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Europe

A third of women in EU have suffered 'sexual violence'

© European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-05

A third of women in Europe have suffered some form of physical or sexual assault and five percent have been raped, according to a major new study published on Wednesday.

The European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights interviewed 42,000 women aged 18-74 across Europe for what it called “the world’s biggest ever survey on violence against women.” The report seeks to gauge the extent of sexual violence and harassment experienced by the 186.6 million women in the EU's 28 nations.

The report "shows that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all EU member states," the group's director Morten Kjaerum said.

Just over one in 10 of the women interviewed indicated that they experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15 years old. One in 10 had experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, one in 20 had been raped, and just over one in five had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from either a current or previous partner, the Vienna-based organisation found.

'Extensive abuse'

"What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women's lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities," Kjaerum said.

He called for measures tackling violence against women "to be taken to a new level now."

The survey investigated women's experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence including domestic abuse, as well as stalking, sexual harassment, childhood experiences and the role played by new technologies.

"Only 14 percent of women reported their most serious incident of intimate partner violence to the police, and 13 percent reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence to the police," Kjaerum said.

He said that "violence against women, and specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women, is an extensive human rights abuse that the EU cannot afford to overlook."

The emotional and psychological consequences of physical and sexual violence "can be long-lasting and deep-seated," the survey said.

Over a fifth of the victims of sexual violence suffered from panic attacks, over a third became depressed and 43 percent spoke of difficulty in subsequent relationships as a result.

There were sizeable differences when the survey's findings are broken up by country.

At the top end, 52 percent of women in Denmark were said to have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, while the rate was 47 percent in Finland and 46 percent in Sweden.

At the other end of the scale, the report found that 19 percent of women in Poland had suffered in the same way, 20 percent in Austria and 21 percent in Croatia.

The report said higher levels of gender equality could lead to more disclosure of violence in some countries.

55 per cent harassed

The report also found that 55 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment, 18 percent had been stalked and 11 percent had experienced inappropriate advances on social web sites or had been subjected to sexually explicit e-mails or texts. Among women between 18 and 29, 20 percent said they had been victims of such “cyber-harassment.”

At the other end of the age range, the percentage of women over-60 responding that they had been victims of some kind of sexual violence at any stage in their lives, was lower at  28 percent.

The report also cited a World Health Organisation finding of "a relationship between perpetrators' drinking habits and women's experiences of domestic violence", noting that differing drinking patterns among countries could help explain certain aspects of such abuse.

The report was timed to appear ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
 

Date created : 2014-03-05

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