Social representations by health professionals of sexual violence against women: a study in three municipal public maternity hospitals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The purpose of this study was to analyze social representations of sexual violence against women, as constructed and reproduced in prenatal care settings in three municipal maternity hospitals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This qualitative research explored two themes: ideas about and explanations of sexual violence committed against woman. The forty-five interviews conducted with health professionals were examined using thematic content analysis. The results show that social representations of sexual violence against women were associated with ideas of suffering, behavioral disturbances, and forced sexual intercourse. The explanations offered for why this type of violence occurs included gender relations, urban violence, and ascription of blame to the victim. It can be concluded that hegemonic patterns of asymmetrical relations persist, even in the discourse of maternity health professionals, who are the point of reference for attending to victims of sexual violence. Incorporating the analytical category of gender into healthcare professional training could make prenatal care an important gateway for the recognition and management of sexual violence against women.

Violence; Women's Health; Prenatal Care

Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Rua Leopoldo Bulhões, 1480 , 21041-210 Rio de Janeiro RJ Brazil, Tel.:+55 21 2598-2511, Fax: +55 21 2598-2737 / +55 21 2598-2514 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil