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Abuse affects third of EU women

March 5, 2014

One in three women in the European Union has been physically or sexually assaulted, a new large-scale study has revealed. The report is the most comprehensive of its kind to date both in the bloc and worldwide.

Studie Gewalt gegen Frauen in der EU
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) released the major study Wednesday. The report "shows that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all EU Member States," FRA director Morten Kjaerum said, calling for measures tackling violence against women "to be taken to a new level now."

The agency randomly selected 42,000 women aged 18-74 to interview across the bloc throughout 2012, making it the world's largest report on violence against women to date.

One in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15 and one in 20 has been raped. One in five has experienced physical and or sexual violence by a current or previous partner, according to the report.

The study also found that many instances of abuse are under-reported to authorities. Only 14 percent of women reported their most serious incident of partner violence to police and 13 percent of their most serious non-partner violence.

The FRA report also covered the role played by new technologies in violence against women and found that 20 percent of young women (18-29) have been victims of such cyber-harassment.

The report also said the emotional and psychological consequences of physical and sexual violence "can be long-lasting and deep-seated,” with over a fifth of sexual violence victims suffering from panic attacks and over a third becoming depressed.

Violence by country

There were also large differences between countries of the bloc.

At the top end, 52 percent of women in Denmark were said to have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, while the rate was 47 percent in Finland and 46 percent in Sweden. Germany came in above the EU average with 35 percent having suffered abuse.

At the other end of the scale, the report found that 19 percent of women in Poland had suffered in the same way, followed by Austria (20 percent) and Croatia (21 percent).

hc/dr (AFP, dpa)