Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a devastating report on the prevalence of violence against women in Turkey.

“Turkey's flawed family violence protection system leaves women and girls across the country unprotected against domestic abuse, HRW said.

“Life-saving protections, including court-issued protection orders and emergency shelters, are not available for many abuse victims because of gaps in the law and enforcement failures.”

About 42 percent of women in Turkey over the age of 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a husband or partner at some point in their lives, according to a 2009 survey by a university survey.

For rural women, the figure is almost half (47 percent).

The New York-based human rights organization notes that while Turkey has strong protection laws, spelling out requirements for shelters for abused women and protection orders, the law has not always been applied judges and law enforcement authorities.

With strong laws in place, it is inexcusable that Turkish authorities are depriving family violence victims of basic protections, said Gauri van Gulik, women's rights advocate and researcher at HRW and author of the report.

Turkey has gone through exemplary reform on women's human rights, but police, prosecutors, judges, and social workers need to make the system exemplary in practice, not just on paper.

According to the report, HRW interviewed females from the ages of 14 to 65 who said they had been “raped; stabbed; kicked in the abdomen when pregnant; beaten with hammers, sticks, branches, and hoses to the point of broken bones and fractured skulls; locked up with dogs or other animals; starved; shot with a stun gun; injected with poison; pushed off a roof; and subjected to severe psychological violence.”

HRW discovered that the violence regardless of region, or income and education levels.

Gulik added that the laws put in place to protect Turkish women are largely ignored.

The extreme brutality that family members inflict on women and girls is bad enough, but it is even worse to know that a woman who finds the courage to escape and ask for protection might be insulted and sent right back to her abuser, van Gulik said.

One of the witnesses in the report was a woman in southeastern Turkey named “Selvi” who was forcibly married at age 12 and is now 22.

That first time, [my husband] hit me, he kicked the baby in my belly, and he threw me off the roof, she said. He rapes me all the time, and he checks my fluids ‘down there' to check I didn't have sex [with another man].

According to HRW, Selvi escaped her abusive husband four times to seek help from the police, but was sent back every time.