Worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence: a systematic review

Naeemah Abrahams, Karen Devries, Charlotte Watts, Christina Pallitto, Max Petzold, Simukai Shamu, Claudia GarcÍa-Moreno The Lancet, 2014; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(13)62243-6 Worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence: a systematic review

In 2010, 7.2% of women worldwide had ever experienced non-partner sexual violence. Well publicised cases of the rape and murder of young women in India and South Africa drew international attention to this issue.

The true extent of sexual violence has been poorly quantified in the past. Here, the authors identified 7,231 studies covering 56 countries from which they drew 412 estimates. They note that large variations between settings need to be interpreted with caution because of differences in data availability and levels of disclosure. Overall, however, they conclude that “sexual violence against women is common worldwide, with endemic levels seen in some areas.” 

For various reasons, including the stigma and blame attached to sexual violence, this value is likely to be an underestimate. The psychological effects of sexual violence and the high prevalence we found confirm that it is a pressing health and human rights concern requiring serious attention.

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