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WHO Domestic Violence Study

25 November 2005

WHO Domestic Violence Study Includes University of Auckland Data

New Zealand women experience higher lifetime rates of intimate partner violence than women in Japan, Brazil and Serbia, according to a major World Health Organisation Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence released today.

The multi-country WHO study collected data from 24,000 women in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand and the United republic of Tanzania between 2000 and 2003.

In New Zealand, a replication of the WHO study - funded by the Health Research Council - was carried out by a team from the School of Population Health at The University of Auckland.

Principal investigator Dr Janet Fanslow said while developing countries who participated in the WHO survey reported even higher rates of lifetime experience of violence by intimate partners (e.g., Peru, Ethiopia, Bangladesh), New Zealand's rates indicate that one out of three women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence by a partner.

"Six percent of New Zealand women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the 12 months prior to the survey.

"While this is relatively low in terms of figures reported in other countries (range: 4% reported by women in Japan and Serbia to 54% reported by women in Ethiopia), it still indicates that approximately one in 20 New Zealand women have experienced this type of violence recently.

"Given the high correlation between experience of intimate partner violence and current and long-term health problems, as well as detrimental effects to children, these statistics suggest that urgent action is needed to address the issue, particularly in terms of primary prevention.

"Reasons for the variation in rates between countries have yet to be determined. A possible explanation for the relatively low rate of violence in New Zealand within the past 12 months is the social circumstances here that make it relatively easy on the international scale, to leave violent relationships," said Dr Fanslow.

The New Zealand study used questions comparable to those in the WHO study, to assess women's experiences of physical and sexual violence by current or former male partners. However, the age range assessed by the New Zealand study (18-49 years) was slightly different to that used by the other countries in the WHO Multi-Country study (15- 49 years).


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