Intimate Partner Violence vs. Domestic Violence

Categories: Advocacy, Community, Education and Training, Get Involved, Impact, Spokane Resources
Both legally and within YWCA Spokane’s operations, there is a difference between Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence

While they may appear to be the same thing, and certainly have much overlap, Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence are two different terms with different meanings. Domestic Violence is violence that takes place within a household and can be between any two people within that household. Domestic Violence (DV) can occur between a parent and child, siblings, or even roommates. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can only occur between romantic partners who may or may not be living together in the same household. Intimate Partner Violence may also be refered to as Intimate Partner Domestic Violence (IPDV). More information about these distinctions is included below.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

YWCA Spokane is federally funded to provide free and confidential services to survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). IPV includes any behavior that one intimate partner (current or former) uses to establish power and control over another intimate partner. This may include physical or sexual violence and/or financial, emotional/psychological, cultural, spiritual, and reproductive abuse, as well as other forms of controlling behavior. In relationships affected by Intimate Partner Violence, we view the survivor of IPV as the partner who the controlling behavior is aimed at. In the same context, we view the perpetrator of IPV as the partner leveraging power and control over the other partner.

IPV can occur regardless of whether the individuals involved are/were living together or not. This distinction is what separates it from the term Domestic Violence, which generally refers to violence occurring between residences within one single location. The term Intimate Partner Domestic Violence (IPDV) more specifically refers to the abusive behavior of residences of one single location who are in an intimate relationship with each other, in turn excluding family members or other residents living within the household who would fall under the broader term of Domestic Violence.  

Often, it is difficult to identify various forms of abuse, particularly when they are indirect or not as obvious as physical and/or sexual violence. YWCA Spokane’s Power and Control Wheel is a tool that is particularly helpful for understanding the overall patterns of abusive and violence used to establish power and maintain control over a partner in relationships affected by IPV.


Legal Context of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence means different things to different people. At YWCA Spokane, we view domestic violence through the lens of power and control described above, however, this is not the legal definition of domestic violence.

Legally, the term “Domestic Violence” applies to any two parties in the same household. Domestic Violence, in the legal field, serves as a tag added to the end of a charge to describe it, such as “Assault- Domestic Violence” or “Malicious Mischief- Domestic Violence”. In this sense, “Domestic Violence” is not a crime itself, but a category of crime. This legal definition and use of the term “Domestic Violence” only applies to the Spokane Police Department’s usage of the term; other places around the country may operate differently.

Although YWCA Spokane views domestic violence through the larger, more comprehensive lens of power and control, in relation to legal matters, it is important to acknowledge the legal definition of domestic violence:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
  • Creating a fear that physical harm, bodily injury, pushing, shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, or assault will happen soon
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

While at YWCA Spokane, we are aware that domestic violence often includes verbal and/or mental abuse, in order to qualify for a Protection Order in a domestic violence case, the survivor must have experienced domestic violence as stated under the legal definition. If you are considering a protection order or have further questions about the process, we invite you to explore the legal advocates’ answers to a list of frequently asked questions on this page.


YWCA Spokane’s Services

Services provided by YWCA Spokane are available for Intimate Partner Violence survivors and their children. We are not able to serve survivors of Domestic Violence that were not survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. Additionally, we do not provide services for perpetrators of Intimate Partner Domestic Violence.



Children Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence

Children are often accidentally or incidentally impacted when parents experiencing Intimate Partner Violence. Our staff can help a child or teen navigate the emotional and psychological impact of witnessing a parent going through Intimate Partner Violence.

The Wheel of Children Coping with Family Violence helps us understand the potential impacts that family violence, including that from Intimate Partner Violence, can have on children. Children without adequate coping skills are more likely to experience drug abuse, generational family violence, and abusive relationships. It is critical that children who witness Intimate Partner Violence receive the help they deserve.

Parents or caregivers can help their children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, such as witnessing Intimate Partner Violence, thrive. Through a stable, positive connection with a caring adult, children build resilience and are able to move forward successfully after trauma. Our staff are here to assist survivors of IPV and their children along their individual paths of healing through advocacy, education, and empowerment.

Our Youth Advocate and Child Therapists work with children whose primary issues/concerns stem from witnessing their parent go through Intimate Partner Violence. Through advocacy, we work on safety planning, feelings identification, healthy relationship skills, while also providing emotional support and resources. Additionally, we commonly connect participants with additional counseling/therapy options for longer-term support, whether in-house through YWCA Spokane Mental Health Therapy Services, or through one of our partnering agencies.


Child Survivors of Domestic Violence and Dating Violence

If the prominent concern for a child stems not from witnessing Intimate Partner Violence, but instead from another form of Domestic Violence, such as sexual assault and/or child maltreatment (particularly physical abuse), YWCA Spokane is not able to meet all of the child’s needs. In these instances, YWCA Spokane will refer the child survivor of Domestic Violence to Lutheran Community Services or Partners with Families and Children for support services. Depending on the nature and severity of the abuse, a mandated report to Child Protective Services, who can also connect families to resources, may be required.

Note: Lutheran Community Services provides advocacy for victims of all crimes. YWCA Spokane staff often refer clients to Lutheran Community Services and vice versa. We know that there is overlap between Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence, and there is also overlap between children who experience abuse from a parent and children who witness abuse between parents.

Teens can recieve support from both counseling and legal advocates at YWCA Spokane when they have experienced Teen Dating Violence, IPV within relationships during the teen years. If a teen needs a Non-Intimate Partner Protection Order, they can access legal support through Lutheran Community Services or TeamChild.


YWCA Spokane serves survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and Intimate Partner Domestic Violence; meaning YWCA Spokane serves those who have experienced abuse in an intimate relationship, regardless of whether or not they have been living together. We do not serve survivors of domestic violence unless there is an intimate relationship involved between the parties. We also serve children who have witnessed Intimate Partner Violence, but not children who are the primary targets of the abuse; those cases are often referred to our friends over at Lutheran Community Services. 

Learn More About Intimate Partner Domestic Violence

Consider going through our free Survive To Thrive educational series with your friends, family, and co-workers to learn more about intimate partner domestic violence and approach YWCA Spokane’s confidential advocates take to support survivors.

IPDV Educational Series 

YWCA Spokane is Here for You

If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing, or texting 509-220-3725.

For detailed, up-to-date information about accessing all YWCA Spokane services during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit