Violence against women is a human rights violation, social justice and public health problem that touches every level of society in every part of the world. From young girls to older women, one out of every three is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. WHO studies show that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women worldwide.
Violence against women poses serious consequences to women's health and well-being. Studies have linked violence against women and girls to a host of physical and mental health problems. Certain high-risk behaviors are all significantly more frequent among victims of intimate partner and sexual violence.
The health sector can play a vital role in responding to and preventing violence against women. This role includes helping to identify abuse early, providing victims with treatment, and referring women to appropriate and informed care. The health sector must also work to prevent violence from ever taking place. And as the public health approach to prevention clearly stipulates, the first step in preventing violence is to understand it and the health sector has a key role in helping us to measure and understand violence against women.
Violence Against Women (Health topic)
Publications and Documents on Violence Against Women
PAHO/WHO Scientific and technical publications (Violence against women)
Policies and plans
Violence against women
Violence against children includes all forms of physical, sexual and emotional violence, neglect, negligent treatment and exploitation. Child maltreatment refers more specifically to violence perpetrated by adults in positions of responsibility, trust or power. Studies document high levels of physical violence in childhood, as did a nationally representative study from El Salvador in which 42% of women and 62% of men reported physical violence before age 15. Data on child sexual abuse is more limited, but in population-based surveys, women report experiencing childhood sexual abuse at levels that range from 4.7% in Guatemala to 7.8% in Honduras.
Violence against children poses serious consequences to children's health and well-being. Studies have linked violence a to a host of physical and mental health problems,including impaired social, emotional and cognitive development.
The role of the health sector
The health sector can play a vital role in responding to and preventing violence against children. This role includes helping to identify abuse early, providing victims with treatment, and referring children to appropriate and informed care. The health sector must also work to prevent violence from ever taking place. And as the public health approach to prevention clearly stipulates, the first step in preventing violence is to understand it and the health sector has a key role in helping us to measure and understand violence against children.
This document describes what is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) against
women in the Americas across countries and over time, including the geographic coverage, quality, and comparability of national data.
This was a systematic review and reanalysis of national, population-based IPV estimates from 1998 – 2017 in the Americas. Estimates were reanalyzed for comparability or extracted from reports, including IPV prevalence by type (physical; sexual; physical and/or sexual), timeframe (ever; past year), and perpetrator (any partner in life; current/most recent partner). In countries with 3+ rounds of data, Cochran-Armitage and Pearson chi-square tests were used to assess whether changes over time were significant (P < 0.05).
Eligible surveys were found in 24 countries. Women reported ever having experienced physical and/or sexual IPV at rates that ranged from 14% – 17% of women in Brazil, Panama, and Uruguay to over one-half (58.5%) in Bolivia. Past-year prevalence of physical and/or sexual IPV ranged from 1.1% in Canada to 27.1% in Bolivia. Preliminary evidence suggests a possible decline in reported prevalence of certain types of IPV in eight countries; however, some changes were small, some indicators did not change significantly, and significant increases were found in the reported prevalence of past-year physical IPV in the Dominican Republic.
IPV against women remains a public health and human rights problem across the Americas; however, the evidence base has gaps, suggesting a need for more comparable, high quality evidence for mobilizing and monitoring violence prevention and response.
Interactive IPV charts
Click on the charts to see how the prevalence of intimate partner violence has changed in the region
These charts present a preliminary analysis of changes over time in the reported prevalence of physical IPV and sexual IPV (ever and past 12 months) in seven countries with 3+ rounds of comparable data collection over 10-20 years. Physical and sexual IPV were analyzed separately, in case they changed in different directions or at different rates. Changes in past year prevalence may reflect recent changes in levels of violence, while changes in lifetime prevalence of IPV may reflect longer term changes, including different life experiences of young women of reproductive age compared with older cohorts of women aging out of samples. The reported prevalence of both physical and sexual IPV declined significantly (per Cochran-Armitage chi square trend testing) in all countries, except for physical IPV in the Dominican Republic (which rose significantly); sexual IPV in the past year in the Dominican Republic (which did not change); and physical IPV ever in Haiti (which rose significantly per Cochran-Armitage but not Pearson chi square test). Given the limited number of data points for most countries and the fact that in some countries, prevalence rose before it fell (or vice versa), these findings should be considered preliminary, and they suggest a need for monitoring over a longer period of time and across age groups.
