Australian Bureau of Statistics
4906.0 - Personal Safety, Australia, 2012
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2013
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9 ABS acknowledges the support and input of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which, under the auspices of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, provided funding for the 2012 Personal Safety Survey. A Survey Advisory Group, comprising experts in the field of crime and violence, provided the ABS with advice on the information to be collected and on some aspects of survey methodology. Members of this group included representatives from State and Commonwealth Government departments, crime research agencies, service providers and academics in the field.
10 There are no generally agreed or accepted standards for defining what constitutes violence. In developing the concepts and definitions used in the survey, the ABS was assisted by a Survey Advisory Group, which included members with legal and crime research backgrounds. The definitions used were based on actions which would be considered as offences under State and Territory criminal law.
11 The ABS publishes data relating to crime from different sources. Different methodologies result in different statistics. For example, statistics from police records are different from those reported in household surveys because not all incidents are reported to the police. Also, responses in surveys may be affected by the ways in which questions are asked. Some of these measurement issues are discussed in: Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey data, June 2011 (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001). Appendix 1 provides information about the comparability of the PSS with other data sources.
SCOPE OF THE SURVEY
12 The scope of the survey was persons aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia. Interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years or over who was a usual resident of the selected household.
13 Both urban and rural areas in all States and Territories were included in the survey, except for very remote areas of Australia and Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, which were excluded. The following groups were also excluded from the survey:
14 Personal face to face interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years or over who was a usual resident of the selected household. Interviews were conducted from February to December 2012.
15 While the survey was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act, 1905, participation in the survey was not compulsory.
16 Information was collected by specially trained ABS interviewers. Experienced ABS interviewers attended a comprehensive two day survey training program. In addition to the standard ABS training provided to ABS interviewers regarding the survey content and field procedures, interviewers also received tailored sensitivity and awareness training, designed to increase their knowledge and understanding of what happens when a person experiences violence. The ABS utilised external consultants, specialised in this field to provide this component of the interviewer training.
17 To help ensure respondent comfort and well-being, as well as encouraging participation, the ABS used female interviewers for the PSS. It was considered that men and women would be more likely to feel comfortable revealing sensitive information about their possible experiences of violence to a women. This was based on collective advice from experts in the field during the survey development, was in line with the successful procedures followed for the 2005 PSS and was also supported by the 2012 PSS Survey Advisory Group. To cater for instances where this might not be the case, the ABS also trained a small number of male interviewers, in case a respondent preferred that their interview be conducted by a male. No requests for a male interviewer were made.
18 Due to the sensitive nature of the information being collected, special procedures were used to ensure the safety of those participating and the reliability of the data provided. A specific requirement of the survey was that all interviews were conducted alone in a private setting, ensuring that other members of the household were not aware of the survey content or the responses given. This ensured the complete confidentiality of any information collected and the security of both the respondent and the interviewer, where the respondent may have been living in the same household as a perpetrator. If preferred by the respondent, the option of conducting the interview at an alternate location or by telephone interview was also available.
19 Once the questions regarding a person's experience of violence were reached in the interview, respondents were informed of the sensitive nature of the upcoming questions and their permission to continue with the interview was sought.
20 In addition, no proxy interviews were conducted. Interpreters or other family members were not used: this was to ensure the safety of those participating (where the respondent may have been living in the same household as a perpetrator) and the reliability of the data provided (where the respondent may not have felt comfortable revealing sensitive information through an interpreter/other family member, who may not have been aware of the respondent's past or current experiences).
21 To cater for instances where a respondent did not speak English, a small number of interviewers with foreign language skills were trained to conduct PSS interviews. These interviews were mostly conducted over the phone. Where a respondent required the assistance of another person to communicate with the interviewer and an ABS interviewer who spoke their language was not available, interviews were not able to be conducted. Therefore it is possible that the PSS may under represent those from a non-English speaking background. Similarly, where a respondent required the assistance of another person to communicate with the interviewer, interviews were not able to be conducted. It is also likely that the PSS will under represent those with a profound or severe communication disability.
22 To further assist ensuring respondent and interviewer safety, persons in selected dwellings were not advised in advance of their selection in the survey, as would normally be the case for ABS household surveys. Instead, interviewers were cold calling. This was to help ensure maximum chance of participation, should a respondent have been living in the same household as a perpetrator. At this first approach, it was known whether a male or female was to be interviewed at each selected dwelling. This allowed interviewers to tailor their approach, depending on who answered the door and screening questions were asked to firstly determine whether the selected dwelling contained a person of the required gender.
