4906.0.55.003 - Personal Safety Survey, Australia: User Guide, 2016  
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VIOLENCE PREVALENCE

POPULATION

Information regarding experiences of violence was obtained from men and women aged 18 years an over in the 2016 PSS.

DEFINITIONS

Prevalence

Prevalence refers to the number and proportion (rate) of men's and women's experience of violence since the age of 15. It is designed to produce a range of prevalence estimates for men's and women's experiences of violence, according to the type of violence, the type and sex of the perpetrator, and timeframe. Prevalence refers to the number and proportion (rate) or persons in a given population that have experienced any type of violence within a specified timeframe - usually in the last 12 months and since the age of 15.

Violence

In the PSS, violence is defined as any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either sexual or physical assault. Violence can be broken down into two main categories, sexual violence and physical violence.

  • Sexual violence is defined as the occurrence, attempt or threat of sexual assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. There are two components of sexual violence:
    • 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, including any attempts to do this. This includes rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault (assault with a weapon), indecent assault, penetration by objects, forced sexual activity that did not end in penetration and attempts to force a person into sexual activity. Incidents so defined would be an offence under State and Territory criminal law. Sexual assault excludes unwanted sexual touching, for the purposes of this survey this is defined as Sexual Harassment.
    • Sexual threat is the threat of acts of a sexual nature that were made face-to-face where the person believed it was able to and likely to be carried out.

Note that information is collected separately about experiences of sexual assault and sexual threat in the survey. This information is combined to provide an aggregate (total) number of persons who have experienced sexual violence (assault and/or threat) since the age of 15.
  • Physical violence is defined as the occurrence, attempt or threat of physical assault experienced by a person since the age of 15. There are two components of physical violence:
    • Physical assault is any incident that involved the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person. Excludes incidents that occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.
    • Physical threat is any attempt to inflict physical harm or a threat or suggestions of intent to inflict physical harm, which was made face-to-face and which the person believed was able and likely to be carried out. Excludes incidents of violence in which the threat was actually carried out and incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.

Note that information is collected separately about experiences of physical assault and physical threat in the survey. This information is combined to provide an aggregate (total) number of persons who have experienced physical violence (assault and/or threat) since the age of 15.

Relationship to perpetrator

Relationship to perpetrator refers to the relationship of the perpetrator to the respondent. There are six key perpetrator types in the PSS:
    1. Stranger
    2. Current partner
    3. Previous partner
    4. Boyfriend/girlfriend or date
    5. Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend or date
    6. Other known person

Definitions of relationship type:

Stranger – Someone the respondent did not know, or someone they only knew by hearsay.
Current partner – A partner the respondent currently lives with in a married or de facto relationship.
Previous partner – A person that the respondent lived with at some point in a married or de facto relationship from whom the respondent is now separated, divorced or widowed from.
Boyfriend/girlfriend or date – This relationship may have different levels of commitment and involvement that does not involve living together. For example, this will include respondents who have had one date only, regular dating with no sexual involvement, or a serious sexual or emotional relationship. It excludes de facto relationships.
Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend or date – A former relationship that involved either regular dating or a serious sexual or emotional relationship that didn't include living together.
Other known person – This is defined as any other known person that does not fit into any of the partner, stranger, or boyfriend/girlfriend or date categories.

Relationship was collected based on the relationship at the time of the survey. However, the data output refers to the relationship status at the time of the violence. Additional questions were asked about experiences of violence by previous partners in order to determine their relationship status at the time of the violence. Current partners are assumed to have been current at the time of the violence. There may be cases where the type of relationship has changed (e.g. the perpetrator was a friend at the time of the incident but is now considered to be an acquaintance). These are considered to occur minimally but should be thought about when interpreting the data.

As part of output the following categories have also been created to support partner violence analysis:
Cohabiting partner - See the partner definition in the Glossary page in this User Guide.
Intimate partner - Includes current partner (living with), previous partner (has lived with), boyfriend/girlfriend/date and ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend (never lived with).

METHODOLOGY

Violence Prevalence consists of a set of questions repeated eight times, focusing on a different type of violence each time. Respondents are asked about their experiences of four types of violence – physical assault, physical threat, sexual assault, sexual threat – by both a male and a female perpetrator. This produces the following eight types of violence in total:
    1. Sexual assault by a male
    2. Sexual assault by a female
    3. Sexual threat by a male
    4. Sexual threat by a female
    5. Physical assault by a male
    6. Physical assault by a female
    7. Physical threat by a male
    8. Physical threat by a female

Respondents are also asked whether they have ever (since the age of 15) experienced each of the eight types of violence above, and are instructed to include incidents that occurred on the job, at school, or overseas.

