Intimate partner violence (IPV) may account for a much larger percentage of all intentional violent deaths than previously estimated, according to new research study published in Injury Prevention.

The study was led by Julie Kafka, a doctoral student who is an Injury and Violence Prevention Fellow with the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC), and Dr. Beth Moracco, Assistant Director of IPRC. While previous studies primarily examined the effect of IPV on intimate partner homicide deaths, Kafka and Moracco used data from the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System on all homicides, suicides, and legal intervention deaths.

They found that perpetrators of IPV may not just do harm to their partner, they may also harm themselves or a partner’s family or friends. Furthermore, people who are affected by IPV, either as IPV victims or perpetrators, may go on to die by suicide (even in the absence of a connected homicide event). Of the IPV-related deaths in their sample, only 39.3% were victims of intimate partner homicide.17.4% were family members, friends, or new partners; 11.4% were individuals who committed a homicide and then died by suicide; 29.8% were individuals who died by suicide without committing a homicide; and 2.0% were individuals killed by active duty law enforcement during an IPV incident.

Thus, if researchers only account for intimate partner homicides, they may be missing over 60% of IPV-related violent deaths.

As Kafka said, “The more we understand the full scope of IPV’s contribution to fatal violence, the more it becomes clear that IPV has devastating, far-reaching impacts not only for victims, but also on families and communities. We cannot continue to underestimate the scope of this IPV’s contribution to fatal violence, it will continue to have fatal consequences.”

Kafka also authored a blog post for the journal’s website to accompany the article. Kafka writes that their findings have important implications for primary and secondary prevention, including:

  1. Prevent IPV early on.
  2. Engage boys and men to promote healthy relationships.
  3. Provide safe housing options (e.g. shelters) for survivors and their children.
  4. Restrict access to firearms for IPV perpetrators in order to prevent not only homicide, but suicide and even mass shootings.

Access the full article here.