Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview
The ABS publication, Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4523.0), was released recently. The publication provides an analysis of currently available information across the field of sexual assault and will form part of an information base to assist policy makers in planning service delivery, planning and targeting other program delivery, and for evaluation of programs. Data have principally been drawn from ABS sources, with the inclusion of some data from other sources.
The statistical overview follows the publication in August 2003 of an ABS Information paper, Sexual Assault Information Development Framework (cat. no. 4518.0), which outlined the priority needs of users for statistical information about sexual assault and identified the current supply of information that might satisfy that demand. Funding for these projects was provided through the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault, an initiative administered by the Australian Government Office of the Status of Women.
In the data presented, a picture of sexual assault in Australia emerges where some population groups are more affected than others, most incidents are not reported to police, and many victims do not utilise available services which provide responses to sexual assault.
The National Crime and Safety Survey of 2002 estimated that 33,000 adults in Australia were victims of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey. This represented a prevalence rate of 0.2%, which was the lowest rate for personal crimes reported in that survey. In Recorded Crime Statistics for 2003, 18,237 reports of sexual assault victimisation were made to police in Australia, representing a victimisation rate of 0.09%. Survey data indicate that sexual assault is the most under-reported personal crime. Recorded Crime Statistics indicate that the majority of victims who report the crime to police are female and the majority of perpetrators in those reported incidents are male. For most victims of sexual assault reported to police, the perpetrator is
known to them, and the most commonly reported location where the offence occurs is a residential setting.
Alleged offenders are charged in relation to sexual offences committed against a relatively small proportion of reported victims. For those alleged perpetrators who are identified and proceeded against, they are less likely than other defendants to plead guilty, more likely to go to trial and more likely to have an acquittal outcome. Once proven guilty, sexual assault offenders are more likely to receive a custodial sentence and are likely to spend longer in prison than offenders for all offences.
Movements over time indicate that the prevalence rate for sexual assault, as reported for female adults in successive National Crime and Safety Surveys, has declined since 1993 and remained stable since 1998. However, measures from Recorded Crime Statistics indicate increasing numbers of sexual assault incidents recorded over a similar period. Given the efforts of police to encourage more reporting of sexual assault offences, it appears that an increasing proportion of incidents are being reported to and recorded by police. However, whilst the numbers of reported victims of sexual assault have been increasing since 2000, the number of offenders in prison for sexual assault and related offences declined from 1996 to 2002 and then increased in 2003.
Copies of the Statistical Overview can be ordered by contacting the ABS National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.