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WHO report reveals the greatest risk to women is often in the home

This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report examining global estimates of violence against women. The report examines two forms of violence – intimate partner violence and non-partner…

One in three women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a new report from the World Health Organisation has revealed. AAP/Dan Peled

This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report examining global estimates of violence against women. The report examines two forms of violence – intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.

The report reveals the terrifying extent of violence against women in our community. Globally, one in three women will experience an incident of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. In the most extreme cases, this violence proves fatal. Up to 38% of female homicide victims worldwide having been killed by an intimate partner, current or former.

For non-partner sexual violence the statistics are just as confronting. 7% of women globally have been sexually assaulted by someone other than an intimate partner.

Representing the first systematic study of worldwide incidences of violence against women, the report shows that violence against women is a global problem. It is not specific to one region, one culture or one community. Prevalence was highest in the African region, where 45% of women are reported to be a victim of intimate partner or sexual violence.

But even in the lowest prevalence area - the European region – 27% of women are still estimated to be a victim of these two forms of violence. In the report, Australia formed part of the Western Pacific Region, which recorded an overall prevalence estimate of just over 27%.

Problematically, despite the high prevalence of violence against women, the report highlights that the true extent of the problem is still unknown. This is attributed to low reporting rates by victims, largely due to the ongoing fear of stigma and inaccurate systems of data collection in some regions. The report emphasises that this is particularly the case for estimates of sexual violence.

The impacts of violence against women

The report details the short and long-term health, mental, sexual and reproductive impacts that intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence has on women.

The physical impacts of violence are difficult to estimate. Research suggests that victims are unlikely to report incidents resulting from abuse by an intimate partner. The report cites broken bones and pregnancy related complications as two impacts of intimate violence against women often seen by health-care professionals. The social and developmental impacts cited include mental health problems and impaired social functioning.

Statistically, the picture painted of the female victim of violence is frightening to say the least. The report found that 42% of women who have been the victim of physical or sexual abuse by their partner experienced injuries as a direct result of violence.

Female victims of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence are more than twice as likely to have an induced abortion. They are also two times more likely to experience depression and problems related to harmful alcohol-use.

Responding to violence against women

The report comes less than a week after the horrific images of Nigella Lawson with her husband’s hands around her throat were published worldwide. As people took photos of incident not one passer-by intervened or called the police.

Known in research as the bystander effect, the WHO report illustrates why the community should not stay silent about violence against women. It must be acknowledged and where possible, intervention should occur. After all, one in three women worldwide are relying upon us to do so.

Written in conjunction with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, the report emphasises the importance of a multi-agency response to violence against women. Such a response should address social and cultural risk factors, while demanding the involvement of health-care, social service, education, government, criminal justice and media stakeholders.

Specifically, by establishing a set of best practice clinical and policy guidelines, the report aims to improve current health care responses to violence against women. This includes specialised training for health professionals, increasing the level of clinical care offered to survivors of sexual assault and ensuring mandatory reporting of intimate partner violence incidents.

In preventing violence against women, the report also emphasises the importance of early intervention programs that address risk factors, such as parenting programs and programs targeted at males that promote gender equitable attitudes and behaviours. Alongside this, the need to strengthen current legal and policy frameworks as well as mechanisms of accountability is also recommended.

The need to act

For many, the WHO report confirms what we already suspected – intimate partner and sexual violence is a systemic issue in our community that cannot be ignored. As noted in the report, violence against women:

…pervades all corners of the globe, puts women’s health at risk, limits their participation in society, and causes great human suffering.

The findings of the WHO report should now be used to energise policy, health, government and criminal justice stakeholders to respond to the dire need to improve current approaches to prevention and intervention of violence against women in Australia.

Join the conversation

40 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    Here we have the word “partner” again.

    What kind of “partner”.

    What studies show the worst “partner” is the woman’s new boyfriend?

    Not PC or in the feminist handbook to release those studies.

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    1. In reply to Dale Bloom

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Thompson

      Rates of domestic violence amongst lesbians appear to be higher than domestic violence between heterosexual married couples, but on par with rates of domestic violence in de facto relationships.

      De facto relationships between lesbians are currently the norm, and therefore, the high rates of domestic violence amongst lesbians could be caused more from the de facto relationships than from other factors.

