Domestic Violence Statistics Australia

At Damien Greer Lawyers, we have over 40 years of expertise in advising on all aspects of family law. Sadly, this also means that we have experience in dealing with matters relating to domestic violence, including instances of physical violence, sexual abuse and verbal abuse.

Over the course of the past four decades, we’ve seen huge changes in the way that domestic violence is defined, reported and experienced. To learn more about domestic violence in Australia and how we compare to the rest of the world, we’ve pulled together all of the latest statistics.

What Actions Do Australians Consider to be Forms of Family Violence?

As mentioned above, family violence and domestic violence take many forms, from physical violence through to sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Although the definition of domestic violence is wide ranging, research from White Ribbon shows that there’s a huge difference in how some Australians interpret what’s meant by ‘domestic violence’.

For example, although 82% of people think that ‘hitting, punching, etc. or restraining in any way’ is a type of family violence, only 68% of people think the same about ‘not letting a person practise their own religion or forcing them to follow a religion’.

Here’s what the survey found and the percentage of respondents who believe that the action mentioned constitutes family/domestic violence:

  • Hitting, punching, etc. or restraining in any way – 82%
  • Frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing a person – 79%
  • Displaying threatening behaviour – 78%
  • Isolating a person from friends, relatives, or other sources of support – 75%
  • Non-consensual sexual activity – 74%
  • Controlling money so a person is dependent on the other for finances – 74%
  • Depriving or restricting a person’s access to support services e.g. health or legal practitioners – 73%
  • Making constant phone calls and sending text messages, or spying using electronic means – 71%
  • Not letting a person practise their own religion or forcing them to follow a religion – 68%
  • Controlling access to drugs or medication – 65%
  • None of these – 2%

If someone is displaying any of these actions towards you, then you may be in an abusive relationship. If you’re concerned about this and would like to take out a Domestic Violence Order against them, speak to our lawyers today.

Domestic Violence Rates in Australia

Sadly, the statistics surrounding domestic violence rates in Australia make for some sombre reading.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Personal Safety Survey, 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner. In addition, 3.6 million Australians have experienced emotional abuse from a partner. On top of this, about 2.2 million Australians have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

In total, two in five people in Australia (39% or 7.2 million) aged 18 years and over have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, including 42% of men (3.8 million) and 37% of women (3.4 million).

On top of this, the latest data released by DVConnect shows us that:

  • 1 woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner
  • Since the age of 15, 1 in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner
  • Since the age of 15, 1 in 4 women has experienced sexual violence
  • Nearly 40% of women continue to experience violence while temporarily separated from their partner
  • 1 in 19 Australian men has experienced physical abuse at the hands of a current or former intimate partner

Sadly, according to a recent report, it’s also estimated that 1 in 2 women (46%) and 7 in 10 men (68%) do not seek advice or support after suffering from physical and/or sexual violence from a current cohabiting partner.

Male and Female Experiences of Domestic Violence in Australia

In terms of the difference between the experience of domestic violence by men and women, data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing shows us that:

  • 1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous cohabiting partner
  • 1 in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous cohabiting partner
  • 1 woman is killed every 9 days by a partner
  • 1 man is killed every 29 days by a partner
  • 25% of women have experienced emotional abuse from a current or previous cohabiting partner
  • 5% of men have experienced emotional abuse from a current or previous cohabiting partner
  • 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15
  • 1 in 6 men have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15
  • 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15
  • 1 in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15
  • 1 in 6 women were physically or sexually abused before the age of 15
  • 1 in 9 men were physically or sexually abused before the age of 15
  • 1 in 2 women have been sexually harassed since the age of 15
  • 1 in 4 men have been sexually harassed since the age of 15
  • 1 in 6 women have experienced stalking since the age of 15
  • 1 in 15 men have experienced stalking since the age of 15

On top of this, data shows us that Australian women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. Plus, Australian women are almost four times more likely than men to be hospitalised after being assaulted by their spouse or partner. On top of this, women are more than twice as likely as men to have experienced fear or anxiety due to violence from a former partner.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence?

According to the data, certain members of society are more at risk from family, domestic and sexual violence than others. For example, according to the Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: continuing the national story (2019) report, the following groups were most vulnerable:

  • Children: In 2017-18, 22% of those seeking homelessness services due to domestic violence or family violence were aged 0-9
  • Young women: In 2017, young women aged 15–34 accounted for more than half (53%) of all police-recorded female sexual assault victims
  • Older people: In 2017-18, almost 11,000 calls were made to elder abuse hotlines across Australia
  • People with disabilities: People with disabilities were 1.8 times as likely to have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in the previous year, compared with people without disability
  • LGBTIQ+ people: In the last five years, workplace sexual harassment was higher among those identifying with diverse sexual orientation (52%) than among those identifying as straight or heterosexual (31%)
  • People living in rural locations: People in remote and very remote Australia are more than 24 times as likely to be hospitalised for domestic violence as are people in major cities
  • People from socioeconomically disadvantaged areas: People living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia are 1.5 times as likely to experience partner violence as those living in areas of least disadvantage
  • Indigenous Australians: Indigenous adults are 32 times as likely to be hospitalised for family violence as non-Indigenous adults

How Have Domestic Violence Rates Changed Over Time?

