Prevalence of domestic violence

Around one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and almost one in five have experienced sexual violence. For Indigenous women and girls, this statistic is much higher (National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010-2022).

The 2012 Personal Safety Survey provides information about the nature and extent of violence experienced by men and women since the age of 15. The survey found that 17% of women (1,479,000) and 5.3% of men (448,000) had experienced domestic violence since the age of 15. The survey also found that 25% of women and 14% of men have experienced emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15. There has been no significant change in the proportion of men or women who experienced partner violence since the last Personal Safety Survey in 2005.

The Australian Institute of Criminology published the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS). A total of 6677 women aged between 18 and 69 were interviewed about the violence they had experienced in the 12 months before the survey; five years prior to the survey; and in their lifetime since the age of 16. It was reported that:

  • in the 12 months preceding the survey, 10% of the women surveyed reported experiencing at least one incident of physical and/or sexual violence
  • 57% of the women surveyed reported experiencing at least one incident of physical or sexual violence over their lifetime
  • 34% of women who had a current or former partner experienced at least one form of violence during their lifetime from a partner
  • women reported higher levels of violence from former partners (36%) than current partners (10%). This is in line with research that suggests that women with a current intimate partner are less likely to report experiences of violence from that partner
  • 37-40% of women in current relationships reported experiencing at least one type of controlling behaviour from their intimate partner (eg name calling, insults, limiting contact with friends or tracking whereabouts).

Domestic homicide

Approximately 40% of all homicides in NSW are domestic violence related (Code of practice for the NSW Police Force response to domestic and family violence). In NSW in the 12 months to September 2012, around three-quarters of female homicide victims (27 out of 35) were killed by someone with whom they had a domestic relationship. Female homicide victims are 2.5 times more likely than male victims to be killed by someone with whom they have a domestic relationship (FACS NSW). The majority of victims are women and young children.

Children and young people

Children and young people are affected by being exposed to domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence includes seeing or hearing the violence, helping to clean up property damage or being present when police and/or ambulance attend. Over a third of women who experienced violence by a previous partner (34%) said their children had witnessed the violence. A national survey of 5000 young people aged 12-20 years found that 23% of participants had witnessed physical domestic violence against their mothers (Impact of domestic violence on children and infants).

Older people

Older people are at risk of domestic violence from family members, partners and carers. Older women are particularly at risk of financial abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse (Preventing the abuse of older people by their family members) and 26% of women aged 55 years and over have experienced violence from their current partner (ABS Personal Safety Survey 2006).

A study conducted by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW in 2004 indicated that the vast majority of perpetrators of violence against elders have been identified as close family members who live with the victim, often an adult child.

Reporting to police

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch stated in March 2014 that approximately 40% of a police officer’s work involves responding to domestic violence. In the 12 months before December 2013, there were almost 30,000 domestic violence related assaults reported to police in NSW, representing approximately 43% of all assaults reported to police (NSW recorded crime statistics 2013). Women and girls make up 69% of victims of domestic violence related assaults (The domestic violence intervention court model: a follow-up study). The NSW Criminal Court statistics 2012 (BOCSAR) shows 23,917 ADVOs granted in NSW. However, research shows that less than half of all victims of domestic violence report incidents to the police (Trends and patterns in domestic violence assaults 2001-2010).

Reasons for not reporting include:

  • having fears for the future safety of themselves/their children
  • threats from the perpetrator
  • embarrassment and shame
  • isolation
  • the hope that the violence will stop
  • a view that the incident was not serious enough
  • a view that the police would/could not do anything about the violence.

(Against the odds: how women survive domestic violence (Office of Status of Women, Canberra, 1998); Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS); Australian Bureau of Statistics, Crime and Safety, Australia 2005.)

Research has also shown that a woman is much less likely to report to police if she is pregnant at the time of the incident or if there have been more than five previous incidents of abuse by the same person (Reporting violence to police, 2013).

The 2012 Personal Safety Survey showed that of the 536,900 women who contacted police about domestic violence by a recent ex-partner, approximately 50% had an order in place for her protection at the time of the incident. Of those women who had a protection order, 58% experienced further violence. This tells us that if a woman experiences violence from her partner it is likely to happen more than one time in that relationship, including after separation.