      Marriage between homosexual couples may decrease the higher rates of domestic violence in homosexual relationships.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, I also think my data is quite old, so what you say sounds right.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      WOW. That post about the stats for lesbian couple was deleted.

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    5. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Thompson

      I have found most feminist type propaganda focuses totally on the negatives of heterosexual relationships, but you may be interested in this survey that is periodically carried out in Australia.

      http://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/australian-relationships-indicators/relationships-indicator-2011

      The number of respondents in the survey is small, but the data is similar each time the survey is carried out, and it gives a more complete picture of heterosexual relationships than anything I have found in feminism.

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  2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

    What is missing from this article is any information about the men.

    Though I believe that in some countries violence against women is 'normal' male behaviour, I would hope that in Australia most men are shocked by these figures.

    So, in Australia, who is inflicting this violence?

    I've never done anything violent to any women. Am I an average Australian man or am I better than most? I suspect that I'm closer to average than being a saint.

    My guess is that there are a few men who are responsible…

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    1. Kate Fitz-Gibbon

      Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Hi Michael,
      The report specifically focuses on women as victims and does not examine perpetrator characteristics so I wasn't able to discuss that in this overview of the Report findings.

      This is certainly important though and I agree with you that I am sure most Australian men would be horrified by these statistics.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      There was a study released some time ago (it somehow slipped through the net of what statistics can be released) showing most domestic violence occurs in a few post code areas.

      Therefore the real statistics are skewed, but the statistics so often released to the public are not representative of the whole .

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Though it is possible that the well-to-do areas have less domestic violence, the well-to-do are also more likely to keep things private and not involve the police.

      What is really happening out there is hard to know, but if anything it is probably worse than the article presents.

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    4. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      There is the usual feminist line that the main cause of domestic violence is “male power and control”

      Never been proven like everything else in feminism, and various research concludes poverty, unemployment, depression, drug use etc are more likely the cause, and interestingly there appears to be a high rate of domestic violence carried out by women who have had a vasectomy.

      The most domestic violence occurs in de facto relationships, together with higher rates of every other social ill, from higher rates of drug use, to higher rates of child poverty, to higher rates of unwanted pregnancy, to higher rates of STD’s.

      So the picture is much larger than the narrow feminist view feed to the public.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      What annoys me most about Dale's post is that we get an admission that economic factors play a part, yet when it comes to policy most of what the right want and do (and that includes Labor) is making things worse.

      I also laugh at the "never been proven" followed by "various research concludes". Again what those on the right don't like is never proven, but any factoid or research which helps their case is rock solid.

      But, on the whole, Dale's post just shows how little things have changed, some men are still back in the 1950's.

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    6. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Politics have little to do with domestic violence, and that includes feminist politics.

      I now regard political parties as creating too much division in a country, (and will only vote for independents from the next election onwards) and feminism is also creating too much division.

      Go through the domestic violence research yourself, and be aware of politics being purposely incorporated into the conclusions.

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, the report does not break out data for Australia. We are lumped in with "Western pacific" which bizarrely includes China. But rates of sexual violence in Australia are very low, and have plummeted over the past 20 years.

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    8. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, if you were familiar with the people in this industry there is no way in hell they would ever UNDER estimate what is really goinf on.

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    9. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      David,

      I think you are right about rates of sexual violence by non-intimates.

      Thought those who hate porn like to say that it creates violence against women, we have done a massive social experiment taking us from a world with very little porn to it being available to anyone on the net, yet even though reporting rates have gone up, sexual violence by strangers has gone done. Progress!

      But domestic violence by intimates is, I think different. And whether it has gone up or down (I would like to know which) it is clear that it is at a rate which is far too high.

      So I think domestic violence is still a huge issue.

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    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, Before debating this research, where do you stand on climate change?

      If you are one of those people who think that 98% of the worlds climate scientists have got it wrong, and thus climate change is political, then I don't see any point in debating you about whether or not domestic violence research is political.

