Approximately one in four men in certain parts of Asia admit to raping a woman, says a new study, one of the first of its kind. According to the Associated Press, the study was carried out by a coalition of multiple governments and United Nations agencies.

The research group said that the results, as startling as they are, should spark discussion about sexual violence in the region and provide impetus for major campaigns to prevent sexual assaults. The survey was conducted in six countries and was sponsored by South Africa's Medical Research Council with funding provided by U.N. agencies and the governments of Australia, Britain, Norway and Sweden.

“It’s clear violence against women is far more widespread in the general population than we thought,” said study co-author Rachel Jewkes to the AP. The group's findings were published in medical journal The Lancet Global Health on Tuesday.

Researchers cautioned that they were only able to survey six of the region's countries and that they can't speak with authority to whether these rates of assault are common throughout the region. They did say, however, that widespread cultural norms that feature deeply entrenched sexist attitudes contributed to the rate of assault, as well as whether the men themselves were assaulted or abused as children.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that according to its research, one third of women worldwide admit to being victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

The new research surveyed more than 10,000 men in China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. The word "rape" was not used in the study, but the men were asked whether they had ever forced a woman to have sex when she didn't want to or if she was too drunk or drugged to consent or refuse.

The researchers found that in most places, six to eight percent of men would confess to forcing someone who was not their partner to submit to a sexual act. When wives, partners and girlfriends were factored in, the rate shot up to between 30 and 57 percent.

The countries with the lowest rates of sexual assault against women in the survey were Bangladesh and Indonesia. The highest rate was in Papua New Guinea.

More than 70 percent of the men told researchers that they carried out the act because they felt entitled to do so. Sixty percent said they were just bored and wanted something to do and 40 percent said they did it out of anger and a desire to punish the assaulted woman. Less than a quarter of the men had ever served any jail or prison time for the rapes and only about half said they felt any guilt over it.

[image of despairing woman via]