Although these statistics are horrific to read, the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics does show us that the proportion of Australians experiencing violence is declining. In 2005, the figure was as high as 8.3%, but this dropped to 5.4% in 2016.

According to the figures, the proportion of men experiencing physical violence has almost halved since 2005, decreasing from 10% in 2005 to 5.4% in 2016. For women, the proportion has fallen from 4.7% in 2005 to 3.5% in 2016.

However, although the number of men and women suffering from physical violence has fallen over this time period, the number of women suffering from sexual violence has largely remained steady over the period. In fact, in recent years (between 2012 and 2016), there has been an increase from 1.2% to 1.8%.

What’s the Impact of Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia?

Family, domestic and sexual violence can have serious consequences. For example, in 2016-17, it’s estimated that violence from a significant other was a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. During that reporting period, 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services and reported that family and domestic violence caused or contributed to their homelessness.

In addition to this, intimate partner violence has a serious impact on both the physical and mental health of women. Back in 2011, it was thought that intimate partner violence contributed to more burden of disease than any other risk factor for women aged 25-44. This was because many women reported suffering from anxiety disorders (35%) and depressive disorders (32%).

However, the impact of domestic violence can go beyond mental conditions and physical injuries. In 2015-16, it’s estimated that the financial cost of violence against women and their children in Australia was around $22 billion.

In some social groups, the impact of domestic violence can be particularly severe. Current research shows that not only does violence occur at a higher rate for Indigenous Australians, but Indigenous Australians are also most likely to be severely affected by the violence due to social disadvantages and intergenerational traumas.

For example, from 2012–13 to 2013–14, 2 in 5 Indigenous homicide victims (41%) were killed by a current or previous partner, twice the rate of non-Indigenous victims (22%). On top of this, in 2014–15, Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women, while Indigenous men were 23 times as likely to be hospitalised as non-Indigenous men. Finally, in 2015–16, Indigenous children were 7 times as likely to be the subject of substantiated child abuse or neglect as non-Indigenous children.

How do Australia’s Domestic Violence Statistics Compare Internationally?

Although Australia’s domestic violence statistics still make for depressing reading, statistics from the UN seem to suggest that Australia’s rates compare favourably to those of other countries. This is because, in other parts of the world, violence against women and girls had increased significantly in recent years.

Globally, an estimated 736 million women have been subjected to intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life. This equates to around 1 in 3 women. This is a higher figure than Australia, where the number is around 1 in 4.

Like in Australia, it’s thought that the majority of domestic violence that occurs internationally is committed by intimate partners. Again, this is most likely to occur with women and it’s estimated that more than 640 million women aged 15 and older have been subjected to intimate partner violence. Depressingly, this means that more than a quarter (26%) of all women around the world aged 15 or older have been a victim of some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Due to the fact that laws concerning family, domestic and sexual violence are different around the world, it’s difficult to compare two countries on a like-for-like basis. However, when looking at the data, it’s clear that there are some parallels between Australia’s domestic violence statistics and statistics from the rest of the world:

  • Women are more likely to be a victim of domestic, family or sexual violence than men
  • The majority of male and female sufferers of domestic violence do not seek support
  • The vast majority of violence is committed by a spouse, a cohabiter or a former cohabiter
  • Violence disproportionately affects people from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Domestic violence is damaging lives, causing mental health problems and costs millions of dollars annually

However, when we look at the data, we do also see ways that Australia’s statistics are different from the rest of the world. Thankfully, these are for the better. For example, although female genital mutilation (FGM) isn’t an issue in Australia, at least 200 million women and girls have gone through the procedure worldwide.

Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Applications in Queensland

The good news is that the statistics also show us that people who are suffering from domestic violence are taking some form of action that will help protect them from their abuser.

In 2019-20 alone, more than 28,000 Queenslanders applied for an Order to protect them from domestic violence. During the same period, almost another 10,000 applied to have an existing Protection Order varied, according to figures from the Queensland courts.

However, although these statistics are alarming, the figures also show that DVO applications have dropped over the past few years. For example, in 2015-16 and 2016-17, more than 32,000 applications were lodged each year. In the next two years, more than 30,000 applications were lodged. This means that the 2019-20 figure is actually the lowest for the past five years.

DVO Applications (statewide)
Application Type 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Initiating 32,268 32,097 30,403 30,303 28,312
Vary 9,227 10,146 10,286 10,303 9,499

Across Queensland, Southport saw the highest number of lodgings. This was followed by Beenleigh and Brisbane. The top five locations and the number of lodgings in 2019-20 were:

  • Southport (2,603)
  • Beenleigh (2,367)
  • Brisbane (1,826)
  • Ipswich (1,641)
  • Townsville (1,557)

By contrast, the parts of Queensland with the fewest lodgings in 2019-20 were:

  • Bundaberg (468)
  • Hervey Bay (470)
  • Mount Isa (483)
  • Gladstone (536)
  • Richlands (624)

Contact Damien Greer Lawyers

If you’re currently caught in an abusive relationship or you’re a victim of domestic violence, we can help you. With more than 40 years of experience, we have a proven track record of helping people just like you from escaping abusive relationships and creating a new life.

Whether you need help applying for a Protection Order, need to vary a Domestic Violence Order or need to respond to the alleged breach of a DVO, our dedicated and experienced lawyers can help you.

If you’d like to learn more, then please contact us today or get started online.

All statistics correct as of 02/06/2021.