Women's and men's reports of past-year prevalence of intimate partner violence and rape and women's risk factors for intimate partner violence: A multicountry cross-sectional study in Asia and the Pacific

PLoS Med. 2017 Sep 5;14(9):e1002381. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002381. eCollection 2017 Sep.


Background: Understanding the past-year prevalence of male-perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) and risk factors is essential for building evidence-based prevention and monitoring progress to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.2, but so far, population-based research on this remains very limited. The objective of this study is to compare the population prevalence rates of past-year male-perpetrated IPV and nonpartner rape from women's and men's reports across 4 countries in Asia and the Pacific. A further objective is to describe the risk factors associated with women's experience of past-year physical or sexual IPV from women's reports and factors driving women's past-year experience of partner violence.

Methods and findings: This paper presents findings from the United Nations Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. In the course of this study, in population-based cross-sectional surveys, 5,206 men and 3,106 women aged 18-49 years were interviewed from 4 countries: Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Sri Lanka. To measure risk factors, we use logistic regression and structural equation modelling to show pathways and mediators. The analysis was not based on a written plan, and following a reviewer's comments, some material was moved to supplementary files and the regression was performed without variable elimination. Men reported more lifetime perpetration of IPV (physical or sexual IPV range 32.5%-80%) than women did experience (physical or sexual IPV range 27.5%-67.4%), but women's reports of past-year experience (physical or sexual IPV range 8.2%-32.1%) were not very clearly different from men's (physical or sexual IPV range 10.1%-34.0%). Women reported much more emotional/economic abuse (past-year ranges 1.4%-5.7% for men and 4.1%-27.7% for women). Reports of nonpartner rape were similar for men (range 0.8%-1.9% in the past year) and women (range 0.4%-2.3% in past year), except in Bougainville, where they were higher for men (11.7% versus 5.7%). The risk factor modelling shows 4 groups of variables to be important in experience of past-year sexual and/or physical IPV: (1) poverty, (2) all childhood trauma, (3) quarrelling and women's limited control in relationships, and (4) partner factors (substance abuse, unemployment, and infidelity). The population attributable fraction (PAF) was largest for quarrelling often, but the second greatest PAF was for the group related to exposure to violence in childhood. The relationship control variable group had the third highest PAF, followed by other partner factors. Currently married women were also more at risk. In the structural model, a resilience pathway showed less poverty, higher education, and more gender-equitable ideas were connected and conveyed protection from IPV. These are all amenable risk factors. This research was cross-sectional, so we cannot be sure of the temporal sequence of exposure, but the outcome being a past-year measure to some extent mitigates this problem.

Conclusions: Past-year IPV indicators based on women's reported experience that were developed to track SDG 5 are probably reasonably reliable but will not always give the same prevalence as may be reported by men. Report validity requires further research. Interviews with men to track past-year nonpartner rape perpetration are feasible and important. The findings suggest a range of factors are associated with past-year physical and/or sexual IPV exposure; of particular interest is the resilience pathway suggested by the structural model, which is highly amenable to intervention and explains why combining economic empowerment of women and gender empowerment/relationship skills training has been successful. This study provides additional rationale for scaling up violence prevention interventions that combine economic and gender empowerment/relationship skills building of women, as well as the value of investing in girls' education with a view to long-term violence reduction.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Battered Women / statistics & numerical data
  • Cambodia / epidemiology
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Men
  • Middle Aged
  • Papua New Guinea / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Sri Lanka / epidemiology
  • Women
  • Young Adult