Exposed to Violence

Abstract: Violence against women is a crime against human rights and a major global public health issue affecting the lives of millions of girls and women worldwide. Exposure to violence poses a threat to health, both in the short and the long term. To minimize the devastating consequences of violence it is central to identify girls and women who have been exposed and to find possible risk factors that may serve as targets for prevention efforts.The main aims of this thesis were to study the prevalence of sexual, physical and psychological violence among women in Sweden and to explore possible associations to violence and polyvictimization during childhood as well as sociodemographic factors.In a family planning unit, 1226 women seeking either termination of pregnancy or contraceptive counseling were recruited to answer questions about different types of violence. Of the women seeking termination of pregnancy, 29% reported experiences of intimate partner violence, compared to 22% of women seeking contraceptive counseling. Of all the women attending a family planning unit, 27% reported lifetime experiences of sexual violence.A survey containing questions about lifetime experiences of sexual, physical and/or psychological violence was sent to a national sample of 10 000 women and 10 000 men. Lifetime experiences of at least one type of severe violence were reported by over 50% of both women and men. Sexual violence was more than three times more common among women compared to men.Rape/attempted rape in adulthood was more common among women who were single, had college-level education and those who had been unemployed or had received social welfare payments.Exposure to sexual, physical and psychological violence in childhood was highly associated with rape/attempted rape in adulthood among the women respondents.Conclusion: Lifetime experiences of violence are common among women in Sweden. Multiple exposure to violence during childhood is the most potent risk factor for exposure to sexual violence in adulthood. The findings underscore the importance of detecting individuals who have been exposed in order to offer help, and may contribute to the development of effective prevention programs, especially among children and adolescents.