Addressing violence against women worldwide

Violence against women and girls is a global public health problem of epidemic proportions, with an estimated 35% of women and girls experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. The United Nations marks November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and advocates around the world are calling for a series of social, policy and legal changes to help curb such violence. The UCSF Bixby Center has examined the issue of sexual violence and reproductive coercion from multiple angles, generating rigorous evidence that can help inform needed policy changes.

The Bixby Center helped broaden access to emergency contraception (EC), a critical health tool for women following sexual assault. An estimated 7% of women will be sexually assaulted by a stranger, and many more (23%-36%, depending on the region) will experience unwanted sex from an intimate partner. Victims of sexual violence risk unwanted pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted infections, making EC access a health imperative and human right for sexual assault survivors. Bixby Center research has increased women’s access by helping to make EC available without a prescription and expanding the range of EC options.

Currently, the Bixby Center is studying sexual and reproductive empowerment, exploring how women’s agency affects their ability to control contraceptive use and pregnancy. Our investigators have created a tool to measure women’s reproductive autonomy. Separate research is looking at the effect of male coercion on women’s reproductive and sexual health decisions. For example, research from the Bixby Center provides an in-depth look at the ways women describe their partners’ influence in their decisions regarding abortion and women’s risk of violence from their male partners following an abortion. While violence against women and girls continues to be a pandemic, improved prevention and treatment measures are possible and essential. The UCSF Bixby Center supports the efforts of our researchers and partners to provide sexual assault survivors with the care they need.