An image of a battered woman in a  tight-fitting gold-and-white dress has caused a social media storm in South Africa and around the world.

The picture was published in local newspapers on Friday as part of a Salvation Army  campaign highlighting the scourge of the abuse of women in South Africa.

The church group's advert shows a blonde woman wearing a copy of the dress  that recently generated a huge online debate as to whether it was white and  gold or black and blue.

The woman wearing the dress in the Salvation Army picture has dark bruises  visible on her face and body.

The caption reads "Why is it so hard to see black and blue? ... One in six  women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women."

With over 3,000 tweets in the space of an hour, the abuse picture went  viral on Twitter, as users expressed different views about the message behind  the dress.

The Salvation Army website said that within a few hours of its publication  more than 16 million people had seen it via online media.

Although the message struck a chord among many in a country with one of the  highest cases of domestic violence, others were dismissive.

Carin Holmes, Salvation Army spokesperson, said the church was "enormously  encouraged that so many people on social media appear to be passionate about  fighting the abuse of women".

Source: Agencies