or only use it in a manner that will not give the stalker any information about the victim’s location.

It is also important for victims of stalking to remain diligent about protecting their personal information that could be saved in databases. Businesses, for example, collect personal information about people, including addresses, phone numbers, last names, etc.  This information can sometimes be accessed and exploited by stalkers. One stalking victim’s ex-boyfriend learned of her new address by “innocently” inquiring at the local oil change station if she had recently brought in their car for an oil change. Because that business had her information stored, they gave the stalker the address the victim had wanted to keep unknown to the stalker. Victims are encouraged to consider who might have their personal information. They should instruct businesses to not give out any personal information. In many instances, victims can ask that their account be password protected. This password should be one only known to the victim and no information should be released or discussed until the password has been verified.

Although no safety plan guarantees safety, such plans are valuable and important tools to keep victims safer, document incidents that happen with the perpetrator, make surroundings more secure, and identify people who can help.

Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. There are no guarantees that what works for one person will work for another, yet you can take steps to increase your safety.

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Contact a crisis hotline, victim services agency, or a domestic violence or rape crisis program. They can help you devise a safety plan, give you information about local laws, weigh options such as seeking a protection order, and refer you to other services.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you. Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else. Tell people how they can help you. Click here to learn more about safety plans.
  • Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep emails, text messages, phone messages, letters, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw. Click here to download a stalking incident and behavior log.
  • Contact the police. Every state has stalking laws. The stalker may also have broken other laws by doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property.
  • Consider getting a court order that tells the stalker to stay away from you.
  • Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support.
  • Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.

Stalking Safety Tips

Safety Anytime:

  • If possible, have a phone nearby at all times, preferably one to which the stalker has never had access.  Memorize emergency numbers, and make sure that 911 and helpful family or friends are on speed dial.
  • Treat all threats, direct and indirect, as legitimate and inform law enforcement immediately.
  • Vary routines, including changing routes to work, school, the grocery store, and other places regularly frequented. Limit time spent alone and try to shop at different stores and visit different bank branches.
  • When out of the house or work environment, try not to travel alone and try to stay in public areas.
  • Get a new, unlisted phone number.  Leave the old number active and connected to an answering machine or voicemail.  Have a friend, advocate, or law enforcement screen the calls, and save any messages from the stalker.  These messages, particularly those that are explicitly abusive or threatening, can be critical evidence for law enforcement to build a stalking case against the offender.
  • Do not interact with the person stalking or harassing you. Responding to stalker’s actions may reinforce their behavior.[1]
  • Consider obtaining a protective order against the stalker.  Some states offer stalking protective orders and other victims may be eligible for protective orders under their state’s domestic violence statutes.
  • Trust your instincts.  If you’re somewhere that doesn’t feel safe, either find ways to make it safer, or leave.

If in imminent danger, locate a safe place.  Consider going to:

  • Police Station
  • Residences of family or friends (locations unknown to the perpetrators)
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Place of worship
  • Public areas (some stalkers may be less inclined toward violence or creating a disturbance in public places).

Safety at home:

  • Identify escape routes out of your house. Teach them to your children.
  • Install solid core doors with dead bolts. If all keys cannot be accounted for, change the locks and secure the spare keys. Fix any broken windows or doors.
  • Have a code word you use with your children that tells them when they need to leave.
  • Inform neighbors and, if residing in an apartment, any on-site managers about the situation, providing them with a photo or description of the stalker and any vehicles they may drive if known. Ask your neighbors to call the police if they see the stalker at your house.  Agree on a signal you will use when you need them to call the police.
  • Pack a bag with important items you’d need if you had to leave quickly. Put the bag in a safe place, or give it to a friend or relative you trust.
  • Consider putting together a “stalking sack” that includes the stalking log, a camera, information about the offender, etc.  More information on Stalking Sacks.

Safety at work and school:

  • Give a picture of the stalker to security and friends at work and school.
  • Tell your supervisors. They have a responsibility to keep you safe at work.
  • Ask a security guard to walk you to your car or to the bus.
  • If the stalker contacts you, save any voicemails, text messages, and e-mails.
  • Give the school or daycare center a copy of your protective order.  Tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first.
  • Make sure your children know to tell a teacher or administrator at school if they see the stalker.
  • Make sure that the school and work know not to give your address or phone number to anyone.
  • Keep a copy of your protective order at work.

[1] Complete disengagement may be difficult for some victims in certain circumstances (e.g. victim and stalker share custody of children, work in the same location, attend the same school, etc.  Victims are encouraged to explore these concerns when creating a safety plan.

All rights reserved.

Copyright – 2009 by the National Center for Victims of Crime.  This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.

Internet Safety Alert

Your abuser can monitor the use of your computer and the Internet. Learn how to protect yourself.

CALL 9-1-1 If you are in immediate danger