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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines intimate partner violence as "...

any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors." The most extreme form of such violence may be termed intimate terrorism, coercive controlling violence, or simply coercive control, which is where one person is violent and controlling; this is generally perpetrated by men against women, and is the most likely of the types to require medical services and the use of a women's shelter.

The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.

Sexual violence is "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting.

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Women are more likely to act violently in retaliation or self-defense one time and with less violence than that by men while men are more likely to commit long-term cycles of abuse.Violence among young people, including dating violence, is also a major problem.Factors associated with intimate partner and sexual violence occur at individual, family, community and wider society levels.As a result, the issue is not solely about violence against women, but about "violent people" or "violent couples." It also led to further research to better understand the situations within violent homes.A 2008 review published in journal of Violence and Victims found that despite less serious altercation or violence was equal among both genders, more serious and violent abuse was perpetrated by men.

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