VIENNA – A survey of 42,000 women across the European Union suggests that about one in 10 have been the victims of sexual violence, and half of them reported being raped.
Described as the largest of its kind, the survey released Wednesday by the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights is the most ambitious effort yet to gauge the extent of sexual violence and harassment experienced by the 187 million women in the bloc's 28 nations.
The survey suggests that more than 100 million women were subject to sexual harassment — broadly defined in 11 categories ranging from indecent exposure to inappropriate requests for a date.
Only one woman in seven reported their most serious incident of intimate partner violence to police.
Released on International Women's Day, the EU survey was based on face-to-face interviews with women aged between 15 and 74 in all 28 EU countries. It was conducted from March to September 2012 by a consortium led by the U.N.-affiliated European Institute for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the U.N. Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.
"The report is important as it is often believed that violence against women is not a prevalent issue in Europe ... (but) a problem that only other countries and cultures struggle with," said Heidi Stoeckl of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She wasn't involved in the study.
Among the findings:
— RAPE AND OTHER SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Ten percent of respondents reported some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, with one in 20 saying she had been raped. That would be more than 9 million rape victims when applied to all women between 15 and 74 in the EU.
— CHILDHOOD ABUSE
Twelve percent reported some form of sexual abuse by an adult before age 15, with 1 percent indicating they were forced to have intercourse with an adult.
Some 27 percent reported physical abuse before age 15 at the hands of an adult. Men were perpetrators of 97 percent of cases of sexual violence against children, but in cases of physical violence men slightly outnumbered women.
— ABUSE WITHIN A RELATIONSHIP
Of respondents who are or have been in a relationship with a man, 22 percent reported physical and/or sexual violence from their partner.
Some form of "psychological violence" by a current or previous partner was reported by 43 percent. Examples included humiliation, threats of physical harm and limitations on freedom of movement such as taking away respondents' car keys or locking them in.
Three-fourths of women professionals or managers reported being stalked, compared to 18 percent of women overall. The survey suggested that professionals' positions at work were a factor, and they might be more alert to sexual harassment.
AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report from London.