The first ever systematic study of available data on assaults against women found that 30 percent of all women worldwide aged 15 and older have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner, including physical and sexual attacks.
The paper’s authors synthesized 141 previous studies from 81 countries, which showed the rates of abuse vary widely by region. The Sub-Saharan section of Central Africa had a reported two-thirds of women who have been victimized, versus around one in five women in North America.
“The prevalence is shockingly high,” said Karen Devries, lead author and a social epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, “People in general will be surprised by the figure, since many forms of violence remain hidden from public view. Those who have experienced intimate partner violence often do not disclose to those people close to them.”
“These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” added Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”
The report emphasizes the need of “a greater focus on primary prevention,” including “services that allow survivors to become economically self-sufficient so they can live apart from their abusers, and holding intimate-violence criminals accountable” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), an organization of feminist activists in America.
While the study looks at attacks that are physical and sexual in nature, Rita Smith, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, points to other types of behaviors that aren’t taken into account.
“There’s a whole other layer of violence that happens that isn’t physical – emotional, economic, verbal, stalking, threats with weapons – that would raise those numbers exponentially,” she said.