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January 20, 2000

"Population Reports" Issue Shows Violence Against Women Widespread

The following is a release issued by the Center for Communication Programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. For more information on this report, contact Stephen M. Goldstein, 111 Market Place, Suite 310, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. Tel: 410 659-6300

Around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to a new report from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). Based on the most comprehensive overview to date, the report calls on the world's health care community to respond to physical and sexual abuse as "a major public health concern and a violation of human rights."

"What is striking is how similar the problem is around the world," says Lori Heise, Co-Director of CHANGE and lead author of the Population Reports issue, Ending Violence Against Women, published by the Johns Hopkins Population Information Program. "Without exception, women's greatest risk of violence comes not from 'stranger danger' but from men they know, often male family members or husbands."

To see the full text of this report here

In countries as different as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mexico, and Zimbabwe, many people see wife-beating as justified--a husband's right to "correct" an erring wife. "Women often share this notion," note Heise and co-authors Mary Ellsberg and Megan Gottemoeller. "For example, in rural Egypt up to 81 percent of women say that wife-beating is justified under certain circumstances."

Among findings culled from over 500 studies of domestic abuse:

  • Many women conceal their plight. In surveys 22 percent to almost 70 percent of abused women said that they had never told anyone about their abuse before being asked in the interview.
  • Rates of abuse can vary greatly in neighboring areas. Differences among regions, towns, or villages in the same country can be greater than differences among countries.
  • Beyond immediate injury, violence often leads to serious long-term health problems, including chronic pain, physical disability, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide attempts.
  • The physical and psychological impact of different types of abuse and multiple episodes over time appear to be cumulative and can persist long after the violence has stopped.
  • Children of battered women face a greater risk of low birth weight, malnutrition, behavioral problems, and infant death in some settings.
Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.