Definitions & Context

“Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, against another person or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation” (World Health Organization; 2011). Interpersonal violence is functional, intended to dominate, punish, control or eliminate an individual, a group or a community. Interpersonal violence occurs in the context of a broad range of human relationships including violence within the family—child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence and elder abuse. Interpersonal violence also encompasses dating violence, peer violence and bullying, stalking, abuse and neglect of pets and other animals, community and school violence, gang violence, hate crimes, mob behavior, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and slavery.

Also included within the scope of interpersonal violence is oppression based upon gender, race, sexual orientation, social class, national origin or religion, and state-sponsored violence such as terrorism, genocide, war, and war rape. We use the term violence and abuse to encompass this full spectrum of harmful interactions between people including neglect, abuse, and interpersonal violence. Violence and abuse is preferred over more specific terms such as domestic violence, family violence and intimate partner violence. These terms are often associated with limited contexts or have addressed only physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. Using the term violence and abuse reminds us to think broadly about the complex histories and dynamics that must be considered to provide patient and