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

POPULATION

Information was obtained from men and women aged 18 years and over in the 2016 PSS that had experienced any incident involving the occurrence, attempt or threat of either sexual or physical assault by a current or previous partner since the age of 15.

DEFINITION

Partner

The term 'partner' in the PSS is used to describe a person the respondent lives with, or lived with at some point, in a married or de facto relationship.

Current partner refers to a person the respondent currently lives with in a married or de facto relationship, at the time of the survey.

Previous partner refers to a person the respondent lived with at some point in a married or de facto relationship from whom they are now separated. This includes a partner the respondent was living with at the time of experiencing violence, or a partner the respondent was no longer living with at the time of experiencing violence.

Partner violence

Partner violence refers to any incident of sexual assault, sexual threat, physical assault or physical threat by a current and/or previous partner as collected in the Violence module.

Partner violence does not include violence by a (ex-) boyfriend/girlfriend or date, which refers to a person that the respondent dated, or was intimately involved with, but did not live with.

Most recently violent previous partner

Where a person had experienced violence by more than one previous partner, they were asked to focus on the most recently violent partner when answering the more detailed questions about previous partner violence.

METHODOLOGY

Respondents who identified that they had experienced an incident of violence by their current partner, or a previous partner they have lived with in the Violence module are sequenced into the Partner Violence module to answer further questions about their experiences of partner violence since the age of 15.

The module asks the respondent to focus on their violent current partner and/or their most recently violent previous partner, and their relationship and experiences with that person, rather than only the most recent incident of violence. Whilst some questions are very similar to those in the Violence module, the Partner Violence module has a different focus. It is centred on incidents that occurred throughout the duration of the relationship and after the relationship ended, rather than just the most recent incident.

In the Partner Violence module, respondents are asked whether they had ever experienced certain actions or had certain experiences during the relationship. For example, while the Violence module asks the respondent if they contacted the police about the most recent incident, the Partner Violence module asks the respondent if they had ever contacted the police during the relationship or after the relationship ended.

Not all the same questions are asked for experiences of violence by both partner types. For example, some questions are only applicable when the perpetrator is a current partner while other questions are only applicable when the perpetrator is a previous partner.

Further information regarding the collection of the following data items:

