Barriers to disclosing and reporting violence among women in Pakistan: findings from a national household survey and focus group discussions

J Interpers Violence. 2010 Nov;25(11):1965-85. doi: 10.1177/0886260509354512. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Worldwide, many women who experience domestic violence keep their experience secret. Few report to official bodies. In a national survey of abuse against women in Pakistan, we examined factors related to disclosure: women who had experienced physical violence telling someone about it. In focus groups, we explored why women do not report domestic violence. Nearly one third of the 23,430 women interviewed had experienced physical violence. Only 35% of them had told anyone about it, almost always someone within their own family. Several personal and family factors were associated with disclosure. Having discussed the issue and feeling empowered to discuss violence were consistent associations. Of the 7,895 women who had suffered physical violence, only 14 had reported the matter to the police. Female focus groups said women who report violence risk their reputation and bring dishonor to the family; women fear reporting violence because it may exacerbate the problem and may lead to separation or divorce and loss of their children. Focus groups of men and women were skeptical about community leaders, councilors, and religious leaders supporting reporting of violence. They suggested setting up local groups where abused women could seek help and advice. There are strong disincentives to reporting violence in Pakistan, which are well known to women. Until better systems for reporting and dealing with reported cases are in place, domestic violence will continue to be a hidden scourge here and elsewhere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Family Characteristics
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pakistan
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • Women / psychology*