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Every year, nearly 200,000 women are victims of gender violence in Madrid (Spain)

June 21, 2010

The idea for this study arose some five years ago, when the lack of information regarding gender violence in the Autonomous Community of Madrid and its impact on the health of the women who were victims was confirmed. The study, the first of its kind in Spain, is one of the projects carried out by the Technical Commission on gender violence that is part of the Department of Health of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. It required concrete data on the magnitude of the problem and its deciding factors in order to develop a program of intervention.

According to the data gathered by this study, recently published in the European Journal of Public Health, at least 10% of the women who are, or who have been, in a relationship in the past twelve months, have suffered some type of gender-related violence. Specifically, 8.9% were victims of psychological abuse; 2.4%, were victims of physical violence; and 1.1%, suffered sexual abuse. "In view of the results, 48,000 women in the Community of Madrid had suffered gender-related physical violence during the year before the study, with 150,000 having experienced psychological violence," affirms researcher María Durban, of the UC3M Statistics Department, and she adds that these data may fall short, given that the telepone interviews on which the study is based may underestimate the prevalence of such violence due to the fact that some women are worried about their safety when responding to the questions.

Interpreting the data

Anther conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that psychological violence is less frequent in women between the ages of 25 and 39 and more frequent among separated or divorced women. Given that psychological violence, in general, is a precursor to physical violence, preventive intervention is needed in this context. In the case of physical violence, age is not a factor, whereas being separated or divorced is a risk factor, as is being unemployed. "This may be due to the fact that violent partners tend to isolate women, preventing them from working outside the home," explains Professor María Durban.

As far as socioeconomic factors associated in some way with gender violence, the study indicates that the most important one is related to a woman's occupation. Thus, women whose job requires a university degree have a notably lower degree of risk that other women. The researchers point out that this is not only due to the fact that these women are economically independent, but also because they usually have sufficient social skills to make use of the resources available to them, so that they are more protected against violence than other women.

To prepare this report, the Commission organized a working group in which different experts on gender violence participated. These included psychiatrists, psychologists, mathematicians and specialists in prevention and health promotion, who designed the plan for carrying out the study and evaluating the results of the questionnaire. Then some 2,000 women were interviewed by telephone. The women were between 18 and 70 years old, had lived in the Community of Madrid during the previous year, and had a partner or had been in contact with their former partner in the previous twelve months. During the interviews, they were asked questions regarding the three types of gender violence (psychological, physical and sexual), as well as other questions related to their socio-economic status (occupation, educational level, nationality, etc.).

Professor María Durban collaborated in the analysis of the data that were gathered so that she could analyze them in such a way that reliable conclusions could be obtained. "This is one of the tasks of a statistician: to look for adequate models in order to extract the greatest amount of information possible from a sample", she comments. In this case, multivariate logistic regression models were used in order to predict the prevalance of a specific incident ( in this case, gender violence) based on several variables (socio-economic and demographic factors).

Carlos III University of Madrid

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