WHO: Third of women suffer domestic violence (Update)

June 20, 2013 by Maria Cheng
In this Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 file photo, candles for the victims of domestic violence burn during a protest in Bucharest, Romania. About a third of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner, according to the first major review of violence against women. In a series of papers released on Thursday June 20, 2013 by the World Health Organization and others, experts estimated nearly 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

About a third of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner, according to the first major review of violence against women.

In a series of papers released on Thursday by the World Health Organization and others, experts estimated nearly 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.

"Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement.

WHO defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or being attacked with a weapon. Sexual violence was defined as being physically forced to have sex, having sex because you were afraid of what your partner might do and being compelled to do something sexual that was humiliating or degrading.

The report also examined rates of sexual violence against women by someone other than a partner and found about 7 percent of women worldwide had previously been a victim.

In conjunction with the report, WHO issued guidelines for authorities to spot problems earlier and said all health workers should be trained to recognize when women may be at risk and how to respond appropriately.

Globally, the WHO review found 30 percent of women are affected by domestic or sexual violence by a partner. The report was based largely on studies from 1983 to 2010. According to the United Nations, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

The rate of domestic violence against women was highest in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where 37 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lifetime. The rate was 30 percent in Latin and South America and 23 percent in North America. In Europe and Asia, it was 25 percent.

In this Thursday, July 30, 2009 file photo Shoes representing female victims of violence are displayed by protesters from the Chilean Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in Santiago. The sign at bottom reads in Spanish "Rosa Alvarado, 31, stabbed by ex-boyfriend, 16 April 2008." About a third of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner, according to the first major review of violence against women. In a series of papers released on Thursday June 20, 2013 by the World Health Organization and others, experts estimated nearly 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women. (AP Photo/Santiago Llanquin, File)

Some experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care, such as obstetric clinics.

"It's unlikely that someone would walk into an ER and disclose they've been assaulted," said Sheila Sprague of McMaster University in Canada, who has researched domestic violence in women at orthopedic clinics. She was not connected to the WHO report.

"Over time, if women are coming into a fracture clinic or a pre-natal clinic, they may tell you they are suffering abuse if you ask," she said.

For domestic violence figures, scientists analyzed information from 86 countries focusing on women over the age of 15. They also assessed studies from 56 countries on sexual violence by someone other than a partner, though they had no data from the Middle East. WHO experts then used modeling techniques to fill in the gaps and to come up with global estimates for the percentage of women who are victims of violence.

In a related paper published online in the journal Lancet, researchers found more than 38 percent of slain women are killed by a former or current partner, six times higher than the rate of men killed by their partners. Heidi Stoeckl, one of the authors at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the figures were likely to be an underestimate. She and colleagues found that globally, a woman's highest risk of murder was from a current or ex-partner.

In countries like India, Stoeckl said things like "honor killings," where women are sometimes murdered over dowry disputes or perceived offenses like infidelity to protect the family's reputation, adds to the problem.

She also noted that women and men are often slain by their partners for different reasons.

"When a woman kills her male partner, it's usually out of self-defense because she has been abused," she said. "But when a woman is killed, it's often after she has left the relationship and the man is killing her out of jealousy or rage."

Stoeckl said criminal justice authorities should intervene at an earlier stage.

"When a woman is killed by a partner, she has often already had contact with the police," she said.

Stoeckl said more protective measures should be in place for women from their partners, particularly when he or she has a history of violence and owns a gun.

"There are enough signs that we should be watching out for that," she said. "We certainly should know if someone is potentially lethal and be able to do something about it."

Explore further: One in six women at fracture clinics report domestic violence

Related Stories

One in six women at fracture clinics report domestic violence

June 11, 2013
One in six women arriving at orthopedic fracture clinics have been victims of physical, emotional, or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner within the past year, and one in 50 arrive as a direct result of intimate ...

Bisexual women at especially high risk of sexual violence, CDC says

January 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Bisexual women in the United States are more likely to suffer from domestic violence than either lesbian or heterosexual women, a new government report shows.

Link between intimate partner violence and depression

May 7, 2013
Not only are women who have experienced violence from their partner (intimate partner violence) at higher risk of becoming depressed, but women who are depressed may also be at increased risk of experiencing intimate partner ...

Domestic violence and perinatal mental health

May 28, 2013
Women who have mental health disorders around the time of birth are more likely to have previously experienced domestic violence, according to a study by UK researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine.

Study: People with mental disorders more likely to have experienced domestic violence

December 26, 2012
Men and women with mental health disorders, across all diagnoses, are more likely to have experienced domestic violence than the general population, according to new research from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, ...

Local GP intervention a positive step for women living in fear of their partner

April 18, 2013
A world first trial has found intervention by general practitioners (GPs) in cases of domestic violence made impacts on women's symptoms of depression but not their quality of life.

Recommended for you

Juul e-cigarettes pose addiction risk for young users, study finds

October 19, 2018
Teens and young adults who use Juul brand e-cigarettes are failing to recognize the product's addictive potential, despite using it more often than their peers who smoke conventional cigarettes, according to a new study by ...

Adding refined fiber to processed food could have negative health effects

October 19, 2018
Adding highly refined fiber to processed foods could have negative effects on human health, such as promoting liver cancer, according to a new study by researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Toledo.

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

Adequate consumption of 'longevity' vitamins could prolong healthy aging, nutrition scientist says

October 16, 2018
A detailed new review of nutritional science argues that most American diets are deficient in a key class of vitamins and minerals that play previously unrecognized roles in promoting longevity and in staving off chronic ...

Study finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of trauma among ex-POWs from the Civil War

October 16, 2018
A trio of researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research has found evidence that suggests men who were traumatized while POWs during the U.S. Civil War transmitted that trauma to their offspring—many ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.