Notwithstanding any sociocultural differences between the study's 24,000 respondents to the contrary, the WHO researchers found that, across the board, there were consistent similarities among the effects of domestic violence on the women who participated in the study. For instance, the press release from WHO includes an observation from a member of the core research team for the study, Dr. Charlotte Watt of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who advised, "The degree to which the health consequences of partner violence in the WHO study are consistent across sites, both within and between countries, is striking. Partner violence appears to have a similar impact on women's health and well-being regardless of where she lives, the prevalence of violence in her setting, or her cultural or economic background" (quoted in Landmark study on domestic violence, 2006, para. 3).
The WHO study's findings also confirmed much of the research to date concerning the adverse effects of domestic violence on female sexual and reproductive health and exacerbation of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The WHO study found that women who lived in sexually or physically abusive relationships were less likely to have a partner who agreed to use a condom, more likely to have undergone at least one induced abortion, and they were more likely to have male partners who maintained multiple sexual partners compared to their non-abused counterparts who did not report any domestic violence (Landmark study on domestic violence, 2006).
In contrast to physical violence where there were weapons and/or fear of force used, the WHO study defined sexual violence as being any of the following three behaviours: (a) being physically forced to have a sexual intercourse against their will; (b) having sexual intercourse because they were afraid of what their partner might do; (c) being forced to do something sexual they found degrading or humiliating (Landmark study on domestic violence, 2006, para. 3). This type of domestic violence was particularly disturbing as it applied to pregnant women. For instance, the WHO study found that in a majority of the countries studied, between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically beaten while they were pregnant, with the vast majority (90%) of these citing the father of the child as the perpetrator and between 25% and 50% of these women had actually been kicked or punched in the abdomen during their pregnancies (Landmark study on domestic violence, 2006).
Some representative quotes from women who were interviewed for the WHO study include the following:
1. I suffered for a long time and swallowed all my pain. That's why I am constantly visiting doctors and using medicines. No one should do this. -- Woman interviewed in Serbia and Montenegro.
2. He got this gun, I don't know from who… And he would tell the girls: 'I'm going to kill your mother… The day will break and your mother will be dead right here…' I would sleep in a locked bedroom and with a dog inside the room with me. My dog. So he would not kill me. -- Woman interviewed in Brazil.
3. He hit me in the belly and made me miscarry two babies - identical or fraternal twins, I don't know. I went to the Loayza hospital with heavy bleeding and they cleaned me up. -- Woman interviewed in urban Peru.
The research showed that in November 2005, the World Health Organization announced the release of a study regarding domestic violence in 10 different countries that was conducted in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, PATH and national research institutions and women's organizations in the participating countries. The WHO study was included interviews with more than 24,000 women from urban and rural regions. The research also showed that the WHO study identified similar adverse healthcare outcomes for the women in the study. Between 25%-50% of the women participating in the WHO study reported experiencing physical domestic violence and between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically beaten even while they were pregnant. Finally, the results of the WHO study highlighted the hidden nature of the problem in the countries studied, indicating that…