New study focuses on intimate partner violence toward women with a disability

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Cheyu Sarah Zhang
Cheyu “Sarah” Zhang, PhD in Public Health student

Male perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) against women is a worldwide public health problem. According to the World Health Organization more than one in four women who have been in a relationship report having experienced IPV. Prior research has focused on the prevalence of IPV in societies with higher acceptance of social norms that support IPV. 

Similarly, previous research has suggested that women with a disability may have higher levels of IPV than women without a disability. However, there is not much research about why women with a disability experience higher rates of IPV. 

In an analysis of nine countries using nationally representative data from the Demographic Health Survey, PhD in Public Health student Cheyu “Sarah” Zhang found that male partners of disabled women are more likely to endorse attitudes indicative of high IPV acceptance than male partners of non-disabled women. A similar pattern was also observed for disabled women, where compared to non-disabled women, women with disabilities were more likely to endorse attitudes indicative of IPV acceptance.  

“This study is among the first studies regarding the effect of women's disability on their and their male partners' IPV acceptance using couples' data,” said Zhang. “The result indicates that IPV acceptance may be an important factor underlying the relationship between disability and potential IPV experiences. This may inform future interventions that aim to reduce IPV, especially among the disabled population.” 

Jhumka Gupta, associate professor in the Department of Global and Community Health, mentored Zhang throughout the project and is senior author on the study. PhD students Samantha Kanselaar and assistant professor Jaffer Zaidi in the Department of Global and Community Health, also participated in the study.  

This was a cross-sectional study drawn from nationally representative samples. Datasets were compiled and analyzed from: Cambodia (2014), Haiti (2016–17), Mali (2018), Pakistan (2017–18), Rwanda (2019–20), Senegal (2019), South Africa (2016), Timor-Leste (2016), and Uganda (2016). 

Jhumka Gupta
Jhumka Gupta, associate professor in the Department of Global and Community Health

In Mali (79.84%) and Timor-Leste (78.82%), women reported the highest proportion of IPV acceptance. Women in South Africa reported the lowest proportion of IPV acceptance (5.35%). Similar reporting patterns of IPV acceptance were also observed for male partners (highest in Timor-Leste at 55.82% and lowest in South Africa at 5.40%). Pooled estimates were also calculated 

Study findings underscore the importance of the inclusion of disabled women and their male partners in future research and interventions regarding IPV prevention 

“The association between women's disability and acceptance towards intimate partner violence among women and their male partners: A multi-country analysis” was published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics in April 2023. 

No external funding supported this study.