Violence against women is the most pervasive
yet least recognized human rights violation in the
world. It also is a profound health problem, sapping
women’s energy, compromising their physical
health, and eroding their self-esteem. In addition
to causing injury, violence increases women’s
long-term risk of a number of other health problems,
including chronic pain, physical disability,
drug and alcohol abuse and depression. Women
with a history of physical or sexual abuse are also
at increased risk for unintended pregnancy, sexually
transmitted infections (STIs), and adverse
Despite its high costs, almost every society in
the world has social institutions that legitimize,
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obscure and deny abuse. The same acts that would
be punished if directed at an employer, a neighbor,
or an acquaintance often go unchallenged when
men direct them at women, especially within the
For over two decades women’s advocacy groups
around the world have been working to draw more
attention to the physical, psychological, and sexual
abuse of women and to stress the need for action.
They have provided abused women with shelter,
lobbied for legal reforms, and challenged the
widespread attitudes and beliefs that support violent
behavior against women w1x.
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