Violence Against Women

Every family planning provider probably sees many women who have experienced violence. Violence against women is common everywhere, and in some places it is very common. In a recent study of 10 countries more than 1 of every 10 women and up to about 7 of every 10 women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Physical violence includes a wide range of behaviors, including hitting, slapping, kicking, and beating. Sexual violence includes unwanted sexual contact or attention, coercive sex, and forced sex (rape). Violence against women can be psychological, too, such as controlling behavior, intimidation, humiliation, isolating a woman from family and friends, and restricting her access to resources.

Women experiencing violence have special health needs, many of them related to sexual and reproductive health. Violence can lead to a range of health problems including injuries, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, decreased sexual desire, pain during sex, and chronic pelvic pain. For some women, violence may start or become worse during pregnancy, placing her fetus at risk as well. Furthermore, a man's violence or the threat of violence can deprive a woman of her right to make her own choice about whether to use family planning or what method to use. Therefore, providers of reproductive health care may be more likely than other health care providers to see abused women among their usual clientele.

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