Incidence of sexual violence among women, risk groups and attitudes in Estonia

Kai Part, Made Laanpere, Hedda Lippus

A population-based questionnaire survey demonstrated that sexual violence, including rape, is widespread in Estonia. In the group of 16–44-year-old women in Estonia, 16% of the respondents had experienced types of sexual violence studied. Both women and men experience sexual violence in Estonia, but the majority of victims are women. The most vulnerable group is young women. The perpetrator of sexual violence is usually one’s partner or a person known to the victim. A notable percentage of the respondents (men more than women, ethnicities other than Estonian more than Estonians) associated sexual violence primarily with sexual intercourse and other contact-based sexual activities against the victim’s will, but did not consider violence perpetrated by one’s spouse/partner or non-contact types of sexual violence to be sexual violence. Attitudes blaming the victim were widespread. For example, a significant number of respondents believed the victim of rape to be (partly) responsible for the crime if she had consumed alcohol. They also believed that after hugging and kissing a woman should no longer refuse sex. Such attitudes may lead to a situation where the majority of victims will not report the sexual violence and will not seek help.