Diagram one: Overview of violence types collected in the PSS


Overview of violence types collected in the PSS




For each of the 8 types of violence experienced, respondents were then asked (at various points of the module) to identify all of the perpetrator types that had ever perpetrated the violence against them since the age of 15. These perpetrator types included:

    1. Stranger
    2. Boyfriend or Girlfriend or date
    3. Current partner
    4. Previous partner
    5. Father/mother
    6. Son/daughter
    7. Brother/sister
    8. Other relative or in-law
    9. Friend or housemate
    10. Acquaintance or neighbour
    11. Employer/manager/supervisor
    12. Co-worker
    13. Teacher/tutor
    14. Client/patient/customer
    15. Medical practitioner
    16. Priest/Minister/Rabbi or other spiritual advisor
    17. Carer
    18. Ex-boyfriend or Ex-girlfriend
    19. Other known person

Based on these questions, the PSS can provide estimates of the number and proportion of men and women that have experienced any of the eight types of violence by any of the perpetrator types listed above, since the age of 15 (8 types of violence x 19 perpetrator types produces a maximum of 152 prevalence rates for each gender).

Where a respondent had experienced one or more of the eight types of violence by a stranger, current partner, previous partner, boyfriend/girlfriend/date, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend or other known person (aggregate), they were asked when the most recent incident occurred for each type of perpetrator for each type of violence experienced. This means that prevalence rates for specific timeframes (last 12 months, last two years, last three years etc.) are available for any of the eight types of violence by any of the six perpetrator types (8 types of violence x 6 perpetrator types produces a maximum of 48 prevalence rates for each gender, which can be restricted to specified timeframes).

Hierarchy of violence types collected in the PSS

A hierarchy of incidents exists in the PSS to ensure any single incident of violence is not counted more than once. Sexual assault is considered the most serious crime type and so is prioritised and asked first. The order of the hierarchy is as follows:
    1. Sexual assault
    2. Sexual threat
    3. Physical assault
    4. Face-to-face physical threat

Examples of where incidents would only be counted once:
  • If a respondent experienced physical assault and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a physical assault.
  • If a respondent experienced sexual assault and physical assault in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.
  • If a respondent experienced sexual threat and physical threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual threat.
  • If a respondent experienced sexual assault and sexual threat in the same incident, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.
  • If an incident of sexual assault also involved physical assault or threats, this was counted once only as a sexual assault.

DATA ITEMS

The data items and related output categories for this topic are contained within the Violence Prevalence tab in the data item list which is available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads tab of this product.

DATA USES

Violence prevalence data can be used to examine:
  • The estimated number and proportion (rate) of men and women that have experienced violence, broken down by the type of violence, the type of perpetrator, the sex of perpetrator, and the timeframe. This can also be done for aggregated categories e.g. combining sexual assault and sexual threat to produce a prevalence rate for sexual violence, or combining current partner and previous partner to produce a prevalence rate for any partner (current and/or previous).
  • Differences in violence prevalence rates between men and women.
  • When the most recent incident of violence by the following perpetrator types occurred, for each of the eight types of violence: stranger, boyfriend/girlfriend/date, current partner, previous partner (lived with), other known person, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend (never lived with).
  • Changes in the prevalence of violence over time, by comparing 12 month prevalence data from the 2016 PSS with 12 month prevalence data from previous editions of the PSS.

Violence prevalence data cannot be used to examine:
  • When the most recent incident of violence by the following known perpetrator types occurred: Father or mother; Son or daughter; Brother or sister; Other relative or in-law; Friend or housemate; Acquaintance or neighbour; Employer/manager/supervisor; Co-worker; Teacher/tutor; Client/patient/customer; Medical practitioner; Priest/minister/rabbi/other spiritual advisor; Carer. This is because respondents are not asked when their most recent incident of violence by these perpetrator types occurred. They are only asked when the most recent incident occurred for the aggregated perpetrator category of ‘other known person.’
  • The prevalence of violence before the age of 15 (this information is collected in the Abuse before the age of 15 module).
  • The number of violent incidents experienced. The counting unit in the PSS is always persons, and not incidents. This means the PSS cannot determine the number of times a respondent has experienced violence by a male or female perpetrator. Rather, the PSS provides information about whether a respondent has ever experienced violence since the age of 15 by a male or female perpetrator.

