More than 12 million women and men in the US experience sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence at shockingly high rates every year, according to data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS):
- Every minute, 24 people in the US are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
- Nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped.
- 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 7 men have been the victim of severe physical violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
- More than a quarter of male rape victims were first raped at the age of 10 or younger.
- Approximately 80 percent of female rape victims were first raped at the age of 25 or younger.
- 1 in 6 women has been the victim of stalking in which she “felt very fearful or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed”; technology (text messages, unwanted phone calls) often played a part.
- In the case of women, the “vast majority” of victims of sexual violence knew the perpetrator.
For both women and men, victims of all forms of severe violence were “significantly” more likely to suffer mental and/or physical health problems. Female victims of severe violence reported having asthma at nearly twice the rate of non-victims. Among the health problems that female victims have suffered are irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, frequent headaches, chronic pain and difficulty sleeping. Both women and men who had been victims of severe violence report having frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, limitations on activity and poor physical and mental health.
Women in abusive relationships are also more likely to smoke, according to Lisa James, director of health for San Francisco-based Futures Without Violence in a New York Times assessment of the data. “People who grow up with violence adopt coping strategies that can lead to poor health outcomes,” she points out.
The study’s findings show the need for the importance of prevention that starts early in life, “with the ultimate goal of preventing all of these types of violence before they start,” as Howard Spivak, M.D., director of the Division of Violence Prevention in CDC′s Injury Center, says in a press release.
The study’s findings are based on interviews of about 25 minutes each that were conducted in 2010 with 9,086 women and 7,421 men.
The CDC says that NISVS data can be used to assist in creating policies to prevent such violence. The recent sexual abuse scandals at Penn State University and at Syracuse University have made it all too clear why laws to protect children from abuse, and to ensure that abuse is quickly and routinely reported, are necessary. But it’s also necessary to take a hard look at our society and how women are routinely victimized and sexualized in advertisements, in popular culture and numerous other outlets, and the effects of such tacit allowing of images of violence against women. A Futures Without Violence webpage about domestic, dating and sexual violence describes strategies that need to be implemenedt, including
…teaching the next generation that violence is wrong, training more health care providers to assess patients for abuse, implementing workplace prevention and victim support programs, and making services available to all victims including immigrants and children who witness violence
The NISVS statistics are deeply troubling and should be seen as a wake-up call to make preventing sexual violence a priority that requires constant advocacy.
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