Objectives: To describe the prevalence of physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse of women, to identify factors associated with increased risk of abuse, to identify health problems and health service use associated with abuse and to describe some aspects of the economic and service implications of violence against women. Methods: Study design and setting: A cross-sectional study set in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province. Sample: One randomly selected woman aged 18-49 living in each of 2 232 households. Sampling: The sample was drawn using stratified, multi-stage, random methods. Response rate: 1306 questionnaires were completed, giving a 90.3% response rate after adjusting for households without an eligible woman. Results: The prevalences of ever having been physically abused by a current or ex-partner were 26.8% (EC), 28.4% (M) and 19.1% (NP). The prevalences of abuse in the last year were 10.9% (EC), 11.9% (M) and 4.5% (NP). The prevalences of rape were 4.5% (EC), 7.2% (M) and 4.8% (NP). Considerable emotional and financial abuse was also reported: e.g. the prevalences of a partner having boasted about or brought home girlfriends in the previous year were 5.0% (EC), 10.4% (M) and 7.0% (NP). The prevalences of physical abuse during a pregnancy were 9.1% (EC), 6.7% (M) and 4.7% (NP). The proportions of abused women who were injured in the year prior to the survey were 34.5% (EC), 48.0% (M) and 60.0% (NP). In each province injuries following abuse by a current or ex-partner resulted in the following numbers of treatment episodes in one year: 121 000 (EC), 74 294 (M) and 93 868(NP). The following numbers of days were lost from employment in the formal or informal sectors: 96 751 (EC), 178 929 (M) and 197 392(NP). Conclusions: This study is the first large scale, community-based prevalence study which has been undertaken in South Africa. The main findings are that: C emotional, financial and physical abuse are common features of relationships and that many women have been raped. C physical violence often continues during pregnancy and constitutes and important cause of reproductive morbidity. C many women are injured by their partners and considerable health sector resources are expended providing treatment for these injuries. C injuries result in costs being incurred in other sectors, notably to the family and the women’s community and to employers and the national economy.