One in four women in Iceland have been raped or subjected to attempted rapes, and the same proportion have been physically assaulted, at some point in their lives. These are the first results of an ongoing research project, The Icelandic Stress-And-Gene-Analysis (SAGA) Cohort.
Kjarninn reports that the research project, conducted by scientists at the University of Iceland, was launched last spring. 23,000 women have taken part in the research thus far, with the aim of getting up to 50,000 women to participate. All women in Iceland aged 18 or older are invited to participate.
Unnur Valdimarsdóttir and Arna Hauksdóttir, both professors of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Iceland, say that the results have been fairly even across women of all ages, locations in Iceland and education level. Unnur believes there are a number of possible explanations for the rather high proportion of women who reported being subjected to sexual violence.
“It is possible that women with trauma to report choose to take part in the research, but on the other hand, in the wake of an opening discussion on gender-based violence, which manifested in the #MeToo movement, more women will maybe re-evaluate their experiences,” she said. “It is also possible that this high proportion reflects the real frequency of trauma amongst women in Iceland. More data from more women and examination of the results in the coming months will bring that to light.”
At the same time, 1 in 4 is actually lower than the global proportion. UN Women estimates that 35% of women “have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.” In this context, the data so far from SAGA Cohort may indicate a lower incidence of sexual violence against women in Iceland than the global average.
This month, some 60,000 women across the country will be invited to take part in the research. Arna adds that good participation in the study in crucial, whether the women responding have experienced a great deal, very little, or no trauma at all. “It is extremely important to create solid scientific knowledge of this shadowy part of the female experience,” she says.