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Prevalence of sexual violence among refugees: a systematic review



To synthesize data about the prevalence of sexual violence (SV) among refugees around the world.


A systematic review was conducted from the search in seven bibliographic databases. Studies on the prevalence of SV among refugees and asylum seekers of any country, sex or age, whether in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, were eligible.


Of the 2,906 titles found, 60 articles were selected. The reported prevalence of SV was largely variable (0% to 99.8%). Reports of SV were collected in all continents, with 42% of the articles mentioning it in refugees from Africa (prevalence from 1.3% to 100%). The rape was the most reported SV in 65% of the studies (prevalence from 0% to 90.9%). The main victims were women in 89% of the studies, all the way, especially when still in the countries of origin. The SV was perpetrated particularly by intimate partners, but also by agents of supposed protection. Few studies have reported SV in men and children; the prevalence reached up to 39.3% and 90.9%, respectively. Approximately one-third of the studies (32%) were carried out in refugee camps and more than half (52%) in health services using mental health assessment tools. No study has addressed the most recent migratory crisis. Meta-analysis was not performed due to the methodological heterogeneity of the studies.


SV is a prevalent problem affecting refugees of both sexes, of all ages, throughout the migratory journey, particularly those from Africa. Protection measures are urgently needed, and further studies, with more appropriate tools, may better measure the current magnitude of the problem.

Refugees; Sex Offenses; Rape; Review; Prevalence

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