Half of all women in the European Union have been sexually harassed and one third have been the victim of sexual or physical violence at some point since they were 15 years old.
The majority of victims never reported the violence.
These statistics come from a new report the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which surveyed more than 42,000 women aged 18 to 74 living in EU states in 2012. The findings were presented Wednesday at a conference in Brussels.
“This is no minor issue. We’re talking about mothers, sisters, daughters across the EU who have been abused physically, sexually, and psychologically,” said Morten Kjaerum, FRA’s director. “Now we need change.”
Joanna Goodey, head of FRA’s Department on Freedoms and Justice, said it was an issue of gender equality. “If you see it as a women’s issue, it’s obviously not,” she said.
Conference presenters also called on the EU’s 28 member states to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. “I’m convinced that the Istanbul Convention can help to ensure that women throughout the EU are finally treated not as objects to be dealt with but as subjects with rights,” Kjaerum said.
Malta announced that it will be the fourth country to ratify the convention.
The report is the largest survey conducted by FRA on violence against women, and its findings are in line with similar research. Last year, the World Health Organization found that 35 percent of women worldwide had suffered physical or sexual violence.