The Language We Use
Words are powerful, so the language we use throughout this site was chosen with intention.
Domestic or intimate partner violence?
In the domestic violence service field, there are many different ways to describe relationship violence. Throughout this site you will see an interchanging of “domestic violence” and “intimate partner violence.”
What’s the difference and why do we use both phrases?
Domestic violence refers to violence among people in a domestic situation, and can thus include not only a spouse or partner (same sex or opposite sex), but also siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
Intimate partner violence is more specific in describing violence perpetrated by a partner in a romantic or dating relationship. This sort of abuse is Women Against Abuse’s primary focus; however, the descriptor “intimate partner violence” is a more recent term. Many people still consider “domestic violence” as referring in fact to intimate/dating partners. It’s a nuanced issue, and until the general public begins using a more inclusive term, we have decided to use both phrases interchangeably when we discuss relationship violence.
Furthermore, we recognize that abuse occurs within a spectrum of relationships, and it is our intention to ensure that anyone that is in an abusive relationship will be able to access interventions. Some of these relationships include: sex trafficking; relationships described as "hooking up," "dating;" "friends with benefits," or other terminology; abuse within an institutional setting; and other abusive relationships where there is a pattern of coercive (use of force or threats) behaviors or tactics utilized against the victim with a purpose of gaining and keeping power or control over them.
How do we describe individuals who seek help during or after they have left a violent relationship? The word "victim" is used by members of law enforcement and within the context of courtroom proceedings, but for many of our organizations, "survivor" speaks to the sense of empowerment our coordinated response aims to encourage in the people we serve. In the end, it is imperative to follow the lead of the person seeking support, since the journey from victim to survivor is unique to each person. To that end, many are beginning to use the term Victim/Survivor (V/S) to represent this continuum.
We try to avoid gendered pronouns whenever possible, because intimate partner violence impacts the entire spectrum of heterosexual and LGBTQIA relationships. Also, while the statistics show that domestic violence predominantly impacts individuals who identify as women, men also experience abuse as victims.