Fear of stigma has been identified as one of the main reasons women do not report non-partner sexual violence.
This was among the findings of a just released WHO report titled, Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.
According to a release from the WHO on the report, which is a collaboration between the WHO, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council: “Other barriers to data collection include the fact that fewer countries collect this data than information about intimate partner violence, and that many surveys of this type of violence employ less sophisticated measurement approaches than those used in monitoring intimate partner violence.”
Dr. Naeemah Abrahams from the SAMRC, said: “The review brings to light the lack of data on sexual violence by perpetrators other than partners, including in conflict-affected settings… We need more countries to measure sexual violence and to use the best survey instruments available.”
In spite of these obstacles, the review found that 7.2 per cent of women globally had reported non-partner sexual violence. As a result of this violence, they were 2.3 times more likely to have alcohol disorders and 2.6 times more likely to suffer depression or anxiety – slightly more than women experiencing intimate partner violence, the release said.
The report called for a major scaling up of global efforts to prevent all kinds of violence against women by addressing the social and cultural factors behind it.
But the report also had some recommendaitons for the health sector, including the “urgent need for better care for women who have experienced violence”. It said that women tend to seek healthcare without disclosing the cause of their injuries or ill-health.
“The report findings show that violence greatly increases women’s vulnerability to a range of short and long-term health problems; it highlights the need for the health sector to take violence against women more seriously,” said Dr. Claudia Garcia-Moreno of WHO. “In many cases this is because health workers simply do not know how to respond.”
New WHO clinical and policy guidelines released yesterday stress the importance of training all levels of health workers to recognise when women may be at risk of partner violence and to know how to provide an appropriate response.
The report also suggested that some healthcare settings, such as ante-natal services and HIV testing, might provide opportunities to support survivors of violence, provided certain minimum requirements were met, such as the training of health providers about how to ask about violence; standard operating procedures were in place; that consultations took place in a private setting and that confidentiality was guaranteed.
“A referral system is in place to ensure that women can access related services. In the case of sexual assault, health care settings must be equipped to provide the comprehensive response women need — to address both physical and mental health consequences.
“The report’s authors stress the importance of using these guidelines to incorporate issues of violence into the medical and nursing curricula as well as during in-service training,” the statement said. (LB)