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5.2.4 - Prevalence of family violence

The following sections consider the prevalence of family violence, drawing from:

When contemplating the prevalence of family violence it should be remembered that most incidents of family violence go unreported. Reasons for the relatively low levels of police reporting in family violence incidents are discussed below under Underreporting of family violence incidents. 

Population surveys

The 2004 International Violence against Women Survey included Australia. It surveyed women aged between 18 and 69 about their experiences of physical and sexual violence. Some of the findings included:

[Australian Institute of Criminology (2004), Women’s Experiences of Male Violence: Findings from the Australian Component of the International Violence against Women Survey (IVAWS), Canberra]

In 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics interviewed 11,900 women and 4,600 men across Australia about their experiences of violence and safety (Personal Safety Survey). It found that females are more likely than males to experience an act of physical or sexual violence (actual, attempted or threatened) perpetrated by a current or former partner:

[Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2005 (reissue), cat. no. 4906.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra]

Rates of family violence are higher among women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) communities and women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. ATSI women are nearly 40 times more likely to be a victim of family violence than non-ATSI women. Accurate victimisation rates for CALD women are difficult to obtain as reporting is influenced by:

[Mouzos, J & Makkai, T (2004), ‘Women’s Experiences of Male Violence: Findings from the Australian Component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS)’, Research and Public Policy Series, no. 56]

Police and court statistics

Year

Number of family violence applications finalised

2007-2008

23,682

2008-2009

23,986

2009-2010

25,911

2010-2011

28,141

2011-2012

31,332

2012-2013

33,879

[Source: Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (2010), Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Annual Report 2009-2010; Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (2011), Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Annual Report 2010-2011; Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (2012), Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Annual Report 2011-2012 ; Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (2013), Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Annual Report 2012-2013]

Since 2007/2008, there has been a 66.8 per cent increase in the number of intervention order applications received by the Magistrates’ Court’s After Hours Service.

Year

Intervention order applications received by After Hours Service

2007-2008

6,860

2008-2009

7,539

2009-2010

8,582

2010-2011

9,199

2011-2012

11,153

2012-2013

 11,443

 

Between 2011/12 and 2012/13, there was a 20.4 per cent increase in the number of incidents in which police sought an intervention order or issued a family violence safety notice.

Year

Recorded family violence incidents

Charges laid

Family violence safety notice issued / application for intervention order initiated by Police

2007-2008

31,660

7,807

n/a*

2008-2009

33,896

8,632

8,198

2009-2010

35,720

9,082

9,229

2010-2011 

40,839

12,076

10,341 

2011-2012

50,016 

17,998

12,911

2012-2013 

60,829

25,574

15,543

*Family violence safety notices were introduced on 8 December 2008.

[Source: Department of Justice (2009), Victorian Family Violence Database 1999–2008; Victoria Police (2012), Family Incidents Reports 2007/08-2011/2012; Victoria Police (2013), Crime Statistics 2012/2013]

The Victorian Family Violence Database Volume 4: Nine Year Trend Analysis reported that, among women who were assaulted in the most recent 12 months:

[Victorian Family Violence Database 1999–2008 (2009), p16]

In 2010, female victims of assault were more likely to be have been assaulted by family members than male victims. 41 per cent of female assault victims were assaulted by a family member, compared to 11 per cent for males.

[Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010), Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia 2010, cat. no. 4510.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra]

Homicide data

There is a strong link between family violence and homicide. Although homicide victims in Australia are more often men, female victims of homicide are far more likely to be killed by a current or former intimate partner.

The most recent published data from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Program shows that throughout 2008-2009 and 2009-2010:

[Australian Institute of Criminology, Homicide in Australia: 2008–09 to 2009–10 National Homicide Monitoring Program Annual Report (2013) Canberra, p18]

Indigenous people are overrepresented, both as victims and offenders, in violent crime and homicide data. The Australian Institute of Criminology, using 11 years of National Homicide Monitoring Program data, compared indigenous homicides to non-indigenous homicides and found that indigenous homicides were more likely to:

[Australian Institute of Criminology (2009), Domestic-related Homicide: Keynote Papers from the 2008 International Conference on Homicide, Canberra]

Underreporting of family violence incidents

Statistics do not accurately reflect levels of family violence for a number of reasons. Barriers such as fear, isolation, lack of support and shame mean that many women experiencing family violence are more likely to deal with the issues themselves or talk to family and friends rather than seek outside support.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (1996) Women’s Safety Australia Survey found that:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey found that:

[Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2005 (reissue), cat. no. 4906.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra]

The Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS) found that only 14 per cent of women whose partner had inflicted physical or sexual violence on them in the past 12 months had reported it to police.

[Mouzos, J & Makkai, T (2004), ‘Women’s Experiences of Male Violence: Findings from the Australian Component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS)’, Research and Public Policy Series, no. 56, Canberra]

Reporting rates have increased over the past decade, but remain low. One possible explanation for the low reporting rate is that victims of physical or sexual violence committed by current partners may be less likely to perceive the incident as a crime than if it were committed by a stranger.

Other reasons include:

[Cited in Chadwick, H. and Morgan, A. (2009), Key Issues in Domestic Violence, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, p2]

Some victims of family violence may be reluctant to report assaults or apply for an intervention order because:

Family violence victims have different motivations and considerations when it comes to holding the perpetrator accountable. Many want to stay with the abuser, ‘keep the family together’, maintain the relationship and/or keep their children at the same school. Many family violence victims do not want the relationship to end; they simply want the violence to stop.

Last updated: 3 May 2013

See Also

5.2 - Nature of family violence

5.2.1 - What is family violence?

5.2.2 - Forms of family violence

5.2.3 - Features of family violence

5.2.5 - Risk indicators for family violence

5.2.6 - Impact of family violence

5.2.7 - Myths about family violence and potential for unconscious prejudice

5.2.8 - Further reading