Prevalence and health impact of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence among female adolescents aged 15–19 years in vulnerable urban environments: A multi-country study

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Purpose: Globally, adolescent women are at risk for gender-based violence (GBV) including sexual violence and intimate partner violence (IPV). Those in economically distressed settings are considered uniquely vulnerable. Methods: Female adolescents aged 15–19 from Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New Delhi, India; Ibadan, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Shanghai, China (n = 1,112) were recruited via respondent-driven sampling to participate in a cross-sectional survey. We describe the prevalence of past-year physical and sexual IPV, and lifetime and past-year non-partner sexual violence. Logistic regression models evaluated associations of GBV with substance use, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and self-rated health. Results: Among ever-partnered women, past-year IPV prevalence ranged from 10.2% in Shanghai to 36.6% in Johannesburg. Lifetime non-partner sexual violence ranged from 1.2% in Shanghai to 12.6% in Johannesburg. Where sufficient cases allowed additional analyses (Baltimore and Johannesburg), both IPV and non-partner sexual violence were associated with poor health across domains of substance use, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and self-rated health; associations varied across study sites. Conclusions: Significant heterogeneity was observed in the prevalence of IPV and non-partner sexual violence among adolescent women in economically distressed urban settings, with upwards of 25% of ever-partnered women experiencing past-year IPV in Baltimore, Ibadan, and Johannesburg, and more than 10% of adolescent women in Baltimore and Johannesburg reporting non-partner sexual violence. Findings affirm the negative health influence of GBV even in disadvantaged urban settings that present a range of competing health threats. A multisectoral response is needed to prevent GBV against young women, mitigate its health impact, and hold perpetrators accountable.