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3. Background context of sexual violence

Gender based violence (GBV) – which includes sexual violence - is a significant global public health and societal problem. It has also been recognised as a global human rights issue by the World Health Organisation. Global estimates indicate that 1 in 3 women experience physical/sexual violence in their lifetime. GBV/SV exerts a detrimental impact not only on the lives and health of women, but also those who witness abuse - especially children. GBV/SV has been identified as a large scale problem in SA with recorded estimates that a woman is raped every seventeen seconds. While up to one half of all women have experienced a lifetime history of GBV/SV from a partner.

The impact of GBV/SV on the physical and psychological wellbeing of those who experience abuse is wide ranging. It includes the immediate physical effects for example, physical injury as well as longer term chronic ill health as a result, acute and enduring psychological trauma, mental ill-health, substance and alcohol misuse, self-harm and suicide alongside secondary physiological health issues such as gynaecological, sexual health and gastro-intestinal health problems. For those who experience sexual violence this may include significant harms such as unwanted pregnancy and Health care professionals (HCPs) are well placed to respond to those affected by GBV/SV. It is well evidenced however that HCPs across the spectrum do not respond effectively often due to a lack of knowledge/ professional confidence and their own values and assumptions surrounding GBV/SV.

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