One in 14 women (7.2%) aged 15 years or older report being sexually assaulted by someone other than an intimate partner at least once in their lives, according to new global research.
The picture for Australia is worse, with more than double the global average rate of sexual violence reported in Australasia (16.4%; New Zealand and Australia).
However, the researchers warn that regional variations need to be interpreted with caution because of differences in data availability and levels of disclosure.
The new research published in the journal The Lancet looks at the prevalence of non-partner sexual violence in 56 countries using data aggregated from many studies.
Professor Naeemah Abrahams from the South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town, and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the World Health Organization says:
“We found that sexual violence is a common experience for women worldwide, and in some regions is endemic, reaching more than 15% in four regions.”
Countries with the highest rates of sexual violence are those in central sub-Saharan Africa (21%; Democratic Republic of Congo), southern sub-Saharan Africa (17.4%; Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe), and Australasia (16.4%; New Zealand and Australia).
Countries in North Africa/ Middle East (4.5%; Turkey) and South Asia (3.3%; India, Bangladesh) reported the lowest rates.
Professor Abrahams says the true magnitude of the issue was probably underestimated because of the stigma and blame attached to sexual violence.
This leads to under-reporting and a lack of good-quality population-based data. Eight regions had data only from one country and many countries had no data at all.
“Our findings highlight the need for countries to have their own population-based data on the levels of sexual violence by different perpetrators to improve understanding of the magnitude of the problem and the main risk factors, and to develop appropriate policies and responses, including primary prevention interventions and comprehensive services to treat victims of sexual assaults.”
The research, Worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence: a systematic review, was published in The Lancet today.
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