Move the cursor over the charts to see how the prevalence of intimate partner violence has changed in the region. Choose the different charts by clicking on the upper tabs.
PAHO Journal Article
When providing first-line support to a woman who has been subjected to violence, 4 kinds of needs deserve attention: immediate emotional/psychological health needs, immediate physical health needs, ongoing safety needs, and ongoing support and mental health needs. There are simple ways that every health-care provider — including those who are not specialists — can assist a woman subjected to violence. This can be very important to her health. This handbook offers easy steps and suggestions to help you provide that care.
A health-care provider is likely to be the first professional contact for survivors of intimate partner violence or sexual assault. Evidence suggests that women who have been subjected to violence seek health care more often than non-abused women, even if they do not disclose the associated violence. They also identify health-care providers as the professionals they would most trust with disclosure of abuse.
These guidelines are an unprecedented effort to equip healthcare providers with evidence-based guidance as to how to respond to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women.
Available in Spanish here.
This chapter on domestic violence comes from the "The mental health manual for primary care workers", distributed by PAHO's Expanded Textbook and Instructional Materials Program (PALTEX). It offers a synthesis of the principal practical elements required for primary care workers to address intimate partner violence. It is only available in Spanish at this time.
This report, produced by the Pan American Health Organization, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, highlights that intimate partner and sexual violence against women is widespread in all Latin American and the Caribbean countries where survey data are available.
Summarypdf English | pdf Spanish
The 186 page report presents a comparative analysis of data from 13 nationally representative surveys from the region. The 122 tables and graphs present illustrate what is known about the prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and attitudes towards violence against women in these countries-including violence by intimate partners and sexual violence by any perpetrator.
This is the first time that nationally-representative data have been analyzed and presented in a single comparative format that allows readers a snapshot of what is known about violence against women across many different countries in the Region.
The report aims to raise awareness of violence against women within the LAC Region and around the world as a public health problem and a violation of human rights. By making it easier for readers to access comparable data on the prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and attitudes about violence against women, the authors hope to motivate decision-makers to invest more resources in evidence-based prevention and response strategies.
About the tool
The programming tool provides evidence-summaries for 16 programming approaches for preventing and responding to violence against women in the context of the HIV epidemic.
The tool is aimed at
- managers of national HIV programmes from relevant line ministries;
- national and international nongovernmental organizations and community-based organizations;
- UN agencies and programmes; and
- institutions conducting intervention research and providing technical support for violence against women and HIV programmes
Four areas where changes needs to happen
- empowerment of women through integrated, multi-sectoral approaches;
- transforming social and cultural norms related to gender;
- integrating violence against women and HIV services; and
- promoting and implementing laws and policies related to violence against women, gender equality and HIV
A key feature of this tool is an inter-active programming wheel that summarizes the 16 ideas and the core values that must guide all programming on violence against women.
A growing social and political concern that has guided several studies in the field of masculinities relates to why men in Latin America (and globally) are the majority of perpetrators of violent acts that endanger women, children and other men. Masculine socialization and rigid norms of traditional masculinities, among other factors, promote and sustain violence in social, occupational, familial and relationship contexts. In certain contexts, like gangs or peer groups, many of these behaviors and practices reinforce masculine violence patterns. Men's violence is also associated with other negative behaviors, such as alcohol or the use of weapons, that facilitate or potentiate violence (WHO, 2003).
Violence against women is a prevalent form of masculine violence, affecting 1 out of every 3 women globally. In this document, authors use data from the "International Men and Gender Equality Survey" (IMAGES) from Brazil, Chile and Mexico to explore the risk factors associated with men's use of violence against women. The objective of this publication is to facilitate access to regionally-specific data on violence against women in the region of Latin America in order to advance evidence-based strategies to prevent and address violence against women in the region.
The WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, and Department of Reproductive Health and Research, have prepared an infographic displaying the prevalence and health and social consequences of violence against women, and what the health sector can do to address this public health problem. The infographic is targeted at policy makers and professionals working in the health sector and other relevant sectors.