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Rev Saude Publica. 2006 Apr;40(2):256-64. Epub 2006 Mar 29.

[Lifetime prevalence and help seeking behavior in physical marital violence].

[Article in Portuguese]

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Departamento de Psiquiatria, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.



To estimate the lifetime prevalence of physical marital violence among women from a low-income urban community and to investigate help-seeking behavior among victims.


This is the Brazilian pilot cross-sectional study for an international multicenter study conducted in 1999, and is based on a probabilistic cluster sample from the municipality of Embu, São Paulo State. We considered as eligible women aged 15 to 49 years, living with children under age 18 years, who had lived with a husband or partner in lifetime. Information was collected using standardized questionnaires (n=86), administered by trained interviewers. We investigated three types of physical violence: severe (kicking, hitting with fist, beating, and/or use/threat to use weapon), non-severe (slapping in the absence of severe violence), and any type (severe and/or non-severe and/or other physical aggressions spontaneously referred), as well as the type of help sought by the victim (from people or institutions). We calculated frequency and 95% confidence intervals for each type of violence.


Subjects reported slapping (32.6%), hitting with fist (17.5%), beating (15,2%), use/threat to use weapon (13.9%), and kicking (10.6%). Prevalence of marital violence was high: 22.1% (13.3-30.9) for severe violence, 10.5% (4.0-17.0) for non-severe violence, and 33.7% (32.7-34.7) for any type of violence. Victims of severe violence were more likely to seek help from the police (36.8%) or from traditional healers (21.1%) than from health care facilities (5.3%), despite the availability of these services in the area.


Physical marital violence is frequent and severe among the population studied, and help was sought preferentially from the police or traditional healers rather than from health care services.

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