The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report on the global prevalence and impact of violence against women, and found it to be a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.” The report includes data on violence against women by intimate partners and sexual violence against women by non-partners. The report also examines the effect violence has on other aspects of women’s health.

By studying data from across the world, WHO researchers found that about 35% of all women will experience violence in their lives from either intimate partners or non-partners. Violence inflicted by intimate partners is more prevalent worldwide, with 30% of women affected.

In addition to injury and death, violence against women results in other physical and mental problems. For example, women who have undergone partner violence are almost twice as likely to experience depression or have an alcohol-use problem than women who have not been subject to violence. Additionally, women who experience violence are more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease, have an unwanted pregnancy, and receive an abortion. Violence against women also affects the next generation, as studies show women who experience violence are 16% more likely to have a low birth-weight baby. Click here for additional statistics.

The report points out that steps need to be taken throughout the world to prevent future violence against women, but also improve the treatment of women who have already experienced violence. Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno of the WHO states that “violence greatly increases women’s vulnerability to a range of short- and long-term health problems; [the report] highlights the need for the health sector to take violence against women more seriously,” and that many healthcare workers don’t know how to respond to cases of violence. However, to make a significant change, the social and cultural factors behind violence against women must be addressed.

Source: "WHO report highlights violence against women as 'global health problem of epidemic proportions." WHO Media Centre. 20 June 2013.

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