23 The use of specially trained interviewers ensured that rapport could be established with respondents and that the relevant concepts and definitions could be explained as necessary
24 Interviews took, on average, around 30 minutes to complete.
25 The 2012 PSS was designed to provide reliable estimates, for selected key estimates of interest, at the national level for men and women and at the State and Territory level for women. While the survey was not designed to provide State/Territory level data for men, some data was able to be produced and has been included where possible in the survey outputs.
26 Dwellings included in the survey in each State and Territory were selected at random using a stratified, multistage area sample design. This sample included only private dwellings from the geographic areas covered by the survey. Dwellings were assigned as either male (where an interview with a male was required) or female (where an interview with a female was required). The sample for women was allocated roughly equally in each State and Territory in order to provide sufficiently reliable State and Territory and national level estimates for women. The sample for men was allocated to States and Territories roughly in proportion to their respective population size, in order to provide sufficiently reliable national level estimates for men.
27 There were 41,350 private dwellings approached for the survey, comprising 31,650 females and 9,700 males. The design catered for a higher than normal sample loss rate for instances where the household did not contain a resident of the assigned gender. Where the household did not contain an in scope resident of the assigned gender, no interview was required from that dwelling. For further information about how this procedure was implemented refer to Data Collection.
28 After removing households where residents were out of scope of the survey, where the household did not contain a resident of the assigned gender, and where dwellings proved to be vacant, under construction or derelict, a final sample of around 30,200 eligible dwellings were identified.
29 Given the voluntary nature of the survey a final response rate of 57% was achieved for the survey with 17,050 persons completing the survey questionnaire nationally. The response comprised 13,307 fully responding females and 3,743 fully responding males, achieving gendered response rates of 57% for females and 56% for males.
WEIGHTING, BENCHMARKING AND ESTIMATION
30 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in-scope population. For the PSS the in-scope population was persons aged 18 years and over living in private dwellings across Australia (refer to Scope of the survey). To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit, for example a household or person. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit. For the 2012 PSS person weights were used.
31 The first step in calculating weights for each person was to assign an initial weight, which was equal to the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 persons). For the 2012 PSS, only one in-scope person was selected per household. Thus the initial person weight was derived from the initial household weight multiplied by the total number of in-scope males or females in the household depending on the assigned gender for the household.
32 The person weights are calibrated to align with independent estimates of the size of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks'. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons in the sample. This ensures that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population, with respect to the benchmark categories, rather than to the distribution within the sample itself.
33 The survey results were benchmarked to the estimated resident Australian population aged 18 years or more who were living in private dwellings, excluding very remote areas of Australia and those living in Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This population was estimated to be 17,201,700 as at 30 June 2012. The benchmarks, and hence estimates from the survey, do not (and are not intended to) match estimates for the total Australian resident population (which include persons living in non-private dwellings, such as hotels and boarding houses, persons living in very remote parts of Australia and those living in Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities) obtained from other sources.
34 Given the relatively low response rate for the 2012 PSS, extensive analysis was done to ascertain whether further benchmark variables, in addition to age, sex and area of usual residence, should be incorporated into the weighting methodology. Analysis showed that the standard weighting approach did not adequately compensate for differential under-coverage in the 2012 PSS sample for the variables of social marital status, country of birth and labour force status, when compared to other ABS surveys and the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. Additional benchmarks, for social marital status, country of birth and labour force status, were incorporated into the weighting methodology.
35 As a result, initial person weights were simultaneously calibrated to the following population benchmarks:
Number of persons by:
36 The additional benchmarks were obtained from other ABS survey data. These benchmarks are considered 'pseudo-benchmarks' as they are obtained from a sample survey and as such, have a non-negligible level of sample error associated with them. The monthly Labour Force Survey (from February to December 2012) provided the pseudo-benchmarks for labour force status, social marital status and country of birth. The pseudo-benchmarks were aligned to the resident population aged 18 years or more, who were living in private dwellings in each state and territory, excluding very remote areas of Australia and those living in Discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as at 30 June 2012. They were also made to represent the same population as the demographic benchmarks with respect to state/territory, part of state, age group and sex. The sample error associated with these pseudo-benchmarks was incorporated into the standard error estimation.
37 Due to the lower than expected response rate, the ABS undertook extensive non-response analyses as part of the validation and estimation process. The analysis included reviewing interviewer observations collected for all dwellings (both responding and non-responding) to determine whether these could be used to make an adjustment to initial selection weights as a means for correcting for non-response bias.
38 Investigations showed that there was a correlation between one of the interviewer observations and whether or not a fully responding interview was obtained. An explicit non-response adjustment based on this interviewer observation was therefore made to correct for some non-response bias.
39 Estimates of counts of persons are obtained by summing person weights of persons with the characteristic of interest. All the estimates contained in this publication are based on benchmarked person weights.
40 Further information on weighting, benchmarking and estimation will be available in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia: Users' Guide, 2012, planned for release on the ABS website in March 2014.
RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES
41 All sample surveys are subject to error which can be broadly categorised as either sampling error or non-sampling error.
42 Sampling error is a measure of the difference between published estimates, derived from a sample of persons, and the value that would have been produced if the total population (as defined for the scope of the survey) had been included in the survey. For more information refer to the Technical Note.
43 Indications of the level of sampling error in this survey are measured by Relative Standard Errors (RSEs). In this publication, estimates of counts and proportions/percentages with an RSE of 25% to 50% are preceded by a single asterisk (e.g. *3.4) to indicate the estimate or proportion should be used with caution. Estimates of counts and proportions/percentages with RSEs greater than 50%, annotated by a double asterisk (e.g. **0.6), are considered too unreliable for general use.
44 Non-sampling error may occur in any data collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Non-sampling errors occur when survey processes work less effectively than intended. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or in recording by interviewers, and occasional errors in coding and processing data. Every effort is made to reduce non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, training of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.
45 Non-response occurs when people cannot or will not cooperate, or cannot be contacted. Non-response can affect the reliability of results and can introduce a bias. The magnitude of any bias depends on the rate of non-response and the extent of the difference between the characteristics of those people who responded to the survey and those who did not.
46 The following methods were adopted to reduce the level and impact of non-response:
48 Estimates with a relative standard error (RSE) of less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes, and only estimates of such precision are referred to in the text of this release (unless otherwise noted). Due to the relatively small numbers of persons experiencing certain types of violence, some of the estimates provided within the data cubes are subject to very high sampling errors.
49 All differences and changes mentioned have been tested for statistical significance with a 95% level of confidence that there is a real difference in the two populations being tested. To determine whether there is a statistical difference between any other two estimates, significance testing should be undertaken. For further information, refer to the Technical Note.
Overview of data collected in PSS
50 A key objective of the Personal Safety Survey was to collect information about the prevalence of men's and women's experience of violence since the age of 15. This includes their experience of physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by male and female perpetrators (for five key perpetrator types: current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or date, other known man or woman, and stranger). This provides information on the prevalence of the different types of violence by different perpetrator types.
51 Where a person had experienced any of these types of violence, more detailed information was then collected for their most recent incident of each of the eight types of violence: physical assault, sexual assault, physical threat and sexual threat by a male and by a female perpetrator. This information is used to understand what happens when a person experiences violence by a male or female perpetrator and how this differs depending on the different types of violence.
52 Where someone had experienced violence by a current partner and/or previous partner they were asked further questions about what happened during the relationship. This information was collected separately for current partner violence and previous partner violence: if someone had experienced violence by more than one previous partner, the information was collected about their most recently violent previous partner only.
53 For the purposes of this survey, Violence is defined as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either physical or sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. Physical Assault involves the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Physical Threat is an attempt to inflict physical harm or a threat or suggestion of intent to inflict physical harm, made face-to-face where the person believes it is able to and likely to be carried out. Sexual Assault is an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, and any attempts to do this. Sexual Threat involves the threat of acts of a sexual nature, that were made face-to-face where the person believes it is able to and likely to be carried out.
54 Physical Violence involves any incidents of Physical Assault and/or Physical Threat. Sexual Violence involves any incidents of Sexual Assault and/or Sexual Threat. Refer to the Glossary for more detailed descriptions and definitions.
55 Other topics collected include experiences of stalking, abuse before the age of 15, emotional abuse by a partner, sexual harassment and general feelings of safety. A comprehensive list of data items collected in this survey is available from the Downloads Tab of this publication.
INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS
Measuring multiple incidents and multiple types of violence
56 It is possible that people have experienced multiple incidents of violence. Where a person has experienced more than one type of violence, they are counted separately for each type of violence they experience but are only counted once in the aggregated totals. Components therefore may not add to the totals. For example if a person had experienced an incident of physical assault by a stranger and an incident of physical assault by their current partner, they would be counted against each type of violence by type of perpetrator (i.e. physical assault by a stranger and physical assault by a current partner) but they would only be counted once in the total for those who had experienced physical assault. Refer to the Glossary for further information.
