The extent of Australia’s family, domestic and sexual violence crisis has been revealed in a landmark report that details the death toll and increasing generational impacts of the issue.
ABC radio reported that for the first time, the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has compiled comprehensive data on the prevalence of violence, finding that on average one woman a week and one man a month is killed by a current or former partner.
It also found family violence was a leading cause of homelessness, that the problem had grown in the past five years, and that millions of children had been physically or sexually abused.
“The seriousness of these issues cannot be overstated,” AIHW CEO Barry Sandison said.
“Looking only at the numbers can at times appear to depersonalise the pain and suffering that sits behind the statistics.”
The report made a number of key findings, including:
- 1 in 6 (1.6 million) women and 1 in 16 (500,000) men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since age 15.
- 1 woman a week and 1 man a month were killed by a current or former partner in the two years from 2012-13 to 2013-14.
- 2,800 women and 560 men were hospitalised in 2014-15 after being assaulted by a spouse or partner.
- 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services in 2016-17 due to family/domestic violence.
- Intimate partner violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25-44.
- 1 in 5 (1.7 million) women and 1 in 20 (429,000) men have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since age 15.
- 1 in 6 (1.5 million) women and 1 in 9 (992,000) men were physically and/or sexually abused before the age of 15.
The AIHW compiled data from 20 major sources to build a picture of family violence in Australia.
It identified six groups most at risk of experiencing some form of violence or abuse: Indigenous women, young women, pregnant women, women with disabilities, women experiencing financial hardship, and people who had witnessed abuse as children.
Nearly 2.5 million Australians reported being physically or sexually abused before the age of 15, with young girls making up almost two thirds of those.
The AIHW report found children who were abused were three times as likely to experience domestic violence later in life.
This was having significant impacts on their mental health and living situation, the AIHW said.
“Children witnessing, or being exposed to, domestic violence is increasingly being recognised as a form of child abuse,” the report reads.
“A large and growing number of children are placed in out-of-home care as a consequence of this abuse.”
Indigenous Australians are particularly over-represented in the data compiled in the AIHW report.
It found Indigenous women were 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non-Indigenous women, and Indigenous men were 23 times more likely.