Report reveals extent of Australia's family, domestic and sexual violence crisis

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domestic violence australia
A woman wears spiked stilettos as she practises a pole dancing move during an International Women's Day event at a women's-only pole dancing fitness studio called Studio Exclusive, in Sydney March 8, 2014. Reuters/Jason Reed

Compiled comprehensive data on the occurrence of violence has found that on average one woman per week and one man per month is killed by a former or current partner in the two years from 2012-13 to 2013-14. It also shows that family violence was a top cause of homelessness.

The landmark report shows the extent of Australia's family, domestic and sexual violence crisis.  The government's Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) gathered broad data on the prevalence of violence.

The AIHW collected data from 20 key sources. One of the key findings of the report is that one in six (1.6 million) women and one in 16 (500,000) men had to face physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since age 15. In 2014-15, up to 2,800 women and 560 men were sent to the hospital after being assaulted by a partner or spouse.

The leading cause of homelessness was family violence, with the problem getting worse in the past five years. It also found that millions of children had experienced physical or sexual abuse. In 2016-17, 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services as a result of family or domestic violence.

One in 5 women have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since age 15. The ratio was one in 20 for men. One in 6 women and one in 9 men were physically and/or sexually abused before they turned 15 years old.

According to AIHW CEO Barry Sandison, the seriousness of these problems could not be overstated. "Looking only at the numbers can at times appear to depersonalise the pain and suffering that sits behind the statistics,” the ABC quotes him as saying.

According to the report, children who experienced abuse are likely to face domestic violence later in life, resulting in significant impacts on their living situation and mental health. "Children witnessing, or being exposed to, domestic violence is increasingly being recognised as a form of child abuse," the report states.

The report has also found that indigenous women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence compared to non-indigenous women. Indigenous men were 23 times more likely. Indigenous Australians have greater risk factors for family violence. An example is social stressors such as poor housing and overcrowding, unemployment and financial difficulties.

Australia’s family violence had a significant financial impact, costing "at least" $22 billion in direct costs.