Fatalities related to intimate partner violence: towards a comprehensive perspective

Inj Prev. 2021 Apr;27(2):137-144. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2020-043704. Epub 2020 Aug 24.


Background: In 2015, 1350 people in the US were killed by their current or former intimate partner. Intimate partner violence (IPV) can also fatally injure family members or friends, and IPV may be a risk factor for suicide. Without accounting for all these outcomes, policymakers, funders, researchers and public health practitioners may underestimate the role that IPV plays in violent death.

Objective: We sought to enumerate the total contribution of IPV to violent death. Currently, no data holistically report on this problem.

Methods: We used Violent Death Reporting System (VDRS) data to identify all IPV-related violent deaths in North Carolina, 2010-2017. These included intimate partner homicides, corollary deaths, homicide-suicides, single suicides and legal intervention deaths. We used the existing IPV variable in VDRS, linked deaths from the same incident and manually reviewed 2440 suicide narratives where intimate partner problems or stalking were a factor in the death.

Results: IPV contributes to more than 1 in 10 violent deaths (10.3%). This represents an age-adjusted rate of 1.97 per 100 000 persons. Of the IPV-related violent deaths we identified, 39.3% were victims of intimate partner homicide, 17.4% corollary victims, 11.4% suicides in a homicide-suicide event, 29.8% suicides in a suicide-only event and 2.0% legal intervention deaths.

Implications: If researchers only include intimate partner homicides, they may miss over 60% of IPV-related deaths. Our novel study shows the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to prevent IPV and decrease violent deaths. IPV is a risk factor for suicide as well as homicide.

Keywords: firearm; gender; mortality; surveillance; violence.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Cause of Death
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sex Distribution
  • Suicide*
  • Violence