Experience of violence in Australia

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Experience of violence in Australia

Posted 13/12/2013 by Joanne Simon-Davies

On the 11th of December 2013, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the results of its 2012 Personal Safety Survey (PSS). This much anticipated survey on the safety of Australians aged 18 years and over is the second release of the PSS, with the first being released in 2005. The PSS collects information about the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women since the age of 15 and includes their experiences of violence in the 12 months prior to the survey. Information has been collected on: domestic violence by a current or previous partner; lifetime experiences of stalking; physical and sexual abuse and the general feeling of safety.

The ABS defines violence in this context as

“any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. Physical assault involves the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Physical threat is an attempt to inflict physical harm or a threat or suggestion of intent to inflict physical harm, made face-to-face where the person believes it is able to and likely to be carried out. Sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, and any attempts to do this. Sexual threat is the threat of an act of a sexual nature, made face-to-face where the person believes it is able to and likely to be carried out.”

Selected key results from the survey
Note: Where a person had experienced both physical and sexual violence, they were counted separately for each type of violence they have experienced but counted once in the aggregated totals.

Experience of violence in the previous 12 months
  • Men were more likely to experience violence than women. Of those aged 18 years and over, 8.7% of men (737,100) and 5.3% of women (467,300) had experienced violence sometime in the last 12 months. Both men and women were more likely to experience physical violence than sexual violence. However, far more women experience sexual violence than men. Of those who had experienced violence in the last 12 months:
    • 98% of men (723,400) and 86% of women (403,200) had experienced physical violence
    • 6% of men (41,000) and 22% of women (102,400) had experienced sexual violence.
  • In the 12 months prior to the survey, fewer men experienced violence in 2012 (8.7%) compared to 2005 (10.8%). For women there was no statistically significant change from 2005 to 2012, with 5.8% of women experiencing violence in 2005 compared to 5.3% in 2012.
  • Young people aged 18 to 24 years were the most likely age cohort to have experienced violence in the last 12 months. According to the ABS report, one in ten young women and nearly one in four young men experienced some form of violence in 2012.
Experience of violence since the age of 15 
  • According to the ABS
    “men aged 18 years and over were more likely to have experienced violence since the age of 15 by a stranger than a known person”
  • 49% (4,148,000) of men and 41% of women (3,560,600) aged 18 years and over had experienced violence at some point in their lives since the age of 15.
  • An estimated 3,018,700 men did not know the perpetrator. For those men who did know their perpetrator (2,255,900) it was most likely an acquaintance or neighbour (873,600), friend (402,000) or previous partner (336,300). However women were far more likely to experience violence by a known person (3,106,500), either by a partner (1,479,900) (current or previous) or boyfriend/girlfriend/date (990,700).
  • Women were much more likely to experience sexual violence than men. Women that had experienced violence since the age of 15, 48% had experienced sexual violence, compared to 9% of men. 
  • Women who have experienced sexual violence the perpetrator was known in most situations, for example—boyfriend/girlfriend/date (517,400), a partner (426,200), or acquaintance/neighbour (321,300).
Experience of partner emotional abuse since the age of 15
  • According to the ABS, emotional abuse
    “occurs when a person is subjected to certain behaviour or actions that are aimed at preventing or controlling their behaviour with the intent to cause them emotional harm or fear”
    This can include manipulation, control, isolation or intimidation and can include psychological, social, economic and verbal abuse.
  • The survey estimates, 3,363,700 Australians had suffered emotional abuse from a partner (either current or previous), 36% were male (1,221,100) and 64% were female (2,142,600). 
  • In the last 12 months, 646,700 people experienced emotional abuse. Women were almost twice as likely to experience emotional abuse with 62% of women and 37% of men reported as experiencing emotional abuse.

For further information and statistics:

Personal Safety, Australia, 2012 (cat no. 4906.0)
Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (cat no. 4906.0)
Women’s Safety, Australia, 1996 (cat no 4128.0)


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