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Violence Against Women Is A 'Global Health Problem Of Epidemic Proportions,' Says WHO

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According to a new WHO report, one in three women experience sexual or physical violence. In this photograph, an Indian member of social organization Our City Our Right holds a candle during a silent protest following the recent gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old college student in Barasat, in Kolkata on June 15, 2013. Activists and social groups in various parts of the state held rallies and protests following the incident. (Image credit: AFP PHOTO/ Dibyangshu SARKAR/Getty Images)
According to a new WHO report, one in three women experience sexual or physical violence. In this photograph, an Indian member of social organization Our City Our Right holds a candle during a silent protest following the recent gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old college student in Barasat, in Kolkata on June 15, 2013. Activists and social groups in various parts of the state held rallies and protests following the incident. (Image credit: AFP PHOTO/ Dibyangshu SARKAR/Getty Images)

About one in three women worldwide experience sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives, according to a World Health Organization report released Thursday.

Put together by the WHO in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, the report says 35 percent of women around the world are victims of sexual or physical violence, and that assault at the hands of an intimate partner is by far the most common form of such violence. In fact, a whopping 30 percent of women globally were found to be domestic violence victims.

“These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, in a statement. “We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”

The study found that 38 percent of all women who were murdered were killed by their intimate partners, and more than 40 percent of domestic violence victims were found to have suffered injuries from those incidents.

In addition, the study showed that women who experience violence at the hands of their intimate partners are more likely to suffer from depression, have alcohol use problems, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Citing the recent assault of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson by her husband, one of the report's authors told Reuters that violence against women is truly a concern for everyone on the planet.

"This is an everyday reality for many, many women," said the author, Charlotte Watts, a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "[I]t's not just poor women, or women in a certain country. This really is a global issue."

Read the full report at the WHO website here.

According to NPR, this WHO report, which considered data from 81 countries, has offered the "first comprehensive look at domestic violence globally."

The report's authors say they hope their findings will help raise awareness about this global problem and will spark the beginnings of change. The first step, they say, will be equipping health care professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to provide the necessary care to victims of violence.

"There is no magic bullet, no vaccine or pill [for rape or abuse]," Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician with the WHO and a co-author of the report, told NPR. "But what we hear from women is that oftentimes, just having an empathetic listener who can provide some practical support and help her get access to some other services --that in itself is an important intervention."

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline

UPDATE: This post has been updated with additional information.

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