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 can occur between a parent and child, siblings, or even roommates. Intimate Partner Violence can only occur between romantic partners who may or may not be living together in the same household. 

Domestic Violence (DV)

Domestic violence means different things to different people. At YWCA Spokane, we utilize the term domestic violence to refer to any situation where one partner in an intimate relationship tries to maintain power and control over the other person. We view the survivor as the person who the controlling behavior is aimed at. However, this is not a legal definition.

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.

Learn about YWCA legal services

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.

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 with understanding the overall patterns of abusive and violence used to establish and maintain control over a partner.

Power and Control Wheel

YWCA Spokane’s Services

Services provided by YWCA Spokane are available for Intimate Partner Violence survivors and their children. We do not, however, serve survivors of Domestic Violence that were not survivors of intimate partner violence. This means we cannot serve someone who was the victim of abuse from a roommate, even though legally that would be defined as domestic abuse.


Child Survivors of Intimate Partner Domestic Violence

Our child advocate and therapist work with children whose primary issues/concerns stem from witnessing their parent go through Intimate Partner Domestic Violence. Children are often accidentally or incidentally impacted by a parent experiencing Intimate Partner Domestic Violence.  Our staff can help a child or teen navigate the emotional and psychological impact of witnessing a parent going through Intimate Partner Domestic Violence.

Learn More

Children and youth are impacted in various ways by the power and control tactics exhibited by the abusing partner. In some cases, this may include harm against the child, whether intentionally or accidentally. 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 the YWCA Spokane Mental Health Therapy Services, or through one of our partnering agencies.

Children without proper coping skills are more likely to experience drug abuse, generational family violence, and abusive relationships. It is critical that children who witness Intimate Partner Domestic Violence receive the help they deserve.

Parents or caregivers can certainly help their children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, like witnessing Intimate Partner Domestic Violence. Through a stable, positive connection with a caring parent or caregiver, children build resilience.

Children Coping with Family Violence

Child Survivors of Domestic Violence

If the prominent concern is sexual assault and/or child maltreatment (particularly physical abuse), YWCA Spokane will refer these cases 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 handles advocacy for victims of all crimes. We often refer clients to Lutheran Community Services and vice versa. As there is overlap between Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence, there is also overlap with children who experience abuse from a parent and children who witness abuse between parents.

Teens can also access counseling-based and legal-based advocacy for their own dating relationships as well. If they need 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. 

We Are Here to Help!

The information below provides a detailed overview of the various ways folks may typically get involved in services or receive support at YWCA Spokane. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, our operations have adjusted. For the most up to date information about accessing services during this time, please visit our regularly updated Services During COVID19 webpage.

Services During COVID19

Please do not hesitate to call our Intimate Partner Domestic Violence Support Services at 509-789-9297 to see if our agency is right for your case, to make an appointment, or to simply speak to someone if you need support. You can access our services in 3 different ways:

  • 24-Hour Intimate Partner Domestic Violence Helpline: 509-326-CALL (2255)
  • Call the counseling office at 509-789-9297 during business hours to ask questions or to schedule a consultation.
    • Monday – Thurs: 8:30am-noon, 1pm-5pm
    • Friday: 8:30am-noon, 1-3pm
  • Stop by YWCA Spokane at 930 N Monroe St to receive immediate support during  Wrap Around Wednesday, a public clinic designed to provide access to as many of our services as possible in one setting. These sessions are condensed versions to get a survivor setup with action steps as soon as possible.
    • Every Wednesday
      • Please arrive at 12:45pm as this service often reaches maximum capacity each week.
      • There is no need to arrive early to receive legal assistance, as legal services on Wednesdays are determined by a lottery system. Please call 509-789-9297 for any questions.
      • If you are unsure if this is the right place to start, call our 24hr helpline 509-326-2255 to help you assess the situation.