  • Length of relationship – the concept of the length of relationship is left to respondent perception. They may, for example, base this on their first date, marriage, or when they moved in together.
  • How often partner assaults or threats occurred during relationship - if the occurrence of assaults and threats varied over time, respondents are asked to determine how often the assaults or threats occurred overall during the relationship.
  • Sources of advice or support – includes contacting or visiting any source of help, ranging from a friend to a professional organisation, seeking advice or support. Includes advice or support received at the time of the incident or any time after. Excludes anyone who was told or found out about the violence, but from whom the respondent did not actively seek advice or support (e.g. help sought for injuries, which did not involve the respondent seeking advice or support).
  • First person or service told – includes contacting or telling anyone from a friend to a professional organisation, or where the respondent lets the information ‘slip’. The respondent did not necessarily have to seek advice or support from the person e.g. it is quite common for people to ‘tell’ the police about violence but did not perceive this as seeking advice or support from them.
  • Partner ever charged or went to court – the charge must be as a result of the violence towards the respondent and the appearance in court as a result of the charge/s. It does not matter which court the partner was required to attend (e.g. family or magistrates court). Includes court cases that were still pending at the time of interview.
  • Violence/restraining order ever issued against partner – includes orders which have been issued by a court, including interim orders. Respondent did not necessarily need to have contacted police. All Australian, and many overseas jurisdictions have passed legislation allowing courts to make orders intended to protect individuals from future violence, abuse and harassment from specific persons. Such orders typically prohibit an individual (the defendant) from being violent or threatening violence, towards another individual (the protected person). Different jurisdictions have different names for violence orders e.g. apprehended violence order (AVO), domestic violence order (DVO), intervention order, etc.
    Interviewers were trained to accept terminology used across different states of Australia to label violence orders including apprehended violence orders, domestic violence orders, intervention orders (etc.). Any orders issued by a court or interim orders were also included. Interviewers were also trained to accept a respondent’s perception of whether a restraining order had been issued.
  • Further incidents of violence occurred after restraining order issued – excludes breaches of the restraining orders that did not result in or involve assaults/face-to-face threats. Also excludes non face-to-face threats e.g. threats over the telephone or via sms/email. Restraining orders have unique stipulations – e.g. the perpetrator is not allowed within 100 meters of the victim. This item is not a measure for understanding how many partners have breached some or all of the stipulations of the restraining order, rather it is establishing whether the order was successful in stopping the assaults/threats.
  • Violence by partner occurred during pregnancy – includes cases where the respondent was pregnant while living with her previous partner or current partner but he was not the father, and if the respondent was pregnant while living with her previous or current female partner.
  • Violence seen or heard by children in their care – children in the respondent’s care can include the respondent’s or partner’s children, stepchildren, adopted or foster children.
  • Temporarily separated from violent partner – includes breaking up and starting the relationship again at a later time. Both persons could have continued living in the same home. Excludes the time they finally separated.
  • Moved away from home during any temporary separation – excludes situations where both the respondent and partner moved out but to the same house. It was also not important who the legal owner/lease holder of the home was.
  • Ever left property/assets behind during temporary separations – Includes items of value that the respondent had limited or no access to when they moved out. Examples of property could include personal items such as furniture, household goods, clothing, cars, jewellery, and pets and may also include a house/unit where they had part ownership of it. Examples of assets could include money (in bank account or cash at home), shares, securities, land, and shares in a business.
  • Whether violence increased while temporarily separated – ‘Increase’ can mean that the severity of the assaults, threats or abuse became worse or more intense, or there were a greater number of assaults, threats or abusive incidents. Some respondents may have had difficulty with this question because the occurrence of assaults, threats or abuse may have varied over time, especially if they have temporarily separated and returned to the relationship. In these circumstances, the respondent was asked to determine how often the assaults, threats or abuse occurred overall during separation/s and whether this was an increase.
  • Experience of anxiety or fear – Experiences of anxiety or fear can include constant worry, feeling nervous or jumpy, feeling scared or afraid, unable to calm down, feeling on edge, being panicked or distressed, and not being able to eat or sleep. Some respondents may have had difficulty with this question because the occurrence of anxiety or fear may vary over time. In these circumstances, the respondent was asked to determine how they felt overall.
  • Whether took time off work as a result of partner violence – Includes paid work, regardless of hours worked, and unpaid work, such as work in a family business. Also includes changes to hours of work, duties performed, or taking leave, voluntary work, and time taken off work to appear in court, or meet with police, lawyers, a counsellor etc.

DATA ITEMS

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

DATA USES

Partner violence data can be used to examine:
  • The characteristics of the violence experienced, such as how often violence was experienced.
  • Support-seeking behaviours, such as whether advice or support was sought and from whom.
  • Police involvement, such as whether the police were contacted, and other legal action, including whether the partner was charged, whether they went to court, and whether a restraining order was issued.
  • The impact of the partner violence on the respondent, including whether they experienced anxiety or fear as a result of the violence, changes to their usual routine, and whether they took time off work.
  • Separations from their violent partner as a result of the violence, including whether they ever temporarily separated, reasons for separation, places stayed during temporary separations, whether left property or assets behind, and reasons for returning to the violent partner.

Partner violence data cannot be used to examine:
  • The characteristics of all previous partner violence, as information is only collected for the most recently violent previous partner.
  • The types of violence perpetrated by the violent partner. This information is not collected in the Partner Violence module. Information about the types of violence is collected in the Violence module.
  • The characteristics of intimate partner violence where the respondent never lived with the perpetrator. These are classified as boyfriend/girlfriend/date relationships, and detailed information about violence experienced within these relationships is not collected in the Partner Violence module.
  • Characteristics of the most recent incident of partner violence. Information about characteristics of the most recent incident of violence is collected in the Violence module, and will include information about partners if the perpetrator of the most recent incident of any of the types of violence was a partner.

