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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
3129.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - 11:15 AM

Abstract #114115

Magnitude of sexual violence in Lesotho

Lisanne Brown, MPH, PhD1, Tonya R. Thurman, MPH, PhD student2, Carl Kendall, PhD1, and Jeanette Bloem3. (1) Department of International Health and Development, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2200, New Orleans, LA 70112, 504-988-1978, br71365@tulane.edu, (2) Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal St, Office # 2253, New Orleans, LA 70112, (3) Sechaba Consultants, P.O. Box 0813, Maseru-West 105, Lesotho

Background: Women's ability to protect themselves from HIV infection is hindered by sexual violence. In Lesotho, where nearly a third of the population is infected with HIV, and where gender inequalities, migrant work and cultural acceptance of some forms of non-consensual sex exist, sexual violence may contribute to the HIV epidemic. The goal of the study was to determine the nature and magnitude of sexual violence in Lesotho.

Methods: The qualitative component of the study, six focus group discussions and 21 in-depth interviews, was followed by a random household survey conducted in selected neighborhoods of two urban towns in Lesotho. A total of 1,049 women were interviewed.

Results: Sexual violence is common with 61% of the sample reported having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives of which 22% reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse. Women with lower economic status and limited education were more likely to report sexual violence. Young women are at great risk of sexual assault with 33% of respondents reported having experienced forced sex by 18. Boyfriends were the most common perpetrators of forced sex (66%).

Conclusions: Advocacy efforts to strengthen the legal structure and standardize sentences and procedures could build trust in the system and increase reporting of sexual assault. In addition, increased awareness is clearly needed, especially since many women reported uncertainty about how and where to report a sexual assault. Women often stated that they were unaware of any organizations responsible for assisting survivors of sexual violence.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Keywords: Sexual Assault, Violence Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

Gender-Based Violence: Context, Consequences, and Program Responses

The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA