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Gender Violence Facts

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What is violence against women?

Violence against women (VAW) is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights and is both a cause and a consequence of women’s inequality. It includes; rape and sexual abuse of girls; female genital mutilation, forced and early marriage, stalking, crimes in the name of ‘honour’, trafficking and sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and domestic violence. http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk

Violence against women data can be confusing. Since the amount and severity of violence against women in the world is the cornerstone of the One in Three Women™ Campaign, it is important to think critically about the prevalence data we use when talking about this serious problem.

What Do We Know About the Prevalence of Violence Against Women?

According to the UNIFEM report, Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women: “Throughout the world, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Violence against women has become as much a pandemic as HIV/AIDS or malaria. But still it is downplayed by the public at large and policymakers who fail to create and fund programmes to eradicate it.”

We talk credibly about violence against women prevalence research by paying attention to details such as, how the study was done (methodology), who participated, what information was used, which behaviors or crimes were included and how they were defined. Definitions of behaviors and terms vary widely from study to study.

Take a look below at some information on three well-known U.S. research examples on the prevalence of violence against women, family violence and gender-based violence. Note that the National Family Violence Study, National Crime Victims Study and National Violence Against Women Study differ in populations, sexual victimizations, and methodologies. Also, the National Violence Against Women Study gives us the most specific and reliable information on the prevalence of violence against women in the U.S. to date.

What is "gender mainstreaming"?

If health care systems are to respond adequately to problems caused by gender inequality, it is not enough to simply "add in” a gender component late in a given project’s development. Research, interventions, health system reforms, health education, health outreach, and health policies and programmes must consider gender from the beginning.

Gender is thus not something that can be consigned to “watchdogs” in a single office, since no one office can possibly involve itself in all phases of an organization’s activities. All health professionals must have knowledge and awareness of the ways in which gender affects health, so that they may address gender issues wherever appropriate thus rendering their work more effective.

The process of creating this knowledge and awareness of - and responsibility for - gender among all health professionals is called "gender mainstreaming”.

What do we mean by "sex" and "gender"?

Sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is meant by the term "gender", and how it differs from the closely related term "sex".

"Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

"Gender" refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

National Family Violence Study (NFVS): Conducted in 1976 and 1985; Random sample of 6002 adults married or living together; Uses Conflict Tactics Scale; 

The study asked about violence in the previous year only. Revealed physical violence rates of 116 per 1,000 couples; almost 1 in 8 male partners/husbands reported inflicting at least one violent act in the year prior. This study suggests that about 1.8 million women experienced severe violence during the year prior, including rape.

National Crime Victims Study (NCVS): Ongoing general victimization survey; Redesigned in 1993 to better record abuse in families and by acquaintances; Random selection of 50,000 households surveyed for 3 years at 6 months intervals; Interviews all residents over the age of 12.

The 1993 survey suggests that 9.3 out of 1,000 women were victims of partner violence and an additional 12.9 out of 1,000 by friends and acquaintances (22.2 out of 1,000). This study suggests that around 5 million victimizations are experienced by females over 12 each year, 29 % by intimates, 9% by other relatives, 40% by someone known to the victims (not intimate or other family), and only 24% by strangers.

National Violence Against Women Study (NVAWS): Conducted 1995 and 1996; Sample was 8,000 men and 8,000 women 18 years and older; Not limited to last 12 months, but rather incidents that occurred in their lifetime.

Study concluded nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and 7.6 percent of surveyed men said they were sexually and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetime and that 1.5% of women experience this violence in the previous year; 51% of women were physically assaulted at some time in their lives; 7.7 % of U.S. women have been raped by an intimate partner. Approximately 4.8 million intimate partner rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated against U.S. Women annually. All three studies indicate rape and partner violence are very prevalent problems and women are at higher risk from someone they know. NCVS & NVAWS indicate women who are young, live in poverty, and are separated from their partners are at particular risk of violence.

Crime and medical sources provide other major prevalence data on violence against women. For example:

Crime System Prevalence Data: FBI compiles two data sets on crime; Uniform Crime Report and National Incident Based Reporting System. It relies on voluntary reports by local police departments. FBI data for 2001 showed more than one half million American women were victims of non-fatal violence committed by an Intimate Partner (IP); more than 3 women are murdered by an IP every day and in 2000, 1247 women were killed by an IP, while same year, 440 men killed by an IP. The accuracy of annualized crime report data on violence against women is compromised by extensive under-reporting of these crimes and voluntary police input into the data systems.

Medical System IP Prevalence Data & Costs: Thirty-seven (37%) of women who sought treatment in US Emergency Rooms with violence-related injuries in 1994 were injured by current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. (Rand, 1997, USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics)

US health-related costs for rape, assault, stalking and homicide by IP are more than $5.8 billion every year. (Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 2004)

International Statistics: There are many important statistical sources on violence against women. Below are links for international statistics specific to trafficking, stalking, and more.

Link: UNIFEM study Not a Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women

Link: WHO study The WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women

Link:Women in an Insecure World: Violence Against Women

Link: www.endabuse.org