Sexual violence against women: the scope of the problem.Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2013 Feb; 27(1):3-13.BP
Rape and sexual violence occur in all societies, and cut across all social classes. Prevalence estimates of rape victimisation range between 6 and 59% of women having experienced sexual abuse from their husbands or boyfriends in their lifetime. Two population-based studies from South Africa have found that 28% and 37% of men, respectively, have perpetrated rape. Estimates of rape perpetration from high-income countries seem to be lower than those from low- and middle-income countries; however, current data make it impossible to confirm this. Women and girls are much more likely to be the victims and men the perpetrators and, in most instances, the perpetrator is known to the victim. Children are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, with girls being at greater risk, especially while at school and at home. High rates of child sexual abuse are emerging from the research, with an increasing understanding of the effect of child sexual abuse on later perpetration and victimisation, highlighting the importance of primary prevention for sexual violence to address childhood exposures to violence. Much of our knowledge about sexual violence has historically been based on research undertaken in high-income countries. This, however, is changing with the emergence of good-quality studies from other settings, particularly in Africa, alongside an increasing number of multi-country studies looking at interpersonal and sexual violence. Most countries lack population data on perpetration of sexual violence, across all categories, including children, and a major gap exists in research on sexual violence among sub-groups and populations. Much of the existing research has limitations that affect cross-study comparability, owing to differences in definitions, research tools, methods and sampling used. Improved research is essential. Research priorities for understanding the magnitude of sexual violence prevalence include assessment of the prevalence and patterns of sexual violence victimisation and perpetration in a range of settings, across a range of acts of sexual violence, in men and women, in adults and children, using methodologies based on best practice in gender-based violence research and standard measures of different forms of sexual violence; research on the social context of sexual violence perpetration and victimisation by both men and women; and methodological research to measure sexual violence for particular population sub-groups or violence types, such as child perpetrators or young child victims, or sexual harassment at work and school.