Prevalence of Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse

The number of IPSA victims is high in the U.S. and internationally

by Liz Olson
Woman

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Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse (IPSA) is a violation of women's human rights that occurs globally and across many cultures. Although there is little information on the prevalence of IPSA, limited figures show that the number of victims is high. Studies in the United States show that IPSA causes serious physical and psychological health problems. Victims of IPSA not only live with the memories of their abuse—similar to victims sexually abused by strangers—but they also live with their attacker and the fear of future sexual abuse.

A Global Problem

Globally, intimate partner sexual abuse is condoned in many cultures and some religions. Patriarchy, tradition, culture, and religion make many women feel they must remain silent about such abuse.

IPSA victims are very hesitant to discuss their abuse because many cultures do not consider it a problem. In addition, many countries do not have established laws to respond to IPSA incidents. IPSA remains a serious problem and one of the worst violations of women’s human rights because it is hidden and largely undocumented.

Statistics in the United States show that 10%–14% of women ever married have been raped at least once. A survey on gynecological patients in Norway indicates that 25% of patients have been sexually abused by their intimate partner. In addition, 25% of married women interviewed in the Netherlands stated that they had been forced into unwanted sex with their spouses.

Women's Rights Network

The examples of IPSA prevalence cited above are results from a recent survey released by The Women's Rights Network, a human rights organization. WRN's project entitled "Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: An International Survey and Literature Review," surveyed women’s organizations around the world. Fifty-one diverse organizations responded from 23 countries.

The Musasa Project

A recent international study by the Musasa Project found that in Zimbabwe, 73% of 759 women surveyed, had been forced to have sex with their partners, and 69 of the 759 women said they had unprotected sex with their partner for fear of being beaten or killed if they refused. Over 36% of clients at the National Collective of Rape Crisis & Related Groups of Aotearoa in New Zealand reported being sexually abused by their partners.

Source: National Violence against Women Prevention Research Center (www.vawprevention.org)

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