More than a third of all women worldwide (35.6%) will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, usually from a male partner, according to the first comprehensive study of its kind, from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report reveals the shocking extent of
attacks on women from the men with whom they share their lives, with 30% of woman being attacked by partners. It also finds that a large proportion of the women's murders - 38% - are carried out by intimate partners.
"These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions," said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO. "We also see that the world's health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence."
The highest levels of violence against women are in Africa, where nearly half of all women - 45.6% - will suffer physical or sexual violence. In Europe, the proportion is 27.2%. Yet wealthier nations are not necessarily always safer for women - a third of women in high income countries (32.7%) will experience violence at some stage in their life.
Nearly half of the women who suffer violence - 42% - are injured as a result, which can bring them to the attention of healthcare staff. That, says the report, is often the first opportunity for the violence in the home to be detected and for the woman to be offered help. Violence has a profound effect on women's health.
The two reports from the WHO -one on the prevalence of violence and the other offering guidelines on helping women to healthcare staff -are the work of Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno, lead specialist in gender, reproductive rights, sexual health and adolescence at WHO, and Professor Charlotte Watts, an epidemiologist who specialises in gender.