FAMILY, DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN AUSTRALIA: A DATA SNAPSHOT
The distribution of information across sectors (police, justice, health and emergency, social and human services) and barriers to reporting and access to appropriate services make it difficult to measure the true extent of family, domestic and sexual violence. Currently, information about these forms of violence is held in a variety of survey and administrative by-product datasets. The following is a summary of existing data sources in Australia (for more information see Appendix 3). The sources included here are a selective list of national data collections that currently exist. For a full list of available data sources please consult the Directory of Family and Domestic Violence Statistics (cat. no. 4533.0).
- The National Community Attitudes to Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) monitors awareness and attitudes understood to influence the perpetration of violence, women’s victimisation and responses to violence, as well as the responses of family and community members, and professionals who witness violence, or to whom women turn for help (VicHealth, 2010). Attitudes are also an indicator of broader social norms (the behavioural expectations of society) as they pertain to violence against women. It is important to monitor social norms as they have been found to influence the behaviour of individuals (VicHealth, 2010; Flood and Pease, 2007). NCAS gauges attitudes toward physical, sexual and psychological abuse as well as property damage (ABS, 2011a). The primary purpose of the survey is to gauge the attitudes of the whole community toward violence (for more information see Appendix 3).
- The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) is an in depth measure of individual experience of a number of different types of violence and perceptions of personal safety. It provides information about men's and women's experience of violence in the last 12 months by different types of male and female perpetrators (e.g. current/previous partner, other known man or woman, and stranger) since the age of 15. Aspects of family, domestic and sexual violence captured by the PSS are physical assault or threat, sexual assault or threat and emotional abuse as well as harassment and stalking (ABS, 2011a). The 2012 data release will enable some comparisons to be made to 2005 data (ABS, 2006) (for more information see Appendix 3).
- The Crime Victimisation Survey (CVS) also provides a measure of personal experience of violence and provides an indicator of prevalence, as well as some information about victim and incident characteristics. It is run annually and provides a measure of change in the number of victims and victimisation rates over time. Information about the relationship of the offender to the victim at the time of the most recent incident of physical assault, threatened assault and robbery is published where data are of sufficient quality. While CVS includes some data items of interest, its usefulness for measuring family, domestic and sexual violence is limited as it does not collect specific information about these topics (ABS, 2011a) (for more information see Appendix 3).
- Administrative by-product data can be used as a measure of family, domestic and sexual violence experiences that have come to the attention of organisations through the delivery of services. One example is Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia (cat. no. 4510.0) which is produced using police data. The aspects of family, domestic and sexual violence are limited to behaviours that are outlined by law and are focused on actual or threatened physical acts. The information is limited to events that are in breach of relevant state and territory criminal law (for more information see Appendix 3).
Together these data sources contribute to the current evidence base for family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. The limitation of these datasets is that there is no easy way to identify if the violence experienced was in fact a family or domestic related event. A proxy measure is often used to determine if violence includes a family or domestic element by analysing the relationship between perpetrator and victim. This, however, is limited by the relationship types included in the existing administrative data systems or survey questions. Further, definitions of violence used in some of these sources are limited to actual and threatened physical behaviours; broader definitions that include emotional, physical, psychological and financial behaviours are not included in all data sources.
These data sources are effective at measuring different aspects of family, domestic and sexual violence. However, the difference between information sources provides only a partial picture of the true extent of family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. The rest of this publication will explore ways to improve the evidence base through better utilisation of existing data captured by organisations.
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