Prevalence and Risk Factors of Gender-Based Violence among Female College Students in Awassa, Ethiopia

By Arnold, Dodie; Gelaye, Bizu et al. | Violence and Victims, November 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Prevalence and Risk Factors of Gender-Based Violence among Female College Students in Awassa, Ethiopia


Arnold, Dodie, Gelaye, Bizu, Goshu, Miruts, Berhane, Yemane, Williams, Michelle A., Violence and Victims


We determined the prevalence and risk factors of gender-based violence among 1,330 female college students in Awassa, Ethiopia. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire that collected information on experience with gender-based violence during three time periods (lifetime, since enrolling in college, and current academic year). The lifetime prevalence of gender-based violence was 59.9%; 46.1% of participants reported experiencing gender-based violence since enrolling in college, and the prevalence was 40.3% during the current academic year. Protestant religious affiliation, childhood rural residence, alcohol consumption, combined alcohol and khat (a natural stimulant) consumption, and witnessing domestic violence as a child were risk factors of lifetime experience with gender-based violence. Counseling for women who have experienced violence and awareness-raising programs aimed at preventing gender-based violence are needed in colleges.

Keywords: gender-based violence; university students; Ethiopia; risk factors

Violence against girls and women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality (United Nations, 2006). It is estimated that one in three women globally experience some form of abuse in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood (Garcia-Moreno, Heise, Jansen, Ellsberg, & Watts, 2005; Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise & Watts, 2006; United Nations, 2006; World Health Organization [WHO], 2005). Gender-based violence, generally understood to include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse from intimate partners or nonpartners, is now recognized as an important global public health problem because of its acute and chronic effects on women's health (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2005, 2006; United Nations, 2006; WHO, 2005). Correlates of gender-based violence include demographic, sociocultural, and lifestyle factors, such as a woman's age, number of children, rural residence, witnessing family violence as a child, educational attainment, marital conflict, and personal and partner use of alcohol, tobacco products, and illicit drugs (Hindin & Adair, 2002; Jewkes, Levin, & Penn-Kekana, 2002; Karamagi, Tumwine, Tylleskar, & Heggenhougen, 2006). For instance, available evidence suggests that young women between the ages of 20 and 24 years (corresponding to college age) are at particularly high risk of gender-based violence (Csoboth, Birkas, & Purebl, 2005; Wilt & Olson, 1996). Acute effects of gender-based violence include morbidity and mortality secondary to physical abuse (Karamagi et al., 2006; United Nations, 2006). Long-term effects of gender-based violence include chronic pain, gynecological morbidity, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), obesity, hypertension, smoking, depression, and suicide (Campbell, 2002; Golding, 1999; Kilpatrick, Acierno, Saunders, Resnick, & Best, 2000; Thompson, Kaslow, & Kingree, 2002; Ullman & Brecklin, 2002).

Violence against girls and young women, particularly those in educational settings, has been gaining increasing attention (Brady, 2006; Halpren, Waller, Spriggs & Hallfors, 2006). Studies conducted in the United States (Gross, Winslett, Roberts, & Gohm, 2006) and Hong Kong (Tang, Yik, Cheung, Choi, & Au, 1996) indicate that approximately 25% of female students experience unwanted sexual contacts ranging from kissing and petting to oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse during their college years. Young victims of gender-based violence are known to suffer declines to academic performance and to drop out of school at higher frequencies than those not abused (Kennedy, 2005; Kennedy & Bennett, 2006). A small study in Ethiopia identified school-related gender-based violence as a risk factor of low school enrollment and dropout for girls (Terefe & Mengistu, 1997). Similar findings were reported from a study in Botswana (Rossetti, 2001). …

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