Armed conflict and displacement intensify violence perpetrated against women and girls in South Sudan, a new UK aid-funded study released today by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the George Washington University’s (GW) Global Women’s Institute (GWI) reveals.

This is the first large-scale research study of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in several areas of South Sudan that have known war and conflict for many years. The study found that violence against women and girls is pervasive and that up to to 65 percent of those interviewed had experienced either sexual or physical violence in their lifetime by an intimate partner or a non-partner, double the global average and among the highest levels of violence against women and girls in the world.

The most common form of violence reported was abuse within the home, committed by husbands or partners. Over half of the women who had ever had an intimate partner reported domestic violence, whether physical or sexual. In Rumbek, a rural town away from the capital of Juba, this figure rose to 73 percent.

Around half of the women who had experienced violence did not tell anyone or seek medical or psychological help, owing to a combination of cultural stigma and extremely limited access to services. A breakdown in the rule of law has meant that violence is committed with impunity and often without consequence for the perpetrators. The culture of shame, around rape in particular, is so severe that many women fear reporting the crime could lead to further repercussions, such as being forced to marry their rapist.

This new evidence reveals the shocking scale of violence against women and girls in South Sudan.

Violence against women and girls is a serious human rights violation and a significant global health and security issue. The report lays plain the urgent need for humanitarian efforts not only to provide direct services for victims but, crucially, to address the root causes and drivers of domestic and community-level violence and ensure that prevention and empowerment efforts can address deeper long-standing attitudes that perpetuate existing cycles of abuse.