57 It is also possible that a single incident of violence may involve more than one of the different types of violence. In the PSS a single incident of violence is only counted once. Where an incident involves both sexual and physical assault, it is counted as a sexual assault. For example if a person is physically assaulted during or as part of a sexual assault, this would be counted once only as a sexual assault. Where an incident involves a person being both threatened with assault and assaulted, it is counted as an assault. For example if in a single incident a perpetrator threatens to sexually assault a person and then sexually assaults them, this would be counted only once in the survey as a sexual assault. The same applies for incidents where a person is both threatened with physical assault and physically assaulted. Refer to the Glossary for detailed definitions of an incident.
Most recent incident data (MRI)
58 The characteristics and actions taken following an incident of violence differ depending on the type of violence a person experienced and the gender of the perpetrator. Due to constraints on the length of an interview and the load placed on respondents, it was not possible to collect detailed information about each incident of violence a person had experienced. Instead, detailed information was collected about their most recent incident for each of the eight different types of violence. A 'most recent' incident method was used to select a sample of incidents. If the most recent incident occurred more than 20 years ago, detailed information was not collected due to difficulties associated with recalling the incident.
59 People who had experienced violence were asked to provide more detailed information about their most recent incident including: what happened during the incident; the actions taken following the incident; and the impact of the incident. This provides information for each of the eight different types of violence a person could experience including:
60 This information is able to be used to analyse the different types of violence experienced by men and women to assess:
61 The characteristics of the different types of violence are not able to be added to produce a total for characteristics of "violence". Conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the characteristics for the different types of violence, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the type of violence experienced. For example, if a person had contacted the police about their most recent incident of physical assault by a male but had not contacted police about their most recent incident of physical assault by a female, it is impossible to calculate an estimate of whether or not this person has contacted the police about "violence" - they both have and haven't. To add together data about characteristics of the different types of violence would also double count all persons who have experienced more than one type of violence.
62 As information is only collected in relation to the most recent incident, rates will not reflect the total prevalence of different characteristics. For example, if a person had experienced more than one incident of physical assault by a male and had not contacted police about their most recent incident but had about an earlier incident then they have actually contacted the police at some point (just not for their most recent incident). In this instance the characteristics of a person's most recent incident would understate their overall behaviour in reporting of incidents to the police.
63 The 2012 PSS collected information about a person's experience of violence, since the age of 15, by a partner. The term 'partner' in the PSS is used to describe a person the respondent currently lives with, or lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship. Partner violence only refers to violence a respondent experienced from a person they currently live with, or lived with at some point, in an intimate relationship and does not include violence by a "boyfriend/girlfriend or date". Violence by a partner excludes violence experienced by persons in an intimate relationship which does not involve living together.
64 For the purposes of the PSS current and previous partner have been defined as follows:
65 Partner violence refers to any incident of sexual assault, sexual threat, physical assault or physical threat by a current and/or previous partner. Partner violence does not include violence by a "boyfriend/girlfriend or date". For the PSS a boyfriend/girlfriend or date refers to a person the respondent dated, or was intimately involved with but did not live with. This relationship may have different levels of commitment and involvement. For example, one date only, regular dating with no sexual involvement, or a serious sexual or emotional relationship. Refer to the Glossary.
66 Respondents who have experienced violence by a boyfriend/girlfriend or date were not sequenced through the more detailed questions relating to partner violence. The partner violence questions focus on what happened when the respondent experienced violence while they were living with their partner and are not applicable or relevant to a boyfriend/girlfriend or date type relationship. In addition, the impacts of experiencing violence by someone who the respondent has lived with are different to the impact for those who experience violence from someone they have not lived with. Therefore a conscious decision was made to make the distinction between relationships that involved living together at some stage during the relationship (such as current or previous partner), and relationships that did not involve living together (such as boyfriend/girlfriend or date).
67 Where a person reported experiencing any type of violence by a current or previous partner, additional information was collected about the actions taken, consequences, and the impacts of the violence over the course of the entire relationship. As a person may have experienced violence by both a current partner and a previous partner, information is collected separately about violence by both partner types. Where a person experienced violence by more than one previous partner, they were asked to focus on their most recently violent previous partner and what happened with that particular previous partner (note: this detailed information is not collected for all their violent previous partner relationships).
68 This provides a powerful dataset with comprehensive information for what happens when a person experiences:
70 The 2012 PSS collected information about a person's experience of emotional abuse by a current partner and by a male and/or female previous partner. Where a person had experienced one or more emotional abuse behaviours, they were classified as having experienced emotional abuse. For further details refer to the Glossary. For the PSS current and previous partner are defined as:
71 Where a persons had experienced emotional abuse by both a current and a previous partner, or by both a male and a female previous partner, they are counted separately for each type of partner but are only counted once in the aggregated totals.