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    11. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, I have thrown myself into all this research. It is all a con. Note the big headline numbers such as "30%" refer to even incident of a male insulting his female partner. But get this. That is 30% over their entire lives from age 15 to age 100. So, if a 60 year old woman had a boyfriend who would tell her he bum looked big in Levis back in 1968, that counts. In fact, the big statistic these reports never mention, but is plain to anybody taught critical thinking is 50% of a partnered woman's experience of domestic violence occurs between the ages of 15 and 19. Basically, once a woman turns 20, only 15% will experience one (or more) incidence of violence (domestic, non-intimate, sexual) until the day she dies. That doesn't diminish the pain, but it does totally change the nature of the conversation.

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    12. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Climate change may be occurring, but whether it can be totally attributed to increased atmospheric CO2 is debateable.

      Domestic violence may be occurring, but whether it can be totally attributed to “male power and control” feminist blah blah is debateable.

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    13. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      Perhaps the people in the 'industry' are passionate because they are confronted with the realities of this day after day.

      If there is a flaw in the research methodology please point it out. If there is some valid research showing different figures please tell us about it.

      But otherwise all I hear is someone who is putting his head in the sand.

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    14. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      The Conversation is full of those who have 'thrown themselves into research' and are convinced the climate change is wrong.

      Perhaps what you wrote is true. But how do I know that this is one of those rare times when this is the case?

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    15. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to David Thompson

      Actually, it is much, much more than 50% of ALL "Lifetime prevalence of physical AND/OR sexual intimate partner among ever-partnered women." It is closer to 80%. Which means that from 20-100 years of age, the % is very low.

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    16. In reply to Dale Bloom

      Comment removed by moderator.

    17. In reply to James Hill

      Comment removed by moderator.

    18. In reply to Dale Bloom

      Comment removed by moderator.

    19. In reply to James Hill

      Comment removed by moderator.

    20. In reply to Dale Bloom

      Comment removed by moderator.

    21. In reply to James Hill

      Comment removed by moderator.

    22. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale - Given your views on climate change it is clear that my ideas of evidence and rationality don't agree with yours.

      So I'll say no more.

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  3. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    Kate, how about you read the report first. I read it today, and it is a fraud.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Thompson

      As Kate is a lecturer in criminology at a credible university, and you are a 'marketing researcher', why should anyone believe that you are right and Kate is wrong?

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    2. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      > As Kate is a lecturer in criminology at a credible university, and you are a 'marketing researcher', why should anyone believe that you are right and Kate is wrong?

      Well, it might be because they read the report, know a little about study design, and came to the same conclusion as David.

      Do you know what qualifies a woman as a member of the 30%?

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  4. Tim Benham

    Student of Statistics

    The report has many serious defects one of which is that it takes no account of the severity of the violence. I would have answered yes to their questions regarding intimate partner violence and I think most people would answer likewise if they were accurate.

    Of course I wouldn't be asked because I am a man. Asking such questions of men would not support the anti-male agenda that motivates studies like this.

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  5. Sally Boteler

    customer service officer at health & leisure

    Hi Kate. Have you seen Jackson Katz's Ted talk : Violence against women-it's a men's issue?
    It's very interesting & i liked that it proposed a course of action.
    It's such a hard issue for women to do much about - you'll note how few (just me on this one as of the moment) who even dare comment on articles like this.
    Thanks though.

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  6. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    How come there are no statistics about violence against men. How are these statistics collected and from what source. And do these statistics take into account the violence against women in lesbian relationships?

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    1. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      > How come there are no statistics about violence against men.

      Because they don't want people to know how commonly acts that they are including as "violence against women" are perpetrated against men.

      > And do these statistics take into account the violence against women in lesbian relationships?

      I don't believe they record the sex of the perpetrator.

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    2. Kate Fitz-Gibbon

      Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Hi Rene,
      The Report by the World Health Organisation focused solely on violence against women so unfortunately there are no statistics on violence against men available through that Report.
      It did encompass violence against women in lesbian relationship, which is an important issue, although it did not examine differences specifically according to relationship type.

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    3. Kate Fitz-Gibbon

      Lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University

      In reply to Tim Benham

      HI Tim, I certainly agree with you that if given a comprehensive study like this examining violence against men it would become evident how common that is also. I do not believe that this is a 'women's' issue - it is an issue for everyone.

      It is certainly important to recognise both types of violence. As many of the risk factors for men and women as victims are the same hopefully the guidelines given by WHO will help to address violence against both men and women.

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