The majority of sexual violence victims know their assailants, a fact that can greatly affect and complicate the reactions that victims experience during and after an assault. Sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner presents further complexities, in that the victim may have complex feelings for the offender, may seek a continued relationship with the offender due to those feelings, and may also rely on the perpetrator as a parent and the provider of financial or other support.
Intimate partner sexual violence usually co-occurs with other forms of physical and psychological violence and may indicate a greater lethality risk than with other victims of sexual violence. Furthermore, issues such as sexual exploitation or gang involvement may present additional challenges in addressing victim safety and offender accountability. Criminal justice, advocacy, and health care professionals must consider these issues as they seek to create a victim-centered response.
In order for communities to more effectively respond to victims of intimate partner sexual violence, it is critical that they are able to: (1) recognize intimate partner sexual violence and its common dynamics; (2) understand its prevalence and seriousness; (3) identify its perpetrators and victims; (4) accept victim behaviors which may appear counterintuitive; (5) understand the typical progression of a case through the criminal justice system; and (6) prepare for the common legal issues surrounding a medical professional’s testimony as a fact or expert witness.