INTERPRETATION

Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • The information collected in the Partner Violence module differs from any information about partner violence collected in the Violence module as it collects information about experiences of violence across the entire duration of the relationship, rather than being confined to just the most recent incident of violence. Furthermore, not all incidents of partner violence will be counted in the Violence module because the partner violence may not have been the most recent incident of the specific type of violence.
  • The Partner Violence module is designed to capture information about the nature and impact of the violence throughout the duration of the relationship. Whilst the Violence module collects information about partner violence incidents, if the most recent incident of violence was perpetrated by a partner, the Partner Violence module captures in-depth information about partner violence as an ongoing experience over the course of the relationship.
  • Although some data items appear in both the Partner Violence and Violence modules (e.g. whether the violence was reported to police), in the context of the Partner Violence module this refers to whether they have ever contacted the police about the violence, rather than just the most recent incident of violence as in the Violence module.
  • Partner Violence data cannot be broken down by the type of violence experienced (sexual/physical, assault/threat), only by the type of perpetrator (current or previous).
  • Components for current partner and previous partner violence are not able to be added together to produce data for a ‘total partner’ aggregate. Where a person has experienced violence by both a current and previous partner, information about the violence is collected separately for each partner type. Adding these together would double count all persons who have experienced violence by both a current and a previous partner. Consequently, partner violence data can only be understood within the context of current partner violence or previous partner violence, and not as an aggregated partner violence category.
  • The level of detail available for partner violence data will vary depending on the type of partner violence reported and the gender of the respondent. Generally, more detailed information will be available for previous partner violence than for current partner violence, and where sex of the respondent is female. Due to the relatively small number of males who had experienced violence (i.e. sexual or physical assault or threat) by a current partner, it is not possible to provide the same breakdown of experience of current partner violence for males as for females.
  • Previous partner violence data relates to the most recently violent previous partner, and is therefore not necessarily representative of all previous partner violence. Care should be taken in the way this data is interpreted and reported. Users should refrain from generalising the findings to all previous partner violence due to the violence most likely occurring during the relationship with the most recently violent previous partner.
  • It is not possible to link data from the partner violence module with data from the partner emotional abuse module. There may be a difference in interpretation of what the respondent considered emotional abuse in the partner violence module leading to the final separation and the suite of emotionally abusive behaviours that are clearly defined in the emotional abuse module. Even if respondents identified emotional abuse was their main reason for ending the relationship, they may not necessarily report this again in the emotional abuse module. In addition, some respondents may have had more than one previous partner, and the most recently violent previous partner is not necessarily the same as the most recently emotionally abusive previous partner (e.g. the most recently violent previous partner may not have been emotionally abusive, but another previous partner in the past was).Users may notice slightly higher reporting of controlling or emotionally harmful incidents in the partner violence module compared to the specific emotional abuse or stalking modules. The reason for this higher reporting is due to the definition of these behaviours included in the partner violence module being more general and bordering on emotional abuse and stalking.
  • In the 2016 PSS, 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. In the Violence module, 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.
  • The definitions of current and previous partner for the PSS are based on the living arrangements at the time of the survey. This is irrespective of whether the respondent considers their partner to be a current or previous partner, or what the living arrangements may have been at the time of any incident.

COMPARABILITY WITH PREVIOUS SURVEYS

Information about experiences of Partner Violence was collected in the 2005 and 2012 editions of the PSS, as well as the 1996 Women’s Safety Survey. The following should be noted when making comparisons:
  • The data items within the ‘Separations from Partner’ topic underwent several revisions to the data item categories from PSS 2012. This resulted in either a reduction of categories in some items or an increase of categories in other items. In a small amount of cases the 2012 PSS made data item revisions from the 2005 PSS, further to this, the 2016 PSS made additional changes to those same data items. Due to these reasons users are advised to take care when comparing these items.
  • The data items that involve restraining orders have had some conceptual revisions and the items have changed significantly from 2005 and 2012. There have also been several new data items added to the ‘Police involvement’ topic. Users are advised to take care when analysing the data from this topic.


COMPARISONS WITH OTHER CYCLES

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

Population


Timeframe
Women aged 18 years and older


Experiences of partner violence since the age of 15
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Experiences of partner violence since the age of 15
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Experiences of partner violence since the age of 15
Men and women aged 18 years and older


Experiences of partner violence since the age of 15
Perpetrator sex Male
Male and femaleMale and femaleMale and female
Type of violenceCurrent partner violence
Previous partner violence (most recently violent previous partner)
Current partner violence
Previous partner violence (most recently violent previous partner)
Current partner violence
Previous partner violence (most recently violent previous partner)
Current partner violence
Previous partner violence (most recently violent previous partner)
Comparability1996 data is comparable with 2005, 2012 and 2016 data.2005 data is comparable with 1996, 2012 and 2016 data.2012 data is comparable with 1996, 2005 and 2016 data.2016 data is comparable with 1996, 2005 and 2012 data.