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updated 12/14/2011 1:52:57 PM ET 2011-12-14T18:52:57

One in 4 women say they were hit hard, kicked or otherwise violently attacked by their intimate partners, according to a government survey released Wednesday that offers startling findings about domestic violence.

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The survey is a new national look at how many women say they've been abused and offers some numbers that are higher than previous reports.

One expert called the report's estimate on rape and attempted rape "extremely high" — with 1 in 5 women saying they were victims. About half of those cases involved intimate partners. But advocates say rape has been vastly underreported in the past and the new numbers are plausible. No documentation was sought to verify the women's claims, which were made anonymously.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report is based on a randomized telephone survey of about 9,000 women.

Among the findings:

  • As many as 29 million women say they have suffered severe and frightening physical violence from a boyfriend, spouse or other intimate partner. That includes being choked, beaten, stabbed, shot, punched, slammed against something or hurt by hair-pulling.
  • That number grows to 36 million if slapping, pushing and shoving are also counted.
  • Almost half of the women who reported rape or attempted rape said it happened when they were 17 or younger.

Several of the CDC numbers are higher than those of other sources. For example, the CDC study suggests that 1.3 million have suffered rape, attempted rape or had sex forced on them in the previous year. That statistic is more than seven times greater than what was reported by a Department of Justice household survey conducted last year.

There may be several reasons for the differences, including how the surveys were done, who chose to participate and how "rape" and other types of assault were defined or interpreted, said Shannan Catalano, a statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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