INTERPRETATION

Points to be considered in interpreting this topic include:
  • Violence in the PSS is defined in terms of a set of specific behaviours, which may not align with legal definitions used in state/territory criminal codes. Whether or not any incident of violence amounted to a criminal offence cannot be determined from the information collected.
  • Sexual assault includes any attempted sexual assaults, while physical assault excludes attempted physical assaults. This distinction mirrors the definition of sexual assault under State and Territory criminal law where sexual assault includes attempts to force a person into sexual activity.
  • Determinations about whether violence occurred are based on the respondent’s subjective perceptions concerning the incident, interpreted within the context of the behaviours identified in the survey.
  • Prevalence rates are calculated by dividing the number of men/women/persons that have experienced the type of violence since the age of 15 by the total number of persons aged 18 years and over within that same population.
  • Prevalence estimates for less common perpetrator types may not be available due to high levels of error, particularly within a 12 month timeframe. Smaller estimates are associated with higher levels of error, meaning that 12 month prevalence estimates will generally be less reliable than since the age of 15 estimates, and prevalence estimates for less common perpetrator types will be less reliable than estimates for common perpetrator types.
  • It is possible that respondents have experienced multiple incidents of violence. Where a respondent has experienced more than one incident of violence, they are counted separately for each type of violence but are only counted once in the aggregates. Therefore, components may not add up 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 a 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.
  • Threats that did not occur face-to-face are not included as part of the threat data. Therefore the data is not representative of all types of threats that could occur.
  • Information about the relationship of the perpetrator was collected based on the relationship at the time of the survey. However, the data output refers to the relationship status at the time of the violence. Additional relationship questions were asked about experiences of violence by previous partners in order to determine their relationship status at the time of the violence. Current partners are assumed to have been current at the time of the violence. While other types of relationships may change (for example a friend now being considered to be an acquaintance) based on the categories used and the way they are responded to, these occasions are likely to be minimal, but should be considered when interpreting the data.
  • It is not possible to produce the number of incidents of violence or number of perpetrators.

COMPARABILITY WITH PREVIOUS SURVEYS

The following should be noted when making comparisons:
  • Prevalence rates across the 1996 Women’s Safety Survey and the three PSS cycles are comparable. However, the range of perpetrator categories asked about has changed across the surveys, meaning prevalence rates for some perpetrator types in later editions of the survey may not exist in earlier editions (see Table below for details).
  • Due to a change in collection mode, additional instructions were added to the 2016 PSS questionnaire. For example, the 2016 PSS instructs respondents to include incidents of violence that occurred on the job, at school, or overseas. This does not affect the comparability of PSS 2016 data with previous surveys as these instructions were previously included in the interviewer instructions.
  • Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend data has been produced separately in 2016 and not included in the other known person data. To support time series analysis time series variables have been created to produce other known person data which includes ex-boyfriend/girlfriend data. These should be used when comparing perpetrator time frame data over time.
    COMPARISONS WITH OTHER CYCLES

1996 Women's Safety Survey2005 Personal Safety Survey2012 Personal Safety Survey2016 Personal Safety Survey

Population


Sexual assault
Women aged 18 years and older


Has any man (including your current partner) ever forced you or tried to force you into sexual activity, against your will?
Men and women aged 18 years and older

Has any man/woman ever forced you, or tried to force you, into sexual activity against your will? This excludes any unwanted sexual touching.
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Has any man/woman ever forced you, or tried to force you, into sexual activity against your will? This excludes any unwanted sexual touching.
Men and women aged 18 years and older

