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Widespread intimate partner sexual violence against women, says report

Friday, January 18, 2013    

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA — A new report published by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has shown widespread physical and sexual violence against women in 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Jamaica.

According to the report, studies conducted in 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries showed that between 17 per cent and 53 per cent of women interviewed reported suffering physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In seven of the countries, more than one in four women reported such violence, said the study, done in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 156-page report presents a comparative analysis of data from interviews with more than 180,000 women in Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru.

The report, Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: a comparative analysis of population-based data from 12 countries, showed that between 41 per cent and 82 per cent of women who were abused by their partner experienced physical injury, ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones, miscarriages, and burns. Despite the abuse, however, the report said that between 28 per cent and 64 per cent of the women did not seek help or speak to anyone about their experience of violence.

The comparative analysis also showed that between 10 per cent and 27 per cent of women in the countries surveyed reported having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, either by partners or by other perpetrators, but usually by men whom they already knew.

The report also highlighted the intersections between violence against women and violence against children. Across the 12 countries studied, women who were beaten in childhood reported experiencing partner violence in adulthood at significantly higher rates than those who did not suffer violence in childhood.

"In addition to violating basic human rights, violence against women has serious consequences for the health of women and their children and impacts heavily on health services and health workers in the region," said Dr Mirta Roses, PAHO's director.

This is the first time that nationally representative data have been analysed and presented in a single comparative format that allows a snapshot of what is known about violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"It is our hope that this report will motivate decision-makers to invest more resources in implementing evidence-based strategies that will prevent violence against women from ever taking place," said Alessandra Guedes, PAHO regional advisor for Intra-family Violence and co-author of the report.

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