72 Where a person had experienced emotional abuse by more than one male previous partner, the information relates to the male previous partner who had most recently emotionally abused them. Similarly, where a person had experienced emotional abuse by more than one female previous partner the information relates to the female previous partner who had most recently emotionally abused them.
73 While it is acknowledged that a person may have experienced emotional abuse by someone other than a current or previous partner, information about emotional abuse by other persons was not collected in the 2012 survey.
74 In addition, the previous partner who most recently emotionally abused the respondent is not necessarily the same previous partner who was reported as the most recently violent previous partner. Information on previous partner emotional abuse cannot be directly linked to previous partner violence.
75 The characteristics of current partner and previous partner emotional abuse are not able to be added to produce a total for characteristics of "partner emotional abuse". Conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the characteristics for current and previous partner emotional abuse, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the type of partner. For example, if a person had experienced anxiety or fear due the emotional abuse by their current partner but had not experienced anxiety or fear due the emotional abuse by their most recently emotionally abuse male previous partner, it is impossible to calculate an estimate of whether or not this person has experienced anxiety or fear due to "partner emotional abuse" - they both have and haven't. To add together data about characteristics of current and previous partner emotional abuse would also double count all persons who have experienced emotional abuse by both a current and a previous partner.
76 The 2012 PSS collected information about a person's experience of stalking. Stalking involves various behaviours, such as loitering and following, which the respondent believed were being undertaken with the intent to harm or frighten. To be classified as stalking more than one type of behaviour had to occur, or the same type of behaviour had to occur on more than one occasion.
77 The definition of stalking is based on State and Territory legislation. It is defined by a range of behaviours which the respondent believed were undertaken with the intent to harm or frighten. Behaviours include: loitering outside a person's home, workplace or place of leisure or social activities; following or watching a person; interfering with their property; giving or leaving offensive material; telephoning or sending mail or contacting a person electronically with the intent to harm or frighten them. In order to be classified as stalking more than one type of stalking behaviour had to occur, or the same type of behaviour had to occur on more than one occasion. Where a person had experienced more than one episode of stalking by a male/by a female, details were collected only about their most recent episode of stalking by a male and most recent episode of stalking by a female. For further details refer to the Glossary.
78 Where a person had experienced stalking by a male and stalking by a female, they are counted separately for stalking by a male and by a female but are only counted once in the aggregated total.
79 The characteristics of stalking by a male and stalking by a female are not able to be added to produce a total for characteristics of "stalking". Conceptually it is invalid to add together data about the characteristics for stalking by a male and stalking by a female, as actions a person may take could differ depending on the episode. For example, if a person had contacted the police about the stalking by a male but had not contacted police about stalking by a female, it is impossible to calculate an estimate of whether or not this person has contacted the police about "stalking" - they both have and haven't. To add together data about characteristics of stalking by a male and stalking by a female would also double count all persons who have experienced stalking by both a male and a female.
80 In addition, the previous partner who most recently stalked the respondent is not necessarily the same previous partner who was reported as the most recently violent previous partner, nor the most recently emotionally abusive previous partner. Information collected about previous partner stalking cannot be directly linked to previous partner violence, or previous partner emotional abuse data.
81 Further information on the interpretation of results will be available in the Personal Safety Survey, Australia, Users’ Guide 2012 planned for release on the ABS website in March 2014.
COMPARABILITY WITH THE 2005 PSS
82 The scope, content and data collection for the 2012 survey was largely the same as the 2005 survey. However differences exist in the sample design and weighting procedures. Changes between the 2005 and 2012 surveys are noted below.
84 Further information regarding weighting will be available from the Personal Safety Survey, Australia, Users’ Guide 2012 available for release from the ABS website in March 2014.
COMPARISON OF DATA FROM PSS AND OTHER ABS SOURCES
85 The ABS collects and publishes data relating to crime and safety from different sources. Comparisons of PSS data with data from other sources cannot be readily made because of differences in data collection methods and the concepts and definitions used to measure violence.
86 Other main differences which may affect the comparability of data presented in this publication are outlined in Appendix 1.
87 Further information on crime data measurement issues are available in the following: Information paper: Information Paper: Measuring Crime Victimisation, Australia: The Impact of Different Collection Methodologies, 2002 (cat. no. 4522.0.55.001).
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This page last updated 31 July 2014