If Friday’s headline “Third of women in world suffer domestic violence” wasn’t startling, the statistics that accompanied the story should be: 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner; 23 percent of women in North America have experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner; and one in five women in the U.S. say that they are victims of rape or attempted rape, with half being from an intimate partner.
The reoccurring theme, of course, is assault brought on by a husband or boyfriend, i.e. domestic violence.
This means that the biggest murder risk for women worldwide is from an intimate partner.
These statistics are derived from a study conducted by the World Health Organization. They provided the first major review of violence against women worldwide, based on studies gathered from 1983 to 2010. The study’s most significant finding was that about a third of all women have been assaulted by a current or former partner. While the definition of domestic violence my vary across the globe, the WHO defines physical violence “as being slapped, pushed, punched, chocked or attacked with a weapon,” and sexual violence “as being physically forced to have sex, having sex for fear of what the partner might do and being compelled to do something sexual that was humiliating or degrading,” according to a story provide by The Associated Press.
It’s scary to really consider these numbers, and the U.S. is not immune to this statistic. While 37 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence in Africa, the Middle East and southeast Asia, close 23 percent have experienced it in North America. Western culture is often considered progressive in terms of defining violence against women, but that doesn’t mean that physical and sexual assault isn’t occurring at an alarming rate.
It’s equally scary how such violence is handled in a medical sense.
Shelia Sprague of McMaster University in Canada, who has researched domestic violence at orthopedic clinics, told the AP that, while it is unlikely that a woman affected by assault would tell her medical provider initially, “Over time, if the women are coming into a fracture clinic or a prenatal clinic, they might [say] they are suffering abuse,” if they are asked. Assessment of abuse should be protocol for such clinics, especially for women who repeatedly return for such problems as broken bones, bruises and lacerations.
These issues should be handled in both a physical and mental sense. More resources provided to women through health care and insurance would help to drive down the rapid rate of domestic violence occurring across the world.
Women are six times more likely to be murdered by their partner than men are. In order to eliminate such a tremendous epidemic, we need to foster a culture that responds.
Medical caregivers need to inquire about abuse and intervene when needed; neighbors and friends need to react to signs of domestic violence; and women need to be informed and know that they live in a society that wants to stop domestic violence and protect them from their aggressors.
After reading these reports it has become clear that, medically and legally, the U.S. needs to reevaluate the way it handles physical and sexual assault against women.
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Keith H. Burgess