Feminist organizations were on Wednesday celebrating the publication of a new Europe-wide survey on violence against women, the first of its kind to offer comparable data across the 28 member states and to propose coordinated responses.
But there was little else to cheer, since results show that one in three European women has experienced either physical or sexual assault since the age of 15, representing a total of around 62 million women. In Spain, the proportion was 22 percent.
As for violence at the hands of a current or former partner – generally known as domestic violence – the EU figure was 22 percent, compared with 13 percent in Spain.
The survey, conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), asked 42,000 women aged between 18 and 74 about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence.
What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women’s lives”
“What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women’s lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities,” reads the report.
FRA spokeswoman Blanca Tapia said the survey shows that “women are not safe either at home or at work.”
The survey noted a higher incidence of violence being reported in northern European countries, while figures for Spain, Portugal, Greece and Poland were lower. Survey administrators say this could be tied to greater equality in Scandinavia, where women may feel freer to discuss gender violence than in societies where domestic abuse is still viewed as a private issue that is not to be discussed openly.
“It's not about there being less violence in one country than in another,” agreed Karima Zahi, coordinator of the European Women's Lobby. “In fact it is likely that in places where women are not familiar with this type of survey, fewer cases get reported.”
The survey was conducted following a petition by the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for more information about violence against women in 2010, when the latter was held by Spain.