More than one in four women experience some form of domestic violence before the age of 50, an extensive new study has found.
The global study published in The Lancet includes data from 366 smaller studies carried out in 161 different countries. In total, it includes responses from two women million, of whom 27% said they had been abused by a male partner.
It covers any violence that manifests as "physically, sexually, and psychologically harmful behaviours in the context of marriage, cohabitation, or any other form of union, as well as emotional and economic abuse and controlling behaviours".
Nearly one in seven women said they had been abused by a male partner in this way during the previous 12 months.
The study also found that "this kind of violence starts early". Nearly a quarter (24%) of women aged between 15 and 19 said they had already experienced it at least once, while 26% aged between 19 and 24 said the same.
The global study covers the period from 2000 to 2018, so it doesn't include women abused by their male partner during the pandemic lockdowns. In April 2020, just weeks after the UK entered its first lockdown, it was reported that calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline had risen by 49%.
The study's senior author, Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno, said progress made over the last two decades is "grossly insufficient" to meet UN Women's international target of eliminating violence against women by 2030.
“Although this study took place before the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers are alarming and research has shown the pandemic exacerbated issues leading to intimate partner violence such as isolation, depression and anxiety, and alcohol use, as well as reducing access to support services,” she said.
“Preventing intimate partner violence from happening in the first place is vital and urgent. Governments, societies and communities need to take heed, invest more, and act with urgency to reduce violence against women, including by addressing it in post-Covid reconstruction efforts."
If you are experiencing abuse, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, or visit Refuge. If you are in immediate danger, please call the police on 999.