Domestic violence against women worldwide has assumed “epidemic proportions’’ with one in three suffering physical or sexual assault at the hands of a man they know — a current or former partner, according to the World Health Organisation.

Results of a series of studies, released on Thursday, showed that being assaulted by a partner was the most common form of violence suffered by women. In many cases, such violence resulted in death. Nearly 40 per cent of women killed worldwide were victims of intimate partners, researchers said.

“Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” WHO’s Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan warned as the organisation called for health workers to be trained to recognize signs of domestic violence.

It defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or being attacked with a weapon while sexual violence was defined as being physically forced to have sex — or having sex because a woman is afraid of what her partner might do if she refuses.

Women in Africa, West Asia and Southeast Asia are at the greatest risk of suffering domestic violence. Some 37 per cent of women in these regions experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lifetime.

Experts suggested that screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care.

“Over time, if women are coming into a fracture clinic or a pre-natal clinic, they may tell you they are suffering abuse if you ask,” said Sheila Sprague of McMaster University in Canada.

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