Factors associated with experiencing sexual violence among female gender-based violence survivors in conflict-afflicted eastern Ukraine

Ariadna Capasso, Halyna Skipalska, Sally Guttmacher, Natalie G. Tikhonovsky, Peter Navario, Theresa P. Castillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Since 2014, over 1.6 million people have been forcibly displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, 8% of reproductive-aged women in Ukraine had ever experienced sexual violence, compared to 5% in 2007. This increase was driven by non-domestic sexual violence. Our study examined characteristics of women in eastern Ukraine receiving psychosocial services following sexual violence compared to survivors of other forms of gender-based violence. Methods: Intake data collected between February 2016 and June 2017 by psychosocial service providers in five conflict-affected areas of Ukraine from women, aged 15–49, (N = 8525), was analyzed. Descriptive analysis and covariate adjusted logistic and negative binomial regressions were used to identify socioeconomic, incident and access to services factors associated with having experienced sexual violence compared to other forms of violence. Results: Among this sample of survivors receiving psychosocial services, 2.6% (n = 220) reported experiencing sexual violence. A majority of sexual violence acts reported were committed by non-domestic perpetrators (61.4%); followed by intimate partners (25.9%). Almost half of sexual violence cases occurred at home (49.1%). Experiencing sexual violence was positively associated with being younger, single and internally displaced, and negatively with engaging in unpaid labor, such as childcare. Women who experienced sexual violence delayed seeking care by 4 days compared to other gender-based violence survivors. Sexual violence survivors were less likely than physical violence survivors to have reported the incident prior to receiving care (adjusted odds ratio = 0.39; 95% confidence interval = 0.28–0.54). Conclusions: Non-domestic and intimate partner sexual violence were both prevalent in our sample. Compared to survivors disclosing other types of gender-based violence, sexual violence survivors appear to face unique barriers to reporting and accessing timely care. Prevention and outreach programs tailored to the specific vulnerabilities, such as displacement status, and needs of sexual violence survivors in conflict settings are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number789
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Conflict
  • Gender-based violence
  • Humanitarian emergency
  • Intimate partner sexual violence
  • Non-domestic sexual violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Ukraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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