Sexual Violence by an Intimate Partner
English: % of women aged 15 - 49 who experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner in the past 12 months
French: % de femmes âgées de 15 à 49 ans ayant subi des violences sexuelles de la part d’un partenaire intime au cours des 12 derniers mois
Portuguese: % de mulheres com idades entre 15 e 49 anos que sofreram de violência sexual por um parceiro íntimo nos últimos 12 meses
Czech: % žen ve věku 15 - 49 let, které během posledních 12 měsíců byly svým partnerem nuceny k sexu
What is its purpose?
Freedom from violence is a critical aspect of women’s empowerment and greater gender equality. This indicator measures the proportion of women who in the past 12 months experienced sexual violence from their current or previous intimate partner. Considering how sensitive the collection of the required data is, this indicator should be used only in interventions that are specifically addressing the prevention and response to sexual violence.
How to Collect and Analyse the Required Data
Collect the following data by conducting individual interviews with a representative sample of women aged 15 - 49 years:
RECOMMENDED SURVEY QUESTIONS (Q) AND POSSIBLE ANSWERS (A)
Q: Have you ever had an intimate partner? By intimate partner I mean someone whom you married or with whom you lived at any point in your life.
A: yes / no / did not respond
(ask the following questions only if the previous answer is YES)
Introduction: When two people marry or live together, they usually share both good and bad moments. I would now like to ask you some questions about the intimate partners you had in the course of your life. If anyone comes near us I will change the topic of our interview. I would again like to assure you that your answers will be kept secret, and that you do not have to answer any questions that you do not want to. May I continue?
A0: the respondent provided consent / the respondent refused to continue
Q1: In the past 12 months, has your current or previous partner physically forced you to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to?
Q2: In the past 12 months, did you ever have sexual intercourse you did not want because you were afraid of what your partner might do?
Q3: In the past 12 months, did your current or previous partner ever force you to do something sexual that you found degrading or humiliating?
A1-3: yes / no / did not respond
In all instances where the answer is YES, it is recommended (though not required) that you ask also the following question:
Q: In the past 12 months, would you say that this has happened once, a few times or many times?
A: once / a few times / many times
To calculate the indicator’s value:
1) exclude those respondents who did not report any incidence of sexual violence but refused or could not respond to one or more questions
2) divide the number of the remaining respondents who replied “yes” to one or more of the questions (Q1-3) by the total number of respondents (do not count those you excluded in step 1)
3) multiply the result by 100
Disaggregate the data by the respondent’s age group and other factors depending on the local context.
1) Measuring the prevalence of sexual violence is very sensitive and poses risks to the respondent as well as to the enumerator. Furthermore, women might find it difficult or not be willing to report on the incidence of sexual violence. As a very minimum, adopt the following measures:
- read and apply the Ethical and Safety Guidelines for Implementing the DHS Domestic Violence Module (see below)
- ensure that all enumerators are women that were trained in the principles of gender-sensitive interviewing and are not from the same communities as the interviewees
- instruct the enumerators to ensure that the interviews are conducted in a place where no one else can hear or observe the respondent (even from a neighbouring room or from behind a wall); if the enumerators cannot ensure complete privacy, they should skip this part and move to less sensitive parts of the questionnaire
- instruct the enumerators to re-assure the respondent about the confidentiality of her answers
- train the enumerators to quickly switch the topic if during the interview someone comes near the respondent
- train the enumerators in how to close the topic and move to the next part of your survey in a sensitive manner
- provide the enumerators with the lists of service-providers (and their services) that can provide support to respondents experiencing domestic violence
- ensure that there is emotional support available for the enumerators
2) Ensure that the enumerators and respondents understand that the questions are trying to capture the proportion of women who have experienced abuse from an intimate partner in the past 12 months. However, that partner may not be 1) the current partner or 2) someone she has been with in the past 12 months. It can be any intimate partner the respondent had at any point in the course of her life. For example, the partner can be someone she no longer lives with but he still abuses her.
3) Consider including an additional question assessing whether the woman that suffered from physical violence has told someone about it and if so, to whom (use general categories, such as “a friend” – do not ask about specific people or names).
4) If required for your project’s M&E purposes, you can extend the reference period - for example, to “in the past 2 years” (however, the standard period commonly used in surveys is 12 months).
5) According to the existing data*, the proportion of women reporting sexual violence from an intimate partner in the past 12 months ranges in different countries from 1% to 44%. In order to accurately record even smaller changes in the baseline and endline values of this indicator, consider using a larger than usual sample size (so that the margin of error is not larger than 3-4 percentage points).
6) The Sustainable Development Goals use an indicator that combinates both physical and sexual violence: % of girls and women 15-49 who have experienced physical or sexual violence [by an intimate partner] in the last 12 months.
7) The guidance for this indicator was developed based on WHO (2005) Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women and Oxfam (2017) Measuring Women’s Empowerment.
* data source:
WHO (2005) Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women
Access Additional Guidance
- WHO (2005) Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women (.pdf)
- The DHS Program (0) Ethical and Safety Guidelines for Implementing the DHS Domestic Violence Module (.pdf)
- Oxfam (2017) A ‘How To’ Guide to Measuring Women’s Empowerment (.pdf)
- MEASURE Evaluation (2008) Violence Against Women and Girls: A Compendium of M&E Indicators (.pdf)