Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Non-partner sexual violence

Situation and trends

7% of women globally have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetime. Population-based studies are the best source of data on sexual violence, yet many countries have no available data on which to estimate prevalence. The prevalence estimates presented here are based on all available data from population-based studies that have included questions on sexual violence by non-partners. There are not always standard measures across data sources, and the questions are not always asked in a sensitive and safe manner that promotes accurate disclosure. Therefore, it is likely that improved measurement would result in greater disclosure and even higher prevalence rates. The health effects of non-partner sexual violence are being increasingly documented. What little evidence exists suggests strong associations between sexual violence and mental health disorders and short- and long-term physical and reproductive health consequences, in conflict and non-conflict affected settings. Research also shows higher rates of sexual violence in societies where it is tolerated. Health systems can play an important role in responding to the immediate risks of sexual violence such as unwanted pregnancy and providing psychosocial support, as well as linking women with the appropriate services. However, the root causes of sexual violence and the tolerance for sexual violence must be addressed so that it can be prevented in the first place.

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