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Family and domestic violence statistics

Family and domestic violence is at a critical point in Australia. According to statistics on domestic violence, one woman a week, on average, is murdered by her intimate partner. Domestic violence is also the biggest cause of homelessness for women and their children in Australia.

While men experience more incidents of violence overall, women are nearly three times more likely to experience violence from an intimate partner. Other vulnerable groups are also at increased risk of experiencing violence, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrants and refugees, people living with disability, and members of the LGBTIQA+ community.

While these statistics show how pervasive the problem is, the actual figures may be much higher, because fearing for their safety, most do not report the violence or even seek advice or support, meaning they are further isolated.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), gender inequality and norms on the acceptability of violence against women are a root cause of violence against women.

Statistical reporting shows that in Australia, the causes of family and domestic violence (FDV) are often complex and based on social and individual factors such as (but not confined to):

  • Cultural and linguistic background, societal attitudes towards violence against women and gender equality
  • Level of education
  • Low income, financial pressure or exclusion from the employment market,
  • Social disadvantage and isolation and exposure to, or involvement in, aggressive or delinquent behaviour as an adolescent.1

Racism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination also enable social conditions that contribute to family violence. These forms of discrimination intersect with each other and gender inequity, resulting in different marginalised groups being more likely to experience higher rates of family violence.2

Violence against women and children is deeply rooted in power imbalances that are reinforced by gender norms and stereotypes. Factors such as intergenerational abuse and trauma, exposure to violence as a child, social and economic exclusion, financial pressures, drug and alcohol misuse and mental illness can also be associated with family violence

Note: The responsibility for violence always lies with the abuser. Perpetrators of family violence will often make excuses for their behaviour, to avoid taking responsibility for their actions by blaming it on someone or something else.

But if an abuser is careful and intentional in their actions, it indicates they are not out of their control. Rather, they are using deliberate manipulative methods to gain control in a relationship.

Family and domestic violence can appear in many different forms and in more than one way in people’s lives. It can also be physical or/and non-physical. Below are some of the many types of violence:

  • Sexual harassment and violence
  • Verbal violence
  • Psychological and emotional abuse, controlling behaviours
  • Financial abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Stalking
  • Technology-related abuse

According to the ABS 2016 Personal Safety Survey, statistics show that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men in 2016 experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner.

Out of approximately 24 million Australians:

  • 2 million Australians experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner
  • 6 million Australians experienced emotional abuse from a partner
  • About 2.2 million Australians have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

There is a lack of research into the prevalence of domestic violence among Australian women since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the majority of women experiencing violence and abuse within their relationships do not engage with police or government or non-government agencies — particularly while they remain in a relationship with their abuser — this is a significant gap in statistical knowledge.

Relatedly, there are concerns that opportunities for women to contact and engage with domestic violence services or the police have been even more constrained during periods when social movement was restricted. There are particular concerns about the safety of women experiencing coercive controlling behaviour.3

According to statistics from research:4

  • 1 in 3 women (30.5%) has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • 1 in 5 women (18%) has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
  • 1 in 3 women (31.1%) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know.
  • 1 in 4 women (23%) has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner since age 15.
  • 1 in 4 Australian women (23%) has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.
  • 1 in 2 women (53%) has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.

According to reported statistics on family and domestic violence, Australian police deal with 5,000 domestic violence matters on average every week – that's one every two minutes.5

According to statistics, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.6 Additionally, almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner.7

Research shows that children exposed to family and domestic violence can experience long-term effects on their development and have increased risk of mental health issues, as well as behavioural and learning difficulties (Campo 2015).

In 2015–16, about 45,700 children were the subject of a child protection substantiation (investigated notification where there is sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect). A large and growing number of children are placed in out-of-home care as a consequence of this abuse (55,600 children in 2015–16).8

Children's 'witnessing' or exposure to domestic violence has been increasingly recognised as a form of child abuse. According to the Personal Safety Survey information about men’s and women’s experiences of physical and/or sexual abuse before the age of 15 years by any adult (male or female), including the person’s parents, statistics show 1 in 6 women (16% or 1.5 million) and 1 in 10 men (11% or 991,600) aged 18 years and over experienced abuse before the age of 15.9

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