Has any man/woman ever forced you, or tried to force you, into sexual activity against your will? This excludes any unwanted sexual touching.
Sexual threatHas any man (including your current partner) ever threatened to force you into any sexual activity?
Has any man/woman ever threatened to force you into any sexual activity? Only include incidents in which you believed the threat could be carried out and that were face-to-face.Has any man/woman ever threatened to force you into any sexual activity? Only include incidents in which you believed the threat could be carried out and that were face-to-face.Has any man/woman ever threatened to force you into any sexual activity? Only include incidents in which you believed the threat could be carried out and that were face-to-face.
Physical assaultDid (your current partner/a previous partner) ever do any of these to you with the intent to harm or frighten you?
  • Throw anything at you that could hurt you
  • Push, grab or shove you
  • Slap you
  • Kick, bite or hit you with a fist
  • Hit you with something else that could hurt you
  • None of these
Has any man/woman ever done any of these to you with the intent to harm or frighten you? This includes any use of force from a slap to a beating, and excludes incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Thrown anything at you that could hurt you
  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved you
  • Slapped you
  • Kicked, bitten or hit you with a fist
  • Hit you with something else that could hurt you
  • Beaten you
  • Choked you
  • Stabbed you with a knife
  • Shot you with a gun
  • Any other type of physical assault
Has any man/woman ever done any of these to you with the intent to harm or frighten you? This excludes incidents which happened during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Thrown anything at you that could hurt you
  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved you
  • Slapped you
  • Kicked, bitten or hit you with a fist
  • Hit you with something else that could hurt you
  • Beaten you
  • Choked you
  • Stabbed you with a knife
  • Shot you with a gun
  • Any other type of physical assault
Has any man/woman ever done any of these to you with the intent to harm or frighten you? This includes incidents that occurred on the job, at school or overseas, and excludes incidents which happened during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Thrown anything at you that could hurt you
  • Pushed, grabbed or shoved you
  • Slapped you
  • Kicked, bitten or hit you with a fist
  • Hit you with something else that could hurt you
  • Beaten you
  • Choked you
  • Stabbed you with a knife
  • Shot you with a gun
  • Any other type of physical assault
Physical threatDid (your current partner/a previous partner, that is, a partner you don't live with now) ever threaten or try to do any of these to you with the intent to harm or frighten you?
  • Threaten or try to hit you with a fist or anything else that could hurt you
  • Threaten or try to stab you with a knife
  • Threaten or try to shoot you with a gun
  • Threaten or try to physically hurt you in any other way
  • None of these
Has any man/woman ever threatened or tried to do any of these with the intent to harm or frighten you? This includes face-to-face threats only and excludes incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Threatened or tried to hit you with a fist or anything else that could hurt you
  • Threatened or tried to stab you with a knife
  • Threatened or tried shoot you with a gun
  • Threatened or tried to physically hurt you in any other way
Has any man/woman ever threatened or tried to do any of these with the intent to harm or frighten you? This includes face-to-face threats only and excludes incidents which occurred during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Threatened or tried to hit you with a fist or anything else that could hurt you
  • Threatened or tried to stab you with a knife
  • Threatened or tried shoot you with a gun
  • Threatened or tried to physically hurt you in any other way
Has any man/woman ever threatened or tried to do any of these with the intent to harm or frighten you? This includes face-to-face threats only and incidents that occurred on the job, at school or overseas. Excludes incidents which happened during the course of play on a sporting field.
  • Threatened or tried to hit you with a fist or anything else that could hurt you
  • Threatened or tried to stab you with a knife
  • Threatened or tried shoot you with a gun
  • Threatened or tried to physically hurt you in any other way
Perpetrator categories
  • Stranger
  • Current partner
  • Previous partner
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend/date
  • Other known person
  • Stranger
  • Current partner
  • Previous partner
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend/date
  • Other known person
  • Stranger
  • Current partner
  • Previous partner
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend/date
  • Other known person
  • Father/mother
  • Son/daughter
  • Brother/sister
  • Other relative in-law
  • Friend
  • Acquaintance/neighbour
  • Employer/boss/supervisor
  • Co-worker/co-volunteer
  • Counsellor/psychologist/psychiatrist/doctor
  • Teacher
  • Priest/minister/rabbi etc.
  • Prison officer
  • Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Other
  • Stranger
  • Current partner
  • Previous partner
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend/date
  • Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Other known person
  • Father/mother
  • Son/daughter
  • Brother/sister
  • Other relative in-law
  • Friend/housemate
  • Acquaintance/neighbour
  • Employer/boss/supervisor
  • Co-worker
  • Client/patient/customer
  • Medical practitioner
  • Doctor
  • Carer
  • Teacher/tutor
  • Priest/minister/rabbi etc.
  • Other
Comparability1996 data is comparable with 2005, 2012 and 2016 data for types of violence and for broad perpetrator categories.2005 data is comparable with 1996, 2012 and 2016 data for types of violence and for broad perpetrator categories.
2012 data is comparable with 1996, 2005 and 2016 for types of violence. 2012 data is comparable with 1996 and 2005 for broad perpetrator categories and 2016 for broad and detailed perpetrator categories where they are common.2016 data is comparable with 1996, 2005 and 2012 for types of violence. 2016 data is comparable with 1996 and 2005 for broad perpetrator categories and 2012 for broad and detailed perpetrator categories where they are common.