By Michaeleen Doucleff and Rhitu Chatterjee
Thirty-five percent of women around the world have been raped or physically abused, according to statistics the World Health Organization released Thursday. About 80 percent of the time this violence occurs in the home, at the hands of a partner or spouse. “For me personally, this is a shockingly high figure,” says epidemologist Karen Devries, who contributed to the study. “The levels of violence are very high everywhere.” Devries and a team at the WHO analyzed data from 141 studies in 81 countries. Their findings offer the first comprehensive look at domestic violence globally and give insights into how abuse hurts women’s overall health. “The main message is that this problem affects women everywhere,” Devries says. Because of the stigma associated with rape and abuse, “some of our findings may underestimate the prevalence.” When women are murdered, a partner or spouse is the killer 38 percent of the time, the study finds. By comparison, men die at the hands of a wife or partner only 6 percent of the time.
Domestic violence not only kills some women; it also leaves others with long-standing mental and physical health problems.
Abused women are twice as likely to report being depressed and having their own problems with alcohol. They are also 1.5 times more likely than women who haven’t been abused to have a sexually transmitted disease including, sometimes, an HIV infection.