1 in 3 Women Globally Have Faced Physical and/or Sexual Violence, Finds WHO Study

1 in 3 Women Globally Have Faced Physical and/or Sexual Violence, Finds WHO Study
Photo:PAU BARRENA/AFP (Getty Images)

A new report from the World Health Organization on the prevalence of violence against women found that nearly one out of every three women across the globe have experienced physical and/or sexual violence during their lives. The study, which compiled data from at least 158 countries, examined the violence that women and girls over the age of 15 experienced both from intimate partners and non-partners. WHO also found that many women and girls first experienced violence at a young age—horrifyingly, 25% of young women who have been in a relationship have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner by their mid-20s.

The report determined that intimate partner violence (IPV) is by far the most prevalent form of violence women experience globally, affecting approximately 641 million women and teenage girls. Although only 6% of women who took part in the WHO study reported being sexually assaulted by a non-partner, experts believe that estimate is likely lower than the reality, as stigma often contributes to an underreporting of sexual violence. WHO also noted that the rates of violence against women would likely be significantly higher if the study had included other types of abuse and violence, such as cyber abuse and sexual harassment.

“The results paint a horrifying picture,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus while speaking to reporters. “An estimated 736 million women — almost one in three women globally — have suffered intimate partner violence, sexual violence from a non-partner — or both — at least once in their lives.”

The report, which only examines data between the years of 2010 and 2018, does not account for any of the physical or sexual violence that women and girls may have experienced since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. Mere months into the first coronavirus lockdown last spring there was a reported surge in instances of domestic violence globally, with emergency hotlines and shelters seeing notable increases in calls. Women were already at a high risk of experiencing violence even prior to the pandemic, and unfortunately, a year of intensely heightened stress and uncertainty has likely made things even worse.

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