About one in 14 women worldwide has reported being sexually
assaulted by someone other than an intimate partner, according to a new
In what is being called landmark research, investigators from South Africa,
England and the World Health Organization looked at 77 studies published from
1998 to 2011 that contained data about non-partner sexual violence against
women aged 15 and older in 56 countries.
Sexual assault rates
Non-partner sexual violence is committed by people such as strangers,
friends, acquaintances, colleagues, teachers, neighbours and family members
other than partners.
The researchers found that 7.2% of women reported such an incident at some
point in their lives, according to the study, which was published in the
journal The Lancet.
The United States and Canada, however, had sexual-assault rates well above the
global average, at 13%.
Rates varied widely by country, with the highest reported in Africa. In the
Democratic Republic of Congo, 21% of women reported sexual violence; the rate
was 17.4% in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Australia and New Zealand also
reported high rates (16.4%).
The lowest rates were reported in Turkey (4.5%) and India and Bangladesh
Rates in eastern European countries such as Lithuania, Ukraine and Azerbaijan
were about 7%, much lower than central European countries such as the Czech
Republic, Poland, Kosovo and Serbia and Montenegro (10.7%) and western European
countries such as Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland
and Germany (11.5%).
"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," Naeemah Abrahams, of the South African Medical Research Council,
said in a journal news release. "However, regional variations need to be
interpreted with caution because of differences in data availability and levels
Underreporting and lack of accurate
The actual extent of non-partner sexual violence is probably much greater,
Abrahams said, but the stigma and blame associated with the crime results in
underreporting and a lack of accurate data.
"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," she said.
The study is a "landmark in its scale and rigour", Kathryn Yount,
of Emory University in Atlanta, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
She said the study reveals rates that are "unacceptably high on
public-health and human-rights grounds", and that non-partner sexual
violence is neither rare nor limited to certain areas of the world.
"Effective responses will require widespread legal and institutional
change," Yount said.
on male sex and assault common in SA
with disabilities more vulnerable to sexual assault
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