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September 12th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

Behind the shocking numbers of the U.N. rape report

When I first read the report, I was aghast.

A U.N. study published this week revealed a truly shocking prevalence of rape across the Asia-Pacific region.

Out of more than 10,000 men surveyed:

  • Nearly a quarter of men interviewed admitted to raping a woman or girl.
  • Nearly half the respondents reported using physical or sexual violence against a female partner.
  • And nearly half of those who admitted to rape, first did so as a teenager with 12% of them under 15 years of age at the time.

The survey was conducted across six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea.

The findings in the report are mind-boggling. So how did the team gather such brutally honest responses?

"The methodology is something that we feel is quite innovative for the study," said James Lang, the Program Coordinator for Partners for Prevention, which carried out the study.

"We used these handheld devices - iPod Touches - to ensure men would answer the questions about the perpetration of violence in a completely anonymous way."

The survey team also never used the word rape. Instead, participants were asked questions such as, "Have you ever forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex?" or "Have you ever had sex with a woman who was too drugged or drunk to indicate whether she wanted it?"

In addition to revealing the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, Lang says the study reaffirms that such violence is preventable.

"To prevent violence, we have to make violence unacceptable," Lang tells me. "We have to change these norms in communities where violence is allowed, as well as norms around gender equality and the subordination of women."

Lang's study has the statistics to shock anyone into recognizing the scourge of sexual violence in the region. Here's hoping it will spur policymakers across Asia into action and end the impunity for men who use violence against women.

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