On 25 August at 14:00 Hedda Lippus-Metsaots will defend her doctoral thesis “Interpersonal violence in Estonia: prevalence, impact on health and health behaviour”.
Professor Helle Karro, University of Tartu
Lecturer Made Laanepere, University of Tartu
Associate Professor Lena Henriksen, Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway)
The prevalence of interpersonal violence is associated with many different factors, such as gender equality, attitudes towards violence and laws regulating it. Some of these areas are still problematic in Estonia, for example, we have the highest pay gap in the EU and victim blaming attitudes are still very common.
Exposure to violence causes pain and suffering to the victims and has been associated different negative health consequences. Unfortunately, in comparison with many other developed countries, little research on violence has been carried out in Estonia. In order to understand how common violence in Estonia is and how it affects people, we analysed the responses of nearly 3000 men and women aged 18–44 from two population-based surveys.
We found that interpersonal violence in Estonia is very common. Over half of men and women had been exposed to at least one form of violence and most often it took place in childhood. Although it is often thought that childhood is the safest period in life, the reality is unfortunately often quite the opposite. Children cannot choose the environment where they grow up, neither they have the means to leave violent situation.
When analysing risk factors for violence we learned, that among both men and women exposure to violence in childhood was strongly associated with higher risk for exposure to violence in adulthood. This shows the importance of the social environment where children grow up. Similarly to other countries, in Estonia men had been victims of physical violence alone; women were more often exposed to combinations of different forms of violence. Women were also more often victims of sexual violence, during lifetime the prevalence was 4.4% among men and 22.9% among women. We found that those exposed to violence had more often poor health and limited daily activities due to chronic disease. They also had more often feelings of depression, dissatisfaction with life, were more worried about their sexual life and had painful intercourses. With more exposures to different forms of violence, the negative impact on health increased.
In an ideal world, we should quickly abolish all social norms and attitudes which justify and allow the occurrence of violence. In reality, this work takes time and needs consistent effort. This research draws attention to the most problematic aspects, which we should take into account when planning future violence prevention strategies and interventions for violence survivors.