OBJECTIVES: This study measured the prevalence, frequency, and severity of physical wife abuse and its risk factors in León, Nicaragua. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a representative sample of 488 women 15 to 49 years of age. RESULTS: The lifetime prevalence of spousal violence was 52% among ever-married women (n = 360). Spousal violence was significantly positively associated with poverty, parity, urban residence, and history of violence in the husband's family. No significant associations were found between spousal violence and women's age, education, marital dependency, or occupation. CONCLUSIONS: Wife abuse constitutes a major public health problem in Nicaragua, requiring urgent measures for prevention and treatment for victims.