Physical violence against women remains a major public health challenge and human rights issue Devries et al., 2013. Globally, more than 35% of women experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner physical violence García-Moreno et al., 2013. Physical violence against women is an important risk factor for women’s poor health resulting in a wide range of short and long-term health consequences, including the incidence of unintended pregnancies Jeyaseelan et al., 2007; Pallitto et al., 2013, increased risk of reproductive and sexually transmitted infections García-Moreno et al., 2013; Durevall and Lindskog, 2015 and mental health issues for the victim Skogstad et al., 2014; WHO, 2014. Physical violence also has a significant impact on the family of abused women Widom et al., 2014 and considerable negative externalities such as psychological stress even for those witnessing the violence Geffner, 2014; Schiff et al., 2014.
Although physical violence against women manifests as a worldwide public health concern, up to 70% of women in low- and middle-income countries WHO, 2005 and more than 45% in Africa compared to 32.7% in high-income countries WHO, 2013 experience physical violence. In the Gambia, more than 40% of women aged 15–49 years experienced physical violence in the past 12 months in 2013, of which 24% sustained injuries GBoS/ICF, 2014. Previous studies have indicated that injuries from physical violence against women are perpetrated by known persons including spouses and friends in the home, during the night Hofner et al., 2009; Tingne et al., 2014, injured by fist punching, leg kicking or struck by an object Wong et al., 2014, injury to the head, neck, face and the upper limbs Brennan et al., 2006.
Despite several African countries have documented violence against women Andersson et al., 2007; Abramsky et al., 2011, they seldom use injured victims from physical violence to investigate risk factors for physical violence in women. Thus, identifying risk factors associated with injury from physical violence in women is essential to developing interventions aimed at preventing violence. Commonly identified risk factors for physical violence against women include younger age, low education Trinh et al., 2016; Ahmadi et al., 2017, unemployment status Jeyaseelan et al., 2007, financial dependence Fageeh, 2014, low economic status Doku and Asante, 2015, alcohol consumption Devries et al., 2014, being married Kouyoumdjian et al., 2013 divorced or separated Mohsen et al., 2017, in a polygamous marriage Ali et al., 2014, being previously victimized McCoy et al., 2013; Sapkota et al., 2016 and been abused during childhood or brought up by a single parent Chan, 2014.
While the above-mentioned studies investigated injury patterns and risk factors for physical violence against women; it may be difficult to infer those results into the Gambian context due to differences in socioeconomic, environmental and cultural factors. Accordingly, we conducted a case-control study to determine injury patterns and identify risk factors associated with physical